For hundreds or even thousands of years, there was no “yoga equipment.” Practicing yoga required only your body, mind, and spirit. And while that’s still all you need, most modern yoga practitioners feel more comfortable with a few basic items that are easy to obtain.
Yoga studios and some gyms have straps, blocks, and other props for you to use. Once you’ve got the basics of yoga down, you may want some of those items so you can practice at home, too. But for now, here are a few essentials to help you sift through the huge variety of stretchy pants, mats, and other yoga gear that is now available — so you can focus on your yoga experience, instead.
- Your Own Mat
- A Mat Towel
- Comfortable, Breathable Clothing
- Extra Layers
- A Good Water Bottle
- Don’t Stress!
- Yoga Class 101: What to Expect from Your First Yoga Class
- 1. Find Your Studio
- 2. Buy a Mat
- 3. Pick a Class
- 4. What to Wear
- 5. Arrive 10 to 15 Minutes Early
- 6. What to Bring into the Room
- 7. Unroll Your Mat and Get Some Props
- 8. Communicating During Class
- 9. Yoga Traditions You Can Expect During Class
- 10. Make It a Routine
- Yoga for Beginners – Everything You Need to Know Before You Start
- THE YOGA BASICS
- IS YOGA RIGHT FOR YOU?
- THE BENEFITS OF YOGA
- PREPARATIONG BEFORE FIRST CLASS
- YOGA AND WEIGHT LOSS
- YOGA STYLES
- WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A STUDIO CLASS
- HOW OFTEN SHOULD I DO YOGA?
- THE YOGA MINDSET
- Teaching Yoga: Opening the Yoga Class
- What You Should Know Before Your First Yoga Class
- WHAT YOU NEED FOR YOGA
- WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR FIRST YOGA CLASS
- BASIC YOGA MOVES
- Are you a new yogi? What are you nervous about? Share your fears below so I can help ease your mind!
- What to Expect from Your First Yoga Class
- Mats and no shoes.
- Relaxing music.
- A focus on stretching and flexibility.
- A sense of energy and tiredness (but not utter exhaustion).
- Yoga for Beginners: What I Learned From My First Yoga Class
Your Own Mat
Your yoga studio or gym might have mats you can use, but it’s a good idea to bring your own. Although studios will wash and dry their mats, it can still be hygienically uncomfortable to spread your toes on one that’s been shared dozens of times.
Additionally, having your own mat means you can take it anywhere and use it anytime — a great incentive to keep up your practice at home or even on vacation!
With so many mat options on the market, it can be hard to choose. Here are a few tips to pick the mat that’s right for you:
- Eco-Conscious: There are plenty of mats made from plant-based and renewable materials, like tree rubber and jute; many are also PVC- and latex-free.
- Length: Make sure the mat is long enough. You want to make sure your hands and feet are both on the mat in poses like Downward Dog. Extra-long yoga mats tend to run from 72 to 84 inches.
- Thickness: Vigorous practices like Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Power Yoga may warrant a quarter-inch-thick mat so you don’t get bruised. You can go with a thinner mat for more gentle classes or those done in a carpeted home. Make sure it’s a yoga mat, though — thick, squishy fitness mats make it tougher to balance.
- Texture: Make sure you’re comfortable with the way the mat feels. Yoga mats are sometimes referred to as “sticky mats,” due to their textured grip, which prevents your hands and feet from slipping during poses. Some mats — particularly eco mats — have a nubby, “natural” texture; others are more like the rubber sole of a shoe.
- Shop around: If you’re having trouble figuring out which mat features you want, try asking other yoga students or your yoga teacher what they prefer. Reading reviews and comparing products online is always helpful, too, and can help you find a good deal.
A Mat Towel
Depending on your preferred style of yoga, you may end up sweating quite a bit during your practice. This can make your mat slippery and dangerous, plus you probably don’t want to worry about sweat stinging your eyes when you’re trying to focus and balance. That’s where a good mat towel comes into play.
A standard hand or beach towel usually works just fine to soak up the sweat, but if you’re dedicated to Ashtanga, Bikram, or Power Yoga, you may want to check out yoga-specific towels, which fit the entire length of your mat and are made from extra-absorbent material that dries quickly. Some of these yoga towels even have rubber nubs on the bottom to further prevent slippage.
Comfortable, Breathable Clothing
Skinny jeans might be your current favorite, but they may cause some trouble in yoga. You’ll want to wear comfortable, breathable clothes that allow you to focus on the practice and not your tugging waistband or chafing sleeve. Some practices, like Iyengar, may ask that you wear clothes that don’t hide your form (such as leggings and leotards), so the teacher can easily view your alignment.
Here are a few more tips for finding the best yoga clothes:
Get the Right Fit
Avoid wearing items that are too big or revealing. Ladies, watch out for tops that might drape extra low (or extra-wide at the armpit). Guys, be aware of too-loose shorts and the potential for overexposure.
At the same time, don’t wear clothes that are too tight or restrictive. Remember, you want to be completely free to move through the positions.
Wear Fitness or Yoga-Specific Clothes
Fitness wear is usually best, as it’s designed specifically for moving your whole body. Look for moisture wicking fabric and styles that are form-fitting yet comfortable.
Yoga pants, or stretchy (usually black) athletic pants, can be found at any sporting goods store. You don’t need to spend $100 on a pair, but make sure they don’t pinch or bulge uncomfortably.
Shop and Ask Around
If you’re not sure what to wear, look at online yoga stores or pick up a magazine with yoga content. Ask a yoga teacher where he or she shops; observe other students before and after class. If someone is wearing an item you like, don’t be shy to ask where they got it.
Also, make sure to test out your purchases by practicing poses in the dressing room (or in your bedroom). It may feel goofy at the time, but it will be worth it once you get to your mat!
Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Yoga is universal. K. Pattabhi Jois
Bring a long-sleeved shirt or hoodie to class and keep it nearby in case you get chilled during Corpse Pose (Savasana), the final relaxation position. If your toes tend to get cold, it’s nice to slip on a pair of socks for Savasana, too.
Having layering items on hand will also protect your warm muscles from the outdoor air, which, especially after hot yoga, can feel cold compared to the swelteringly hot and muggy studio. That dramatic shift in temperature can be uncomfortable, or even cause injury, if you are not prepared.
Keep your eyes peeled for new products — special fabrics have been developed in recent years that can even encourage muscular recovery.
