Yoga classes are not supposed to be intimidating.
In fact, yoga is an entirely non-judgmental, non-competitive, and peace-promoting endeavor. But like anything new and unfamiliar, the intimidation factor that yoga studios can carry is enough to scare away many newbies.
The yoga-curious often harbor some common fears: not knowing what to do in class, being the worst student, not looking good in yoga pants, and other unnecessary concerns.
If this is you, read on. I hope to make the process a lot less intimidating, and give you the confidence to do something incredibly beneficial for yourself.
Yoga classes (and studios) are actually not so scary, especially when you know what to expect. Here’s my advice to you, beginner!
Call the studio ahead of time and ask which classes they recommend for beginners.
If you’ve never done yoga, you definitely want to take a beginner’s class. Yoga classes are generally designated as levels 1, 2, and 3 (1 is for beginners). However, not all studios divide their classes by level. It’s best to call in ahead of time and get a specific class and teacher recommendation from a studio employee. Even beginner’s classes can vary in intensity and difficulty.
By starting from the ground up, you’ll build a solid foundation from which to grow your practice. And there’s no shame in being a beginner. I often attend beginners’ classes and I’ve been practicing yoga for 11 years.
Don’t eat 2 hours before class.
Yoga should be practiced on an empty stomach. You’ll be twisting, stretching, compressing and even inverting your digestive organs, so you don’t want them filled with food!
Finish your heavy meals at least 2 hours before class and light meals (like fruit) at least one hour before class.
Wear comfortable clothes.
You don’t need to wear spandex to yoga. You totally can, and you’ll find that most women do; it’s the style. But you can also wear loose workout pants and a t-shirt and still be appropriately dressed. Whatever your outfit, make sure that you feel comfortable wearing it and that it allows you to move.
If you’re a female, I suggest staying away from shorts. You probably don’t want to flash anyone.
Bring a mat or don’t.
In yoga, we use yoga mats to prevent slipping and to cushion ourselves from hard floors. If you don’t have your own mat, studios usually rent them for a dollar or two. (Inquire when you’re calling in for beginners’ class recommendations.)
At some point, you’ll want to own your own mat. You can buy a cheap $15 mat from Target or an expensive $80 eco-friendly rubber mat. Either way, I suggest looking for one that’s about about 5mm thick.
Arrive to the studio at least 20 minutes early for paperwork and payment.
Your first stop is always the studio front desk. Let them know you’re a new student and they’ll give you a contact form and waiver to fill out. And always ask if they have a new student special. These deals usually give several weeks of unlimited yoga for a very reasonable price and are not uncommon.
When you’re done, the front desk employee can tell you where to put your shoes and belongings (don’t wear shoes into the studio!) and direct you to your class.
Put your mat where you feel comfortable and then chill.
You might be tempted to put yourself in the back corner of the studio, but I suggest you go somewhere in the middle. You’ll have other students both in front and in back of you, and to your left and right, so you’ll be able to follow along no matter which way the teacher has you facing.
If you’ve arrived early, you’ll have some waiting time before class starts. Sit quietly on your mat or lie down on your back. Despite what anyone else is doing, there’s no need to warmup or stretch before class starts. That’s what class is for, and your teacher will guide you through all of it.
Your teacher should walk you through every step you’re supposed to take. If they don’t, copy what the other students are doing. Just listen, observe, follow along, have fun.
And try not to compare or compete. You can not be the worst one in class because there is no such thing as being bad or good at yoga.
Relax when it’s time to relax.
At the end of class, your teacher will ask you to lie down and relax in corpse pose (aka savasana) for some time. As a teacher I sometimes see students looking around during savasana, and even anxiously popping up before I cue them to do so. So here’s my tip to you, beginner: just relax in savasana. Stay still, focus on your breath, and know that your teacher will tell when it’s time to get up. This is an important time for rest.
This is really all you need to know! I hope you’ll take that first step into a yoga studio, despite fear of the unknown. You’ll find yourself in a nice space with good energy, surrounded by people who are also trying to improve themselves, and learning from a teacher who’s rooting for your personal growth.