You’ve read the articles touting the benefits of yoga, you’ve seen the Instagram profiles with the superhuman yogis, and you’ve decided to give it a try. You signed up for your first yoga class. Congratulations! You’re on your way to being a more flexible, more calm (yet energized), and stronger human and athlete. What do you need to know to have the best experience possible? Here are five tips to acing your first yoga class:
Do get a quality yoga mat. It’s tempting to buy the cheapest yoga mat you can find, but a quality mat will make a world of difference in your practice. Even in an unheated room you will probably be sweating during class. A cheap mat will be slippery and having unstable hands and feet makes doing yoga difficult. Invest in a quality mat and a yoga towel and lose the fear of the sweat.
Do arrive 10-15 minutes early. The yoga studio is a place of calm and quiet. You’ll want to arrive with plenty of time to pick out your spot (don’t be afraid to go for the back if you’re brand new, it’ll give you an opportunity to watch other yogis if you get lost), lay out your mat, and get comfortable before class starts. You don’t want to be rushing or flustered when you arrive and you definitely don’t want to be late. The late comer to class disrupts the entire energy of the room.
Don’t wear shoes in the studio. On a basic level, shoes carry the dirt and grime from the outdoors and you don’t want to track that into the studio. On a deeper level, one of the pillars of yoga philosophy is cleanliness or purity. Yoga is purifying for the mind, body, and soul, and removing your shoes before entering the studio is a ritual that is part of the purifying process.
Don’t compare yourself to other yogis. Each person in a yoga class has a different background, level of fitness, and level of experience with yoga. The goal is not to look like the person next to you (or the instructor) but to begin to feel the poses in your body, what feels good, what areas are tight, how your breathing feels, and where you have challenges. Be content with where you are at that moment. And try not to get hung up on your image in the mirror. Turn your attention inward rather than focusing on the external.
Don’t base your entire yoga experience off of your first class. Your first class will not be your best, you will improve, and you will feel better every time you step on the mat. Remember that yoga is a lifetime practice. The goal is not perfection of any one pose or series of poses, but the constant practice and improvement over time. If you really didn’t enjoy the class, try a different style of yoga. There are many types and one is bound to fit your body and personality.
Most importantly, enter your yoga class with an open mind, enjoy the experience, and never skip savasana.