A Good Water Bottle
It’s important to stay hydrated, no matter what style of yoga you practice. Though most studios have drinking fountains or vending coolers, bringing your own water bottle will save money and prevent waste. Plus, they’re readily available at sporting goods stores, usually in the color or design of your choice (for those of you who like to coordinate your accessories!).
For hot yoga classes, you may want an insulated bottle, to help keep your water cold throughout class.
Buying and researching yoga gear can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. Take a deep breath and remember that a desire to learn is the most important thing you need to begin a yoga practice. If you approach yoga with an open mind, the items you’ve brought to class will matter much less in the long run than the connection you may discover between your body, mind, and spirit.
That’s our list of essential items for the beginning yoga practitioner. What items are on your to-buy list before that next class?
Also, while the specific poses you do will vary greatly depending on the class and instructor, there are a handful that are great to know beforehand as they often pop up in many different popular styles of yoga. Check out these 12 must-know yoga for beginners to arm yourself with a few basics.
5. When dressing for class, opt for something comfortable and form-fitting.
Your attire, first and foremost, should be comfortable, says Opielowski. It should also absorb sweat well and allow you to move, stretch, and breathe with ease, she adds. Most people wear leggings to yoga, though you can certainly wear shorts if that’s what you’re more comfortable in. On top, a supportive sports bra, and a light, comfortable T-shirt or tank are good options. Just make sure that whatever you choose is form-fitting, or tuck your shirt into the waist of your pants, so that it’s not billowing out as you move through different poses, says Opielowski. You don’t need special shoes as yoga is performed barefoot.
6. Introduce yourself to the instructor before class.
Arrive to class early and introduce yourself to the teacher. Let them know it’s your first time at yoga and alert them of injuries or concerns before class begins. A good teacher will be happy to guide you through any modifications or reservations you may have, says Grieve.
7. Consider bringing a water bottle, towel, and yoga mat.
A water bottle (for hydration), small towel (for sweat), and mat (on which you’ll perform your poses) are three essential tools you’ll need in class. You can bring your own, though most studios will provide rentals or include those items gratis with membership, so it’s worth calling beforehand to double check the offerings and what’s included in the class price.
8. No matter what type of yoga class you attend, there’s basic etiquette you should follow.
When you enter a yoga room, leave your phone and any other electronics behind, says Opielowski. Respect the current noise level—most studios are dedicated quiet places. Most studios will also have cubbies in the locker room or outside of the room for your shoes. Drop them there instead of bringing them into class where they can get in the way.
When lying down your mat, take note of where others have placed their mats. Though there typically won’t be markings on the ground, most people will end up arranging their mats in rows. As the room starts to fill, make sure there is room for everybody, and adjust the placement of your mat if needed.
Lastly, as with any group fitness class, do your best to be on time and stay for the entirety of the class, if you can, says Opielowski. This is out of respect for both the teacher and your fellow classmates so that everyone can enjoy their practice with as few outside distractions as possible.
9. If you can’t do a certain pose, don’t stress.
A good teacher will provide instructions for how to modify poses, says Opielowski, and it’s completely acceptable to skip a pose if it’s not working for you. You can rest in a basic pose known as Child’s Pose any time you need a break, adds Grieve.
10. You may experience some soreness after your first class.
You will probably be a little sore after your first class, says Grieve. “Yoga tends to work muscles that aren’t often used, even if you are a regular in other sports,” she says. However, if you feel any pain in your joints and/or ligaments after yoga (versus just overall soreness in the muscle), that is a sign that you may have injured yourself, in which case you should see a doctor if the pain persists after a few days or worsens.
11. To avoid appropriating yoga, educate yourself by simply asking, reading, and committing to the practice before making any decisions about it.
“Keep in mind that we don’t know what we don’t know sometimes,” says Deshpande. Educating yourself and asking questions (of people who have invited you to ask them about yoga) will help a lot. Deshpande says folks frequently tell her that they are fearful of trying or practicing yoga because they might be unintentionally appropriating a practice from a culture they don’t belong to. Her response: “We’re in a really powerful, transformational period of time where yes, this is something we’re talking about more—to bring light to deeply meaningful practices or sayings that have been marketed away from their roots,” she explains. “Walking in to a practice of yoga with a sense of humility and self-started education, such as reading articles or even asking simple questions, is not walking in with a mindset of appropriation. The practice of yoga is so valuable, so my hope is that anyone who is so inclined takes the step to find the limb of yoga that calls to them and begin.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the origins of yoga, Deshpande recommends reading The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, as well as teachings by legendary yogis Paramansa Yogananda and Swami Vivekananda.
12. If you’re still feeling intimidated, focus on letting go of your self-judgment and walking in with an open mind.
Any time you are trying something new—movement-related or not—there can be judgment and expectation, says Opielowski. Try to let go of said judgment and expectation before you unfurl your mat. A yoga class can provide “a beautiful opportunity to connect to your body and breath in a collaborative space,” she says. You just have to give yourself the chance to be vulnerable and open yourself up to learning from everything yoga has to offer.
Yoga Class 101: What to Expect from Your First Yoga Class
Ready to try your first public yoga class? If you are at all intimidated by the thought of moving your practice out of your living room and into the yoga studio, here’s a guide for how to proceed and what to expect when you make it to the shala (studio) for the very first time.
1. Find Your Studio
Maybe you’ve walked by a studio that looks appealing, or you have a recommendation from a friend of where to go. Luckily, yoga studios are plentiful, so you should be able to find a studio that is a good fit relatively easily.
Don’t know what you want? Some differentiating factors worth considering are:
- Whether or not a studio is heated (some can be heated up to 100-plus degrees)
- If a studio seems to emphasize power yoga (the physical aspects) or a more spiritual approach
- If the studio has classes that are arranged by level (including something appropriate for beginners)
- Whether or not the class schedule works with your schedule
2. Buy a Mat
Most studios have yoga mats that you can borrow or rent (for a few dollars) if you’re in a pinch; however, your mat will be making direct contact with your entire body (including your face!), so it’s recommended that you buy and bring your own. Plus, it sends a message to your system and the Universe that this is a habit you are willing to invest in.
You can buy yoga mats for under $20 at stores like Target or TJ Maxx, but once you’ve really committed to the practice, you might want a sturdier one, like those from lululemon or Manduka. These can be priced up to $100, but will last much longer.
