You’ve decided to take up yoga, that’s fantastic. Welcome to the yoga community. However, you probably feel a little bit nervous and want to know what to expect from your first class. The yoga scene can be a bit intimidating from the outside but don’t worry, our insider tips will help you feel more confident, comfortable, and prepared when entering a class for the very first time.
Wear fitted, not floppy workout clothes: you don’t need to rush out and buy a new yoga outfit, but remember what works for a run round the park won’t work for yoga. You will be bending and stretching in all directions so avoid wearing loose tops that will fall forwards or over your face during downward poses and wide-legged, loose bottoms which will flop down if you go upside down. A breathable, quick-dry tank teamed with a pair of workout leggings or capris is a good choice. For more tips, see our What to Wear to Your First Yoga Class (link) article
Eat one or two hours before: don'trying to do yoga right after a meal will hinder your practice. In order for your body to twist and stretch deepy and comfortably into poses, the stomach can't be digesting something heavy. Yoga teachers generally recommend eating an hour or two before class, but if you are really hungry opt for a light and easy to digest snack like a banana or a yoghurt. And when it comes to hydrating, it’s usual to drink water before and after your yoga class, not during but if you really need to get a drink, go ahead. It’s not a strict rule you have to follow.
Get to the studio at 10-15 minutes before your class starts in case there's any paperwork to fill out and to allow you to set up without hurrying. You will need to take off your socks and shoes and stash your belongings in a locker if available. Arriving early also gives you a chance to choose a location in the room where you feel comfortable. You might want a spot near the teacher so you can see and hear everything, you might want to hide at the back. Lay your mat down vertically facing the teacher.
Gather your props
If you don’t have your own mat, phone the studio before you turn up to double-check you can borrow one. When you arrive, check what everyone else is taking or ask the teacher what you will need – probably a strap, a couple of blocks and a blanket. Straps and blocks give you a little extra room to twist, while a blanket will make all the seated postures — plus the final relaxation — even more enjoyable. There's usually a closet or storage bin in the back of the room where the mats, blankets, blocks and belts are kept.
Connect with the teacher
Many people are shy or uncomfortable talking to the teacher, but you should understand that they want to help you. Yoga teachers are very helpful and encouraging—they want new students to have the best experience possible during their first class. And believe me, these teachers will provide adjustments and more detailed instructions if you tell them you're new. Make sure to let your teacher know of any limitations and medical conditions you have that might affect your practice. Your teacher will offer modifications where appropriate—most yoga poses can be adjusted to your needs. If you are pregnant, for example, or have a back problem, the teacher will want to know this and will slightly adjust certain poses for you to keep you (and if you are pregnant, your baby) safe.
Leave your ego at the door
There is no place for comparative thinking in yoga studio. If you are practicing in a place that makes you feel judged then this is not the right place for you to be. No one is going to judge you and there is no gold medal for "Best Pose." It doesn't matter if you can't yet do the specific pose or your body is not super flexible. Always listen to your body—don't push or overextend yourself just to keep up with the rest of the class.
Don't hesitate to give yourself a break at any time and just put yourself in child's pose, no matter what the rest of the class is doing. It will help you chill out and tune into your body's needs.
Don’t worry about the chanting
Depending on what class you sign up to, there might be some Sanskrit chanting at the start and/or the end of class. Simply relax, breathe, and keep an open mind. Often the teacher will chant a line and the class repeats it back. If you're interested in trying, do your best to keep up, but no one will notice or mind if you mess up a few words.
Don’t forget to breathe
Yoga is all about connecting your mind and body through your breath. When you are concentrating hard and trying to hold a new, challenging position, it is very normal for your breath to become shallow and for you to become stressed or start shaking. The more you can relax and the more you concentrate on extending your inhalations and exhalations, the more you will relax into and benefit from the poses.
Be mindful of yoga class etiquette
Keep your phone turned off and don’t be tempted to take a Selfie - it's very distracting for your fellow yogis and disrespectful to your teacher. If for some reason you are late, be considerate to your fellow classmates and place your mat down quietly and gently in a clear space so you don't disturb everyone. And unless, it is absolutely essential, don't leave in the middle of Corpse pose. Most yoga classes end with Corpse pose, also called Savasana (pronounced sha-vass-ahnah). With this pose, you lie flat on your back, close your eyes and relax. You never want to walk out of a class when everyone is in Corpse pose. If you really have to leave, do it before.
After the final relaxation, don't be worried if your teacher bows her head as if in prayer, puts her hands together in front of her heart and says, "Namaste" (pronounced nah-mas-tay). You'll notice the class says it back as well. This Sanskrit word means "the light in me bows to the light in you." and although it sounds very spiritual it is as common in India, as hello and goodbye is here. If you feel comfortable returning this gesture, after the teacher says it, you can say "Namaste" back.