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…
WHAT HAPPENS IN A 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. ☺
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT STYLES OF YOGA?
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.
- Yin. Want a deep stretch? In yin yoga, you’ll hold each pose for up to five minutes each.
- Iyengar. In this slow-paced class, the teacher will spend more time explaining the poses, and you’ll use props to get into them.
- Hatha. This is a gentle class that focuses on the breath and working through simple poses.
- Vinyasa or power yoga. The perfect ‘in between’ class, you’ll flow from one pose to another and work on your strength, flexibility and balance.
- Ashtanga. An athletic class made up of a nonstop series of poses.
- Hot yoga. These classes flow pretty quickly, and the room is usually heated to 27-30 degrees. Your muscles will feel nice and warm, but the heat isn’t stifling.
- Bikram yoga. This is a 90-minute class in a room that’s heated to 40 degrees. You’ll sweat a LOT, and you’ll want to avoid this class if you’re feeling under the weather, light-headed, or hungry (I speak from experience).
WHAT’S THE BEST BEGINNER YOGA CLASS?
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!
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A YOGA CLASS
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:
- Try to get to the studio 10-15 minutes before so you can chill out, chat to the teacher about any injuries, and set up your mat in your fave spot.
- Take off your shoes and put your phone away before heading into the room.
- Be quiet when you enter the yoga studio. You’ll notice that most people will be stretching or just lying on their backs waiting for class to start. Join in!
- Unroll your mat so it’s facing the teacher.
- Avoid leaving during savasana. It’s distracting.
WHAT TO BRING TO A YOGA CLASS
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:
WHAT TO WEAR TO A YOGA CLASS
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.
Showpo yoga buys:
Words by Katia Iervasi.