3. Pick a Class
Once you’ve decided where to go, choose which class is most appropriate. If you can’t tell from the website, call the studio and ask them which classes are best for beginners. This is a very important step because you want to attend a class that will move at an appropriate pace and keep you safe. Classes that are labeled for beginners are obviously the best, but you can also look for words like “Introduction,” “Basics,” “Gentle,” and “All-Levels” to be sure you’re headed in the right direction.
4. What to Wear
For yoga, appropriate attire includes loose, comfortable, active wear that won’t restrict your movement. You want your clothing to be loose enough for you to move in, but not so baggy that it gets in your way or that your teacher can’t see your form. A tank top and leggings/yoga pants for women, and a t-shirt and elastic-waisted shorts for men should be perfect. You may also want to bring a long-sleeved layer, as it’s common to get cold at the end of a practice. Finally, it is customary to have bare feet during class. This is both so you don’t slip, and so that you can more firmly connect to the Earth beneath you.
5. Arrive 10 to 15 Minutes Early
No matter what style of yoga you choose to pursue, yoga is ultimately about slowing down and calming the nervous system. Therefore, start yourself off on the right foot (no pun intended) by avoiding rushing and stressing yourself out by being late. Most studios open the room about 15 minutes before the start time, so why not take advantage of a few extra minutes to learn the lay of the land, pay for your class (many studios have a New Student Special, so be sure to tell them it’s your first time), and to get yourself settled.
6. What to Bring into the Room
Bring your yoga mat, water, and a small towel (if you plan on sweating) into the space. That is it. An important piece of etiquette is that you should not bring your phone into the studio space, as your practice is a time to unplug and disconnect from technology.
You’ll also leave your shoes outside of the yoga room, so just see what everyone else is doing and go with the flow. As you enter the room, find a spot where you can see the teacher well. Also, it is proper etiquette not to step on anyone else’s mat while you are in transit.
7. Unroll Your Mat and Get Some Props
Your mat should be unrolled so that the edges curl down toward the floor. Line the mat up with those of your neighbors so that you help to create organized rows (unless you are advised to arrange in a different orientation).
“Props” are the tools you can use to help accommodate for anatomical differences in your poses (i.e., arm length, flexibility, etc.), and include blocks (foam or cork), blankets, straps or belts, and bolsters (pillows). If you attend a class that provides props, simply ask the teacher which props you should get today, or see what everyone else has and get the same ones. If the teacher knows you are new to the practice, he/she should give you some guidance on how to use them, but the basic rule is that they should be used to bring more stability and easefulness to your poses.
8. Communicating During Class
If you need to communicate with the teacher, do so before (not during) class. It’s common practice to tell your teacher before you begin if you have any injuries or are pregnant so he/she can provide you with proper modifications and guidance.
It’s also a good idea to let them know you’re a beginner! But once class starts, the proper etiquette is to remain quiet and attentive. If you’re in a situation where you feel confused or in danger, simply raise your hand or wave the teacher over so he/she can come to you.
9. Yoga Traditions You Can Expect During Class
The following are some common yoga traditions that you may encounter in your first public yoga class.
- Chanting Om: Many yoga classes begin and end the class by chanting the sound “Om.” This Sanskrit word is said to be the sound of creation, and helps to unite energy and bring sacredness to the practice.
- Child’s Pose: This pose is the most common and accepted “resting pose” in the physical practice, and is a good one for you to be familiar with for when you need to take a break. From your hands and knees, simply sit back on your heels and put your forehead on the floor with your arms outstretched or wrapped back around your legs. Feel comfortable taking this pose anytime.
- Savasana: Pronounced sha-VAH-sah-nah, this is always the final resting pose in any yoga class. It translates to “corpse pose,” and while that might sound morbid, it simply represents the natural ending of the practice, and reminds us that everything in life happens in cycles. The pose is quite simple; you’ll just lie on your back for a few minutes while the benefits of the practice absorb into your system.
- Namasté: The tradition at the end of any yoga class is for the teacher and students to say the word “Namasté” to each other. This word has many beautiful translations, but essentially means “I bow to the Divine in you.”
10. Make It a Routine
Sometimes the hardest part is making it to the studio in the first place! Once you’ve crossed the threshold, remember that the practice only truly becomes effective once you’ve made it a routine. You wouldn’t go to the gym only once and expect results, would you?
At first, you can aim to go yoga class twice a week and see how you feel. You will likely notice an increase in strength, flexibility, calmness, and better sleep as a result. And don’t forget to relish the feeling of accomplishment for doing something new and good for yourself. You deserve it!
Deepen your yoga and meditation practice at our 7-day meditation & yoga retreat, Seduction of Spirit. Spend the week meditating with Dr. Deepak Chopra as discover how to connect to your true nature and purpose in life. to learn more.
Yoga for Beginners – Everything You Need to Know Before You Start
New to yoga? This article is a comprehensive guide that seeks to answer all of your questions about yoga, including everything that you need to know before doing your first beginner yoga workout. By the end of this article, you will learn about what yoga is, how to determine whether yoga is for you, what to wear, what equipment you need, how often to do it, and what style to choose for your first class.
THE YOGA BASICS
Yoga is done in bare feet on a yoga mat. Even the most basic yoga stretches require clothes that can stretch or move, so wear the most comfortable outfit that allows you to move around easily. If you’re doing a gentle, slower class then dress warm (sweat pants, long sleeve shirt) and if it’s a more rigorous class wear shorts and a t-shirt or a tank top. Teachers will often suggest that you leave your ego at the door, and that includes not being self-conscious about the clothes you are wearing. Wear what makes you feel good.
Some classes use additional equipment or props, such as straps, blocks, bolsters, blankets and chairs. You don’t need to purchase any of these to begin doing yoga. If you’re going to attend a class at a studio they will provide everything that you need. However, if you’re doing a class online you will need a yoga mat and you will want to check to see whether additional equipment is needed. If it is, there are easy ways to replace common yoga props. For example, you can use a belt or rope instead of a strap. If a bolster is needed, you can check out this short video on how to make a bolster at home. The teachers on DoYogaWithMe frequently recommend alternatives for those who don’t own the prop that is required in that particular class.
