Yoga is a practice. It starts with simple poses. With time and experience, the poses become more complex. It’s common to feel nervous in your first class. I remember feeling timid walking into the yoga room for the first time. I had read about yoga. But, I didn’t know what to expect in my first yoga class.
The purpose of this post is to help you feel at ease in your first class. It provides practical information and tips to maximize your experience.
Picking the Right Class for You
Many types of yoga class exist. It’s important that you take the right class for you. Please read, “How to Find a Yoga Class for People Over 40”.
Make sure you take a beginner class even if you are in good shape. That way you will be able to follow the teacher and leave the class feeling good.
- New students are typically required to fill out paperwork. If you are new, arrive at the studio early.
- Shoes are not worn in a yoga studio. You will leave your shoes at the door or in shelves in the entryway.
- You may bring a small bag with your keys and wallet in class. But leave most of your stuff in the main entryway.
- You’ll need to bring your own mat or rent one. If you plan on having a regular practice, it’s cheaper to bring your own mat.
- Place your mat on the floor in line with the rest of the group. If you are the first person in the room, ask the teacher where you should place our mat.
- There might be a few inches between you and your neighbor. If this is the case, stagger your mat. This means that you place your mat slightly forward or behind the people next to you. That way you won’t hit your neighbor when you open your arms wide.
- The teacher might tell you to get props. If you are new, a strap and a block or two come in handy.
- The teacher may ask the class if students want hands on adjustments. If you don’t want any, let the teacher know.
- If you are in a mixed level class, let the teacher know it’s your first class.
- The teacher may ask if you have an injury. If the teacher doesn’t ask, let him or her know.
- The teacher will guide you through class. Your job is to listen and follow his or her instruction.
- You may be unable to do all the poses. Be patient and gentle with yourself. Do the best you can. Don’t force yourself into any of the poses.
- You may sweat a lot or be out of breath. This is normal. It will get easier the more you practice.
- Emotions may surface. This is part of releasing stress or held energy. Be aware of your emotions and release them as you move through the poses.
- Some people in the room will seem to effortlessly flow through the poses. Don’t compare yourself. Comparison is the killer of confidence. Each person has a unique journey in life. This journey manifests in the body in different ways. Feel good that you are at class and do the best you can.
Bikram Yoga teachers can sound like drill sergeants. That’s their style. Don’t take it personally. Teachers stand on a podium as they lead you through class. They generally don’t give hands on adjustments. They talk you through the poses instead.
You practice the same postures in every class unless you take an advanced class.
Props such as straps or blocks are not used.
The room is heated to 105 degrees. Expect to sweat the entire class. Drink lots of water. If you aren’t used to the heat, it’s normal to feel dizzy or nauseous. When this happens sit upright or kneel on your mat. Breath. Do not lay down. Try to stay in the room. The more you go to class the easier it gets.
The teacher will keep you in the poses for 20 seconds to 2 minutes.
You will do each pose twice, on each side. In between poses you will take Savasana (Corpse Pose).
Class will end with Savasana. Set aside extra time after class to cool down.
This includes any kind of class with breadth connected movement. The teacher will guide you through the poses. He or she typically gives hands on adjustments. You may use props such as straps or blocks.
There’s a lot of movement in these classes. It’s common to do back bends and an inversion in the latter part of class. Class ends with Savasana.
Ashtanga Mysore Classes
In Ashtanga, there are led classes and Mysore classes. In a led class, the teacher talks the entire time. Everyone moves through the poses at the same time based on the teacher’s guidance. Led Ashtanga classes last an hour and a half.
In a traditional school, students practice Mysore five days a week. On the sixth day students take a led class. One day a week is for rest.
Mysore classes last for a window or block of time. Students start and end class when they want. For example, where I practice, Mysore is offered from 5am-8am, Monday -Thursday. I begin my practice by 6am and end by 7:30am. Others are in the room practicing before and after me. A led Primary Series class is offered on Fridays. Sunday Mysore class is from 8am-11am.
You may use props such as blocks or straps.
Students practice at their own pace and for as long as they want. This means that students know the sequence of postures by heart. If you don’t know the sequence, the teacher will guide you. You may also use a print out.
The teacher will walk around the room and give individual instruction. This includes hands on adjustments. This is harder to do in a led class that is moving at a fast pace.
Yin or Restorative Classes
These classes typically require many props. The teacher will tell you in the beginning what you need. If she or he doesn’t, ask. In these types of classes, you hold the poses for up to ten minutes. These classes create a lot of flexibility. You usually won’t sweat in a Yin or Restorative class.
Expect to Feel Uncomfortable
The most important thing to know is that you will feel a level of discomfort. This is the core of yoga. I’m not referring to having the wrong yoga gear. That can be fixed. See my post, “What to Wear in a Yoga Class: A Practical Guide”. I’m referring to your inner process.
How do you handle uncomfortable situations? Do you run away or space out? Do you become needy? Maybe you get angry and tense. You might freeze or pretend everything is ok.
In yoga the body moves into uncomfortable positions. How you deal with stress will come out in your practice. Your goal is to be at a healthy level of discomfort. The more you practice the less uncomfortable you feel. As you progress, you move into complex asanas. This brings a new level of discomfort. It’s a continuous cycle, like life.
As you practice, work towards your edge. At your edge, you feel intense stretching or opening but aren’t injuring yourself. It’s a fine line. Listen to your body and pull back if you are going too far.
It’s also important to tell the teacher if his or her adjustment hurts you.
Know that discomfort is part of yoga and is normal. Allow yourself to go into unknown territory. The more you practice the easier it gets.
Have a happy yoga practice! Thank you for reading this. What was your first yoga class experience like? Do you have any tips to of your own to offer? Please ask questions and share in the comments below.