Starting anything new can be slightly nerve-racking, but this guide will arm you with some ‘Yoga Gold’ so you can go to that yoga class you’ve always wanted to try with confidence and the knowledge that I wish I had known years ago.
So, you’ve decided to go to your first yoga class, to see what the hype is about, to add to or start a training programme, or just for a laugh with friends. Whatever your reason yoga is a fantastic way to spend 45-60 minutes developing strength, control, flexibility and giving yourself time and space to breathe and relax.
#1 What to bring
You really don’t need to bring much to a Yoga class, you don’t even need to own your own Yoga mat or accessories now as most studios provide these for you. But if not, and you don’t have a yoga mat, a long towel, or beach towel is a great alternative.
I would suggest that you take a bottle of water. Depending on the style of Yoga class you’re heading to some styles are cardiovascular based, so water is essential.
#2 What to wear
In the age of selfies, portrait modes and Instagram, even Yoga hasn’t been able to avoid the realms of social media and the pressures to look or be seen to be looking a certain way. Now whilst there are some great Yoga clothing brands out there, here’s the thing, you could wear leggings from Primark and you wouldn’t be banished from the yoga studio. It really doesn’t matter what you wear, as long as you can move freely and easily and you feel comfortable.
I would advise some leggings or gym trousers, not too baggy or tight, a comfy top, even a jumper for those sweet sweet minutes in savasana (usually a class ends in a position lying down, eyes closed, relaxing- savasana) this also allows your body temperature to drop back down to normal.
The aim here is to wear something that you aren’t going to be thinking about, fiddling with or worrying about during the class, as this kind of detracts away from the reason why you went to yoga in the first place.
#3 What a teacher means when they say “Breathe”
Breathing and the use of breath (pranayama) are at the centre of any Yoga practice. If in doubt just breathe, and this is still yoga. The breath has a variety of benefits during yoga practice, a few are; warming up your body, used as a way of timing each position, and allowing you to fully relax or release in each position. Naturally, we tend to hold our breath when our bodies reach a physical boundary or are under some sort of strain. The art is to use the breath to find more movement and space to go even further. For your first class, perhaps to try to check in with your breath every once in a while. It’s quite funny to notice how much you’re actually holding your breath when you become aware of this.
#4 Don’t compare yourself to other yogis.
So this one is probably the trickiest. It’s become almost a natural habit for us to constantly compare ourselves to others. Whilst this can also be positive to provide ourselves with a motivation or even inspiration, yoga is about you, working your body, at your own limits and at your own pace. You could be practising yoga next to someone who has been practising for years or is naturally quite flexible. By working to your own limits you not only reduce the chance of injury, but you will notice in your own body mini milestones of success be that touching your toes for the first time, nailing tree pose, or fully allowing yourself to relax and focus on the class.
#5 Don’t take yourself too seriously!
Most importantly go to your yoga class with an open mind and enjoy it. Yoga for you may be an hour to just move about or to work on your flexibility or even to meet new people. Yoga is a fantastic platform to build physical technique, awareness of your own mind and opportunities to meet new people with similar interests. If you can’t quite reach a certain position, don’t put further pressure on yourself, its no big deal. Yoga isn’t about reaching every single pose, it’s about connecting to your breath and your body. Anything else achieved is extra.