You’re ready to take the plunge. You’ve seen pictures, you’ve had a friend or two talk about how great it is and you’ve found a studio nearby with a time that fits in with your schedule. Perhaps you don’t have a more experienced friend to go with, or perhaps you’re too embarrassed to ask, but you literally have no idea how all of this is going to work. It’s totally ok, we’ve all been there, and we’re going to take the mystery out of it, and ensure you don’t accidentally make any yoga faux pars!
Before you even get there you are faced with the problem of what to wear. You don’t know if you’re going to like it yet so you’re hesitant to swipe your credit card at Lululemon. So what exactly is acceptable for yoga attire? There are 3 basic rules for yoga outfit choice – can you move in it, is it comfortable and has it passed the ‘mirror test’. Not sure what the mirror test is? Well, whatever your chosen outfit is, put it on, find a full length mirror and then bend over and check out the behind, jump up and down, hang upside down with your hands on the ground making sure that nothing is see-through, nothing pops out that shouldn’t (everything that might needs to be secured), and all straps etc. stay firmly in place.
2. What do I need to bring
A bottle of water and a small towel are good ideas (though most studios sell water and towels are generally only needed for hot/vigorous classes), and a positive attitude and open mind are a must! If you have a yoga mat (or can borrow one from a friend) feel free to bring it along, but again, most studios have them to hire or borrow if you need. It’s a good idea to check whether the studio has credit card facilities before you get there, as some are cash only so you may need to ensure you have some moolah on you.
3. What do I do when I get there?
Yoga is a strictly shoe free pursuit (free those toes!) and many studios have pretty strict rules about shoes in the studio space so best to take them off as soon as you walk in the door. Introduce yourself, explain that you are new and usually the friendly teacher will show you where everything is. Put your belongings in the appropriate spot, grab your mat and then settle down where the teacher has shown you. Most people either lay down to fit in a sneaky pre-yoga nap (really just some quiet relaxation time) or take a bit of time to stretch any areas they know are a bit tight before class. There’s no right or wrong here but taking a few deep breaths either sitting or lying down on your mat will help to settle any nerves.
4. What will be in the class?
Each and every class and teacher is quite different but there are a few common activities that might happen that are good to be aware of. They tend to fall in to the following categories:
Breathing – Called pranayama (pra-na-yaam) in yoga, most teachers get you to focus on your breath and often incorporate some form of breathing exercise. These can feel pretty strange at first but they’re designed to help calm down your nervous system and stop your mind from wandering off.
Stretching – This one’s usually a given, but it’s important to note that some of this can be pretty darn uncomfortable so be prepared! The poses in yoga are called asana, and they work at stretching, building strength and moving energy throughout the body. In yoga we’re never trying to cause pain, but strong discomfort is something you’ll need to get used to if you really want to see your physical health and fitness improve. Don’t be surprised if you’re much less flexible than you envisioned – it’s pretty common! Your first class is just your starting point and you can only improve from there.
Chanting – This can be a bit of a surprise if you’ve never done it before. Some teachers love it and some hate it but it’s good to be pre-warned. If you don’t know what’s going on just sit and listen. The vibrations that chanting make are really lovely so enjoy, and maybe even try and join in if you’re comfortable enough.
Meditation – The word alone is pretty scary (even for experienced yogis) so if you want you can view this simply as relaxation time. Most teachers give you a 5-10 minute meditation at the end of the class which usually involves lying on your mat and focusing on your breath. If trying to meditate seems impossible to you, this time can just be used to chill out, relax your muscles and enjoy some quiet time. Just try not to fall asleep (or at least don’t snore TOO loudly!).
If anything that your teacher says doesn’t make sense, always feel free to ask them after the class. Your teacher is there as your guide to this strange new world, and they love answering any questions you might have.
5. How will you feel after the class?
This depends a lot on the style of class that you took and what you did, but it’s pretty common to feel a range of different things after your first class. If you’ve used muscles that you maybe haven’t used much before a bit of muscle soreness is normal (watermelon juice or ginger are both good for this). You might feel quite sleepy and relaxed (try and pay attention if you’re driving home) or you might feel agitated and upset with how you went – in fact, a whole range of feelings are completely normal and valid, including feeling upset, weepy or angry.
The concept of your body and your emotions being linked might be new to you, and I always think the best way to explain it is to think about the sensation of having ‘butterflies in your stomach’ when you’re nervous. There is nothing physical causing this sensation – rather it’s your emotions influencing your physical body on an unconscious level. As you progress through your yoga practice you may have teachers that introduce many different aspects of this, but to start with, just understanding that our bodies are a lot more complex than we something realise is a good start.
So go forth and yoga! The best things in life are always scary - in fact, try thinking of yoga as similar to your first kiss. It's strange and new, it feels weird and it wasn't quite what and how you expected, but maybe, just maybe, it might be the start of falling in love...
Interested in giving yoga a try? Why not check out the Stretch Yoga Brisbane Beginners Course