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29 May 2019
If you’ve never taken yoga before, it can be daunting. What if you’re not flexible enough? Can’t get into the poses? What if you get lost among all the matching yoga sets?
Relax: you can’t be ‘bad’ at yoga. In fact, yoga is called a ‘practice’ because there’s always room to improve, even if you’ve been downward-dogging every day for years. It’s great for relieving stress and anxiety and building serious strength. Here’s what to expect from your first yoga class…
There are a bunch of different yoga styles (and we’ve broken them down below), and they all approach classes a little differently.
But usually, you’ll start class by closing your eyes, breathing deeply, and – if you’re in a more spiritual studio – say “om.” (You say it while you exhale, so it sounds like “ommmmm.”) It’s a Sanskrit mantra, and is meant to get you into the chill zone.
After that, you’ll start moving through a series of different poses and flows – which are set sequences of poses. Depending on the class, you’ll work on balance and backbends and do hip-opening and spine-strengthening exercises. Some of the most common poses include chair pose, downward-facing dog, warrior one, warrior two and triangle pose.
Don’t worry – the teacher will often demonstrate the pose, and you can always take a peek at the person in front of you. Yoga works muscles you never knew you had, and it may take a while to get used to it.
The teacher will walk around the class and adjust people so they’re in alignment. If you’re not into being touched, just let them know. They won’t be offended.
If you ever need a break, you can go into child’s pose. To get into it, kneel with your knees slightly wider than your hips and your toes together. Then, sit back on your heels and stretch your arms out in front of you. You’ll see people dropping down into this pose throughout the class – and some will stay in it for minutes. And that’s okay! Yoga is all about doing what feels right for you in that moment.
Every yoga class finishes with the best pose at all: corpse pose, or savasana. This is literally just lying down on your mat with your eyes closed. It usually lasts for about five minutes, and you’ll flutter your eyes open feeling SO relaxed.
Yoga encourages you to breathe in a very deliberate and mindful way. This style of breathing is called pranayama. Basically, you’ll inhale when you’re preparing for a pose, and exhale whenever you’re exerting effort – like when you’re bending and twisting.
Some studios will provide props – like blocks, straps and blankets – to help you to modify the poses. If you ever feel stuck in a pose, use the props! For example, if you can’t cross your legs, sit on a blanket. If your arms are on the shorter side and you can’t reach the floor, place your hand on a block. Ask the teacher for guidance. ☺
The names can vary between studios, but these are the most common types of yoga classes. To help you choose a class that suits your vibe, I’ve listed them from the most relaxing to the most strenuous.
If you’re new to yoga, try a hatha or Iyengar class. These detail-oriented classes focus on perfecting form, and you’ll have time to rest between poses.
Confused? Look for words like ‘introduction,’ ‘basics,’ and ‘all levels’ in the class schedule, or ask your studio about their beginner classes.
Remember, you can take a break at any time. No judgement!
You don’t want to do yoga on a full stomach, so stop eating 1-2 hours before.
You’ll be doing a lot of twisting and bending, so I’d also suggest not eating anything that makes you too gassy… But if you do toot, you (probably) won’t be alone. Yogis have an amazing ability to pretend they haven’t just farted.
Yoga has its own etiquette. These are the basics:
You’ll need a water bottle and a mat. Most studios and gyms have mats or hire them out for a fee. Your entire body will touch the mat (including your face), so if you’re a germophobe, it’s worth bringing your own.
If you think you’ll sweat, pack a towel, too.
Showpo yoga buys:
Wear comfy, stretchy clothes that you can easily move around in. Think leggings with a crop or form-fitting top.
You want to avoid baggy tops. They’ll flap over your face when you’re doing shoulder stands or downward dogs, and that can annoying.
If you’re the girl who’s always cold, bring a long-sleeved top to pop on before savasana. Your whole body relaxes in that pose, so you may get chilly.
Yoga is done barefoot. If your feet are slipping on the mat, you can wear grippy socks.
Words by Katia Iervasi.
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