If you’re going to purchase anything, you should buy a yoga mat. Most studios provide mats for free or rental, but they are often cheaper plastic mats and you will likely feel better on a mat that you chose yourself. Mats come in all sizes and materials so it’s good to educate yourself, particularly if you’re looking for something non-toxic and supportive on joints such as knees and wrists. The variety can be overwhelming so check out our article on The Best Yoga Mats of 2018, where we review a few of the most popular yoga mats that can be easily purchased online.
IS YOGA RIGHT FOR YOU?
Yoga is accessible for everyone, no matter what you look like, how old you are, how you dress, how much you weigh, what you do for a living, where you live or what religion you practice. Yoga is in no way exclusive. It’s possible that you have a certain condition or a recent injury that makes it challenging or dangerous to do certain types of yoga, specific poses or breathing techniques, but there will likely be safe alternatives that an experienced yoga instructor can help you with. If you are 55+, out of shape or extremely inflexible, begin with a gentle class until you feel it’s safe to move onto something more challenging. Never be ok with pain. A certain amount of discomfort is ok, but pain is your body’s way of telling you to back off.
THE BENEFITS OF YOGA
There are so many benefits of doing yoga. Yoga can help you:
- improve and maintain the health of muscles, joints and organs
- keep your mind healthy
- get a better night’s sleep
- improve performance and prevent injuries in sports
- speed recovery from training
- prevent conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and auto-immune disorders
- slow down the negative effects of an office job
- and increase your sense of happiness and well being.
It’s a practice that is both physical exercise, helping improve toning, stamina, posture, strength, balance and flexibility, as well as a discipline that helps you de-stress, relax, feel healthier and more energetic.
The best way to know if yoga is for you is to give it a try. Do your due diligence first – visit a few different studios or, if you plan to do a class online, contact us with your questions. We will let you know what classes would suit you best and give you any advice you need before practicing. If you are someone recovering from an injury or are of poor health we recommended to see a physician before practicing. Especially if you think there may be risks associated with practising yoga.
PREPARATIONG BEFORE FIRST CLASS
Many of the expectations of a yoga studio are similar to any class – arrive early, don’t wear perfume, and don’t interrupt the teacher. Questions are always welcome, but you may want to ask at the beginning or end of the class, depending on how many students are present. If you’re doing a class with DoYogaWithMe, you’ll be in your own home so do what you want!
Every instructor has a different overall approach to teaching. Some focus more on physical postures, some on meditation. Some do mantra and some don’t. Some do adjustments to their students and others don’t. Your experience from one class to another can be radically different, even within the same yoga style. So don’t give up if you didn’t enjoy your first class. For example, although they both teach Power Yoga, our two DoYogaWithMe instructors Fiji McAlpine and Tracey Noseworthy have very different styles and there are many who prefer one over the other, and many also who enjoy taking classes with them both.
A yoga class is meant to be a place where you feel comfortable and cared for – a space without judgment. Don’t worry if you are unable to keep up with everyone. It’s more important to go at your own pace to ensure that you do everything safely. You don’t need to know the names of poses to participate. Most instructors provide clear instruction throughout and tips for alignment and positioning.
YOGA AND WEIGHT LOSS
Yoga is not a good cardio workout, so it is generally not an effective way to lose weight. However, it is a whole body workout that can make you work very hard, sweat and, in some cases, exhaust yourself. Its strength is in toning the body through challenging physical exercise and improving overall health through increased flexibility, body awareness and relaxation.
If you have never done yoga before, the best place to begin for most people is with a beginner hatha yoga class. Hatha yoga generally spends more time on physical postures, as opposed to mantra, pranayama and meditation, and moves slow enough for anyone to keep up while focussing more on safe alignment. As I said earlier, though, all of the above depends on the teacher.
If you are looking on DoYogaWithMe for a good place to begin, we have a great selection of yoga videos for beginners. For instance, you can try Melissa’s Hatha Yoga for Beginners: Foundation or David’s Hatha Yoga Therapy for the Lower Back. You may also want to try our 6-week program Yoga For Absolute Beginners, which has two classes and one tutorial each week, or our 1-month program, Beginner Yoga for Strength and Flexibility, which has 3 classes and one mediation each week. You can find both on our Yoga Programs page. The first you can download as a PDF and is pay-what-you-can (which means you can download them for free, if you like). The second is available free on our site.
If you are 55 or older, you may want to take a class that is either gentle or specifically for seniors. You can find our collection of seniors’ classes by choosing ‘Yoga for Seniors’ under ‘Style’ on our ‘Yoga Classes’ page. We also have plenty of gentle hatha yoga classes that many seniors can benefit from. For example, David’s Hatha Yoga for the Hands, Arms and Shoulders or Satiya’s Settling Into Relaxation.
If you consider yourself to be very inflexible, don’t feel discouraged! You will benefit just as much as anyone else but you may need to give it a little more time to realize the effects. You may want to consider trying yin yoga, which holds poses much longer and has a more meditative feel to the classes. Try Yin Yoga for the Hamstrings with Sarah-Jane or Yin Yoga: Sinking Into Stillness with Anastasia to begin with. One is 30 minutes and the other is 60 minutes long and they both will give you a good introduction to yin yoga. If you like it, check out our Yin Yoga library by choosing ‘Yin Yoga’ under ‘Style’ on our ‘Yoga Classes’ page.
If you are quite fit already and enjoy a really challenging yoga workout, power yoga may be for you. Fiji McAlpine created two online classes that are great starting points, helping you establish the foundations of the practice and slowing it down enough to avoid injury, while getting the same benefits. The two classes are called Power Yoga for Beginners and Beginner Basics in Flow.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A STUDIO CLASS
Studio classes are anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours in length and the class size can be 2 to 100 students, depending on the studio. Most studios allow anyone to drop in on a class anytime, which is great if your schedule is unpredictable, whereas some classes require that you register and pay for a specific duration beforehand.
Depending on the class size, your instructor may be able to give you individual guidance and adapt the poses to your needs, particularly if your instructor is highly qualified and experienced. If you have difficulty doing certain poses, you can be shown an alternative. In larger class sizes (20+), it’s more difficult to provide individual attention. Experienced instructors may also include the benefits of many of the poses you are doing in class.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I DO YOGA?
If you’re able to practice yoga 3 times or more per week, you will likely see significant improvements in areas such as flexibility, joint range of motion, strength, balance, ability to manage stress, quality of sleep, happiness and overall well being. Everyone’s bodies are different, so this of course is relative. Practicing a beginner yoga routine once or twice per week will help you maintain things as they are, while possibly seeing some smaller improvements over time. Like anything fitness-related, the more time you can dedicate to it, the more beneficial it will be.
THE YOGA MINDSET
Yoga is not a religion, a cult or a belief system. At the root of yoga is self-inquiry. Everything we do, whether it’s a yoga pose, a meditation, a mantra or a breathing technique (pranayama), has the purpose of encouraging us to connect to our bodies and our life experience in a more meaningful way. For example, understanding the balance of effort and release in your yoga practice requires constant attention and sensitivity and has profound meaning in our everyday lives as a meditation on balancing stress and relaxation. Experiencing true relaxation is a deeply rewarding experience. And understanding how to move into extremely challenging poses effortlessly, with a calm mind and steady breath, is invaluable to us all in our busy lives.
Yoga’s origins come from a deeply-felt drive for self understanding, physical and emotional release and total well being. It’s much more than the physical experience of a yoga pose. It digs deep into the reality of who you are, what you want and why you are here. As you spend more time doing yoga, you will likely dig deeper into the layers that make up who you are as a person. Yoga helps you let go of old patterns, feel more open and happy and connect with friends, family and your world in a more meaningful way.
I hope, that this article has provided you with all of the information that you need. If you do end up taking your first class, send us an email to let us know how it went.
We wish you the best in whatever journey you’re on.
When you’re new, the scene at a yoga studio can feel intimidating! These 10 insider tips will help you feel more confident, comfortable, and prepared when entering class for the very first time.
- Don’t take class on a full stomach: Trying to do yoga right after mealtime will hinder your practice. In order for your body to twist and hop into poses, the stomach can’t be digesting something heavy. Yoga teacher Kristin McGee suggests eating an hour before practice, but if you aren’t able to and are starving, she suggests having a banana no less than 20 minutes before class.
- Arrive early: Head to the studio at least 10 minutes before the scheduled class in case there’s paperwork to fill out or if you want to ask about any introductory discounts for new students. Arriving early also gives you a chance to set up in a prime location and perhaps even connect with the teacher. Be sure to say it’s your first time!
- Grab all the props: Make sure the studio offers yoga mats to rent if you haven’t bought your own yet. Then, pick up whatever additional props are available. A strap, blanket, and block all offer something a little different to a beginner’s practice, but each helps your body get into a deeper version of a pose. Straps and blocks give you a little extra room to twist, while a blanket will make all the seated postures — plus the final relaxation — even more enjoyable.
- There might be chanting: Depending on where you take yoga, there might be some Sanskrit chanting at the start or at the end of class. If you’re not comfortable with this, there’s no pressure to take part. Simply relax, breathe, and keep an open mind. If you’re interested in trying, do your best to keep up with the class, but no one will notice or mind if you mess up a few words.
- No need for socks or gloves: Sticky yoga socks and gloves are marketed for yoga beginners, but there’s no need to invest in either of these unnecessary yoga accessories. They provide your body with a false sense of being grounded into your mat, something that a consistent yoga practice will do naturally with time.
- Release the tension: Clenching your fingers, toes, or even your jaw is very common when you’re first starting out. The more you let go and release this stress from your body, the easier every pose will feel. Keeping things loose and comfortable will allow for a better experience, and once you’ve chilled out, you’ll find that you’re able to hold poses for longer.
- Breath is everything: Pay attention to how shallow your breath is at the beginning of class and if it’s deeper and more relaxed at the end of class. When you feel your mind wander, think about lengthening your inhales and exhales. It’s the best way to calm down and dive back into your practice with a fresh outlook.
- Child’s Pose is always an option: There might be yogis of all levels practicing in class, so if there’s a pose you don’t understand or aren’t ready to try, don’t be afraid to take rest in a gentle Child’s Pose. This posture is always an option if you lose your connection to your breath during class. It will help you zen out and tune into your body’s needs.
- Trust the teacher: Moving at your teacher’s pace might be difficult. Regardless of whether it’s feeling too fast or too slow, trust their choices for sequencing and do your best to stay on track with the rest of the class. Also know that some teachers will be more hands on than others. If you’re not comfortable with touching or adjustments, there’s nothing wrong with telling your instructor it isn’t working for you.
- Be a beginner: In a few months, you might be taking every yoga push-up (Chaturanga) possible, but let yourself have the opportunity to be a real beginner! Revered in a yoga practice, the idea of a “beginner’s mind” means heading to your mat with no preconceived notions about what you can or can’t accomplish or poses you can or can’t do. Keeping this positive outlook and leaving expectations at the door will result in the best experience possible.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Maria del Rio
Teaching Yoga: Opening the Yoga Class
By Faye Martins
How to open a Yoga class is a unique craft, but it is not that complicated. Yoga students need to unplug from the world around them first. The Yoga teacher is a guide on the path to inner peace and the opening is the first step on this path.
The practice of Yoga is often used to enhance the mind-body connection. It can help to aid in relaxation and getting in touch with your inner self. Just as there are numerous reasons people practice Yoga, there are a number of different ways to open a class. The opening of the class sets the tone for both the students and the teacher. Different classes often require very different openings. For example, a teacher might choose to open a Hatha class very differently than a Power or Hot Yoga class.
Opening a Hatha class will usually entail students sitting on the ground in a comfortable position. A teacher might start with some quiet meditation, then give some gentle advice to students about paying attention to their breathing. Proper instruction on inhalation and exhalation and how it benefits the student throughout their practice of Yoga is a great way to set the tone for the class. Chanting can also be introduced at this point, as mantras can be a great way for students to focus. Some teachers open the class with the students lying down, as that is conducive to the relaxation process.
Teachers of a Power Yoga class might open the class very differently. They will also focus on breathing techniques, but will usually not introduce chanting. Power Yoga classes can also start with the students in the seated position, but they can also start with the students standing up. As this style is generally more physically demanding than the gentler types of Yoga, the focus is more on the physicality rather than the emotions as the class progresses through the poses.
The most importance aspects of teaching and opening a class are knowing how to set the tone and how to connect with the students. After all, the opening must inspire the students to fully immerse themselves in the practice of Yoga so that they get the most from the class. A strong opening offers guidance so the students know what to expect from the session. The focus of the mind is an integral aspect to Yoga and must be established very early. That’s why it is so important to teach proper breathing techniques at the very beginning, as it draws the student fully into the class and into the moment.
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With increased activity on the YogaByCandace Official App’s forum (it’s sort of an instagram-like feature), I’ve been seeing many questions from total beginners looking for tips and tricks on various yoga related topics. Today I thought I’d share three ways to prep the body for yoga, and I figure it’s a great reminder for seasoned yogis, too. If you have any other tips you’d add, I’d love to hear them down below in the comments section!
1. Hydrate: Whenever I know I’m going to be going to a rigorous yoga class, I’m extra attentive to my water intake. If I’m not properly hydrated, I find that I get a headache either during or after a sweaty yoga class, so I hydrate like nobody’s biz on the day-of. I try to drink about a liter and a half throughout the day (from my favorite water bottle) prior to an early evening class and I find my body feels best this way.
2. Prep the muscles: I am notoriously tight in that muscle that runs along the exterior of the shin bone (fun fact, that muscle is called the tibialis anterior). I can’t figure out why I am so tight there but I am tight all. the. time. so I absolutely love the RAD Rod to loosen it up. It’s like a rolling pin that you use on muscles and overall, it’s a great little tool to throw in your yoga bag (new favorite one I shared on snapchat!). I live for how it feels on my tibialis anterior.
3. Take a second: I know that most classes start off with a centering, but sometimes I need to center being the centering (what?!). Let me explain. I often find myself rushing to class, my mind full of stuff that happened earlier and a running to-do list of what needs to be done after class. When I go in and sit on my mat and the class starts – I find that I’m just not fully present. Therefore, I always tell myself class actually starts five minutes before it truly does, and that way I’m there on time with a few minutes to take to myself and get my head right. I’ll sit on my mat, close my eyes, and take ten deep breaths. It’s become and quick and effective way to get the most out of the class because I’m able to be fully present.
When I was a new teacher, I spent hours planning my classes. I was trying to emulate teachers like Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, whose classes seemed perfectly choreographed. I pored over manuals, trying to pick yoga sets that I hadn’t taught before. Then I’d put time into selecting the right meditation to complement the yoga. After that, I’d go to my extensive collection of spiritual and self-help books, scanning for passages, anecdotes, and themes to tie everything together. I’d make notes on index cards to use for quick reference on the teacher’s bench. I’d type, scan, and print handouts. Lastly, I’d program the music, pulling CDs and cassettes from my library (this was the ’90s, folks) and placing them atop the pile of manuals and books I’d accumulated. All told, I could put more time into planning a class than teaching it.
Sometimes this kind of planning paid off. Mostly, my most ambitious plans fell flat. I rushed through the yoga sets so I could fit them all in. The meditations didn’t resonate. The readings I had so carefully selected didn’t move anyone.
Gradually, I swung the other way. Instead of preparing for a class, I’d grab a few manuals off the shelf before I headed out the door to the yoga studio. Occasionally, I wouldn’t pick a yoga set to teach until I had already started my students on warm-ups. This way of nonplanning often yielded wonderful, spontaneous classes. Yet there would be times when I felt the class could have been better if I had just put in a little thought beforehand. Frankly, you know when you’re simply being lazy.
These days, I like to think I’ve struck a balance between the polarities of planning and improvisation. But I’m still curious about how other teachers plan their classes. How do our masters and mentors create such seamless, resonant experiences for their students? These teachers are like master conductors, and their classes like symphonies. Turns out, the answer in yoga is the same as it is in music: practice.
See also Is 200 Hours Enough To Teach Yoga?
1. Practice planning a class—over and over again.
Gurmukh swung by Golden Bridge NYC recently for a four-part seminar she called “Destiny, Excellence, and Success in 2008.” It was my first class with my teacher since I’d moved to New York four years before. As usual, it was challenging, wise, and perfectly balanced.
Afterward, I asked Gurmukh how long it took to prepare that night’s session. Just before class, she said, she was having dinner with her partner Satya. “At three minutes to six, I looked up and said, ‘Oh, no, I have to teach now.'” Turns out, Gurmukh didn’t know what she was going to do until she sat down on the teachers’ bench.
It is experience that sparks inspiration and powers intuition. Class after class, student after student, we begin to internalize a repertoire of tools and learn to pick up wordless cues from the people in our care. At that point, teaching becomes less about day-to-day preparation and more about tapping into your foundation.
But what if you’re a new teacher without the years under your belt? How do you know what to do when you don’t know what to do?
See also So You Graduated Yoga Teacher Training—Now What?
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About Our Writer
Dan Charnas has been practicing and teaching Kundalini Yoga for almost 13 years, and he has taught at yoga centers in Los Angeles and New York City. He’s recently written a book, The Big Payback: How Hip-Hop Became Global Pop.
Body. Breath. Beats. Sign up for the 2019 Wanderlust 21-Day Yoga Challenge with Schuyler Grant, and ground into what this connection means for your practice—and your life. Free access is available March 4–March 31. For more information,.
Three straight weeks of #yogaeverydamnday is no joke, but signing up for a 21-Day Yoga Challenge is one of the greatest gifts you could give yourself. It’s a huge, albeit rewarding, commitment that will bring a roller coaster of bliss, sweat, maybe some tears and hopefully a landslide of good vibes. Above all, it’s a transformative process that will leave your soul shining brighter, lighter, and higher. From mental prep to making sure you have all the materials needed for success, one of the best things we can do for our bodies before embarking on such a challenge is to adequately prepare. The following are several tips and techniques to help get your mind and body ready for 21 days of yoga.
First, set an intention. What are you aiming to get out of the next 21 days? A more peaceful outlook? Recalibration? A new set of abs? Carefully consider your reasons for starting the challenge—and be sure you believe in them wholeheartedly. Coming back to that intention over and over throughout the next few weeks will be key in getting you to that sweet, sweet finish line. And allow yourself some flexibility as you go! Your intention may change (in fact, it almost certainly will) and that’s great. Just keep coming back to what motivates you and why you want to do this.
Release Your Expectations
Next, set some expectations for yourself—and then forget about them. No matter what happens over the journey, be gentle on yourself. You are embarking on a challenge of the mind, body, and spirit. It’s a beautiful thing, but listen to your body along the way and remember everything is best in moderation. Starting a challenge like this is a bit like starting a race—if you gun it right out of the gate, you will be gassed from the get go. Same goes for a 21-Day Yoga Challenge. This year’s Body. Breath. Beats. Challenge will get progressively more difficult as the weeks go on—so listen to your body as the difficulty increases. Be sure to give your body time to recover between classes; surrender your mind to letting yourself have the sacred time on your mat to heal and recover. Lean into the juicy poses, stretches, and Savasanas. Move slowly, but with intention.
No matter what happens, remember to be kind to yourself. If holding Crow Pose (Bakasana) for 10 breaths straight feels overwhelming, let yourself sit still in Child’s Pose. Remember, this is your body and your challenge; what works for other folks on the journey may not work for you. Surrender to what you need and what will serve your highest self—no effort is ever wasted.
21-Day Yoga Challenge teacher Schuyler Grant in Bakasana, Crow Pose.
Prepare a few things. Think about what physical materials you need to get the most out of your experience. Maybe it’s a new pair of leggings to get motivated, or perhaps it’s finally buying that new mat—just be sure you have everything you need.
One of the most important things to have in your toolbox is healthy, quality nutrition. Consider stocking up on some supplements to help keep your body strong. Twenty-one days of yoga may not seem like a lot, but around the fifth day straight, you will start to feel it in a big way. Your muscles are sore, your arms are tired, and you’ll think you couldn’t possibly do another Chataranga. This is what we call the dukkha (a Buddhist term for “suffering.”). Feel it. Get mad about it. And then lean in, baby, because it’s about to get so, so good.
That feeling of discomfort is your body changing. It’s getting stronger and so is your mental fortitude. Help your body in its journey by giving it proper nutrition and supplements. In addition to a suite of leafy greens and protein, consider incorporating a multivitamin, like the Swisse Ultivite. Not only can a multivitamin help fill in nutritional gaps, the Swisse Ultivite contains adaptogenic herbs that aid in energy production and help your body adapt and respond to stress. Taking a multivitamin each day as a part of the 21-Day Yoga Challenge is a great way to incorporate this simple habit that supports optimal health into your wellness routine.
Make it Part of Your Routine
Be sure to think through the logistics. One of the biggest hurdles I faced when doing my own 21-Day Challenge was planning. On some days, work ran long, or a friend’s birthday party was just too promising to pass up. Things will happen. If you miss a class, remember that you can always make it up the next day (during the free access period, classes will remain unlocked for three days!).
It’s important to remember that if getting your yoga practice in each day is stressing you out, it’s doing more harm than good. A few small things did help me overcome some of these more logistical roadblocks. One was aiming to do early morning classes, or get one in right after work, so that I had little interruption or distractions.
Build a support system. Setting expectations with your friends, family and coworkers will help mitigate these pop-up events that may derail your plans. And hopefully everyone around you will be supportive of your journey as you spend a bit of time away from them and with yourself. One awesome resource is the Wanderlust Virtual Yoga Studio, where Challenge participants and yogi-enthusiasts gather to help each other through the weeks.
You’ve got nothing to lose by signing up for free access. Give it a go, and watch how you grow! We can’t wait to see you on the mat.
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What You Should Know Before Your First Yoga Class
I’m so excited to be sharing more yoga posts with you! I’m almost done my 200-hour yoga teacher certification (just a few more hours left!) so prepare for a lot more in the future. This is just the start.
But before I jump heavy into the yoga content, I wanted to take things back to basics and talk about what you should know before your first yoga class. I’ve been doing yoga for 12+ years and am pretty deep into the practice, but I still find it so powerful and humbling to go back to a beginner class and remember where things started. Because trust me, I had limbs flailing and deep confusion for my first year of the practice. Luckily, it’s just that, a practice. A never-ending practice, in fact.
One of the many reasons I love yoga is because I truly believe it is the ultimate equalizer. Our bodies are all so different so what one person can do today may look different from what someone else can do. And what one person can do today may also look different from what that same person can do tomorrow. It’s also much more than just “doing”. I’ve had practices where I felt strong and bendy but my breath was out of whack and I just wasn’t present. I’ve had times where my breath was so on point but physically I found the practice very challenging. It changes all the time.
Yoga is so much more than just a physical workout. In fact what I find most challenging is the non-physical aspects of it. Is my mind wandering? Am I breathing deeply? Did I check my judgement at the door? These things are all equally, if not more important than the physical asanas (yoga postures).
This is also why I think it’s an awesome practice for beginners. The yoga studio or your home practice is a judgement-free zone. To truly practice yoga means to acknowledge where you are at today. It’s not about how you compare to other people in the room or even how you compare to the expectations you have for yourself. It’s just about being where you are at and finding that zone between comfort and challenge.
That being said, I know your first or your first couple of yoga classes can be super intimidating. Despite the fact that most experienced yogis are passing no judgement at all, it can feel scary walking into a room of people who don’t flinch when the teacher starts speaking Sanskrit or the room breaks out into a resounding “ohm”. So I’m here to break down for you what you need to know before your first yoga class. Use this as a guide and hopefully a sense of encouragement to start your own practice!
WHAT YOU NEED FOR YOGA
Truthfully, all you really need is your body and the floor, but if you’re going to a studio you will need/want a few things.
1) A Mat – Find out if the studio has mats so if you don’t own one this is a great option. If you do own a mat (this one is my favorite), consider bringing it if you can
2) Blocks – most studios will have blocks for use. I highly encourage you to use them. I always have two blocks at my mat when I practice because I find they really aid in deepening certain postures.
3) A Strap – again most studios will have straps. I don’t always use one but I like having one close by in case I do. Straps are great if you have tight shoulders or limited range in your chest as well as if you have trouble reaching for your toes.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR FIRST YOGA CLASS
1) Go to a beginner class – I always encourage newbies to attend beginner classes. Even if you are super strong and confident, it doesn’t mean you’re ready for an advanced class. Start with a beginner class and get comfortable with the postures before going into anything advanced.
2) Know what kind of class you are attending – there are many many different types of yoga classes. If you’re looking for a challenging flow and then stretch class, I encourage ashtanga or vinyasa/power yoga. If you want something that’s more focused on stretching, attend a yin or restorative class. Most studios will provide class descriptions on their websites so read them! If not, call the studio to get more details.
3) Eyes on your own mat – of course, in your first couple of classes you may need to look around to know what’s going on. That’s totally fine! Just don’t compare where you are at to where others are at. Trust me, they’re not looking at you!
4) Talk to the teacher before class – let them know if you have any injuries or concerns, but also that you are new. There is nothing shameful in sharing that you are new. Trust me, they will pick up on it anyway so you might as well start a dialogue.
5) Be open to adjustments – if you don’t like being touched, that’s totally fine but if you are, don’t take it personally. Adjustments are meant to help you get into the right alignment in a posture so be open to them. They will help you get deeper into your practice.
6) Focus on your breath – it’s a lot to get in and out of postures, flow easily AND breathe. I personally find that my best classes are the ones where I’ve really focused on my breath. You know you’ve reached your limit in a posture when you’ve lost your breath so try to find that line!
7) Child’s Pose – more on basic poses below but know that it is 100% acceptable to go into child’s pose at any point.In fact, there’s nothing I love more than seeing yogis go into child’s pose mid-practice because I know that this person is in tune and listening to their body. If you’ve lost your breath or just need a break, always go into child’s pose.
BASIC YOGA MOVES
Vinyasa/Sun Salutations – this is a series of moves that are the backbone of yoga. I’ll break it down for you:
- Mountain pose/Tadasana
- Forward Fold/Uttanasana
- Halfway Lift/Ardha Uttanasana
- Upward Facing Dog/Adho Mukha Svanasana
- Downward Facing Dog/Adho Mukha Shvanasana
From here you may move into Warrior I or Warrior II, High Lunge, Easy Twist and so on…you’ll get the hang of it eventually. It’s all about practice. Note: most beginner practices won’t use the sanskrit so fear not!
Child’s Pose -Folding your chest over your knees on the mat (see above picture). This is your re-centering pose. Never be afraid to drop down into child’s pose if the flow is feeling tough or you’re losing your breath.
Shavasana – Otherwise known as “corpse pose” it’s pretty much the most delightful yoga pose 🙂 It’s your restful sleep at the end of your practice. If you’re just in it for shavasana I feel you! I never understand people who leave before it. It’s like getting a restful night’s sleep in 3-5 minutes.
Most importantly…HAVE FUN!!!!
Outfit (Pants + Top) by Manduka
Mat by Manduka
Studio: Love Story Yoga
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What to Expect from Your First Yoga Class
OK, I admit it: Up until a few weeks ago, I had never tried yoga. Despite the hype and how many people are raving about it, yoga just didn’t pique my interest. As I’ve documented at aSweatLife, my go-to form of exercise has pretty much always been running. Over time, I’ve learned to love lifting weights as well. But for some reason, practicing yoga had never been at the top of my to do list.
But after checking out the list of classes my gym is offering this fall, I decided to take a whack at it. After all, what’s the harm in trying something new? So one Saturday morning, I headed out the door to my first yoga class, one that was conveniently named just “Yoga” by my gym so I truly had no idea what style to expect. After 50 minutes, I left feeling calmer yet more energized for the day ahead. And most importantly, I had fun.
Here’s a closer look at what to expect from your first yoga class:
Mats and no shoes.
When I arrived at the gym, I saw people carrying mats into the room in which class was held. For a split second, I panicked because I hadn’t brought my own mat. But then I noticed the large container of mats provided for participants. After grabbing a mat from the bin, I found a spot on the floor and looked around, noticing everyone was either barefoot or only wearing socks on their feet. There was no need for my Nikes, so I took them off and put them in a cubby.
The cycling and HIIT workout classes I’ve attended this fall were full of fast-paced pop and hip hop music. But — no surprise here — the yoga class was not. Instead we listened to soothing, meditative music. It was the perfect background noise as the instructor led our group.
A focus on stretching and flexibility.
Before attending class, I knew of a couple yoga poses, but I wouldn’t say I was well-versed in the art of yoga. So when I showed up, I wondered what we would do for the majority of the 50 minutes. Would we quickly move from pose to pose? Would I be expected to do really complicated poses?
The best way I can describe how we spent the class is stretching and slowly trying out different poses. Nothing was rushed, and I didn’t have to do anything beyond my skill level. The instructor led the group from pose to pose, taking time to explain exactly what to do with our bodies. Some of the poses required quite a bit of flexibility, but everyone was encouraged to do as much as they could without going beyond their limit. By the end of class, my body felt much more open, relaxed and loose. It was by far the best stretch I’ve had in a long time.
At the end of class, everyone lay on the floor, closed their eyes and relaxed. We remained in those positions for a couple minutes, though I wish it could have lasted longer. This savasana was a perfect time to take some deep breaths and meditate.
A sense of energy and tiredness (but not utter exhaustion).
When I finish a run or HIIT class, I feel tired down to my core. My heart is racing, there’s sweat dripping down my body and all I want to do is collapse on the couch. When I left yoga, I wasn’t in such a state of exhaustion. I still needed a shower, but I wasn’t too tired to move. Instead, I felt more awake, invigorated and ready to take on my day.
If you’re feeling nervous about trying yoga for the first time, take it from me — you can do it! Of course, every yogi will have a different experience depending on the style of yoga he or she chooses to practice. But hopefully this general guide gives a glimpse at what an average class looks like.
Yoga for Beginners: What I Learned From My First Yoga Class
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that my work drives me to remain fit. No, I am not in rescue operations but yes, I still need to save myself from sudden snack attacks. I exercise to eat.
I was a fitness freak until I broke up with my gym. I have to confess, we were just not working out. I’m not complaining but it left me exhausted and drained. There was pain, more physical than emotional. I took to running every morning as a rebound but lacked the motivation to keep up.
(The Truth About Yoga: 5 Myths That Are Just Silly)
While I was looking for something new to cling to, I bumped into yoga which has been a recent obsession. Like I always say, all things old are new again. The good talk that’s being doing the rounds, courtesy, International Day of Yoga (June 21), lightened a spark of inspiration. I decided to hit up on my first yoga class. And, I’m here to break it down for you.
Wear it Right
What do you really need? Your body, your mind and some enthusiasm but it will also help to have a yoga mat, yoga pants with elastic waists and a comfortable t-shirt that’s not too baggy. It is almost always done barefoot. You should opt for clothing that hugs your body shape and allows easy movement. Avoid tops with loose necklines or collars as it can slide down. Wear clothes made with a breathable material, don’t opt for lycra or nylon as you may tend to slip while performing some poses. I’d say give blacks and whites a miss. That said, yoga is not about how you look, it’s about how you feel. (Stress Buster: Yoga is What You Need for a Healthy Mind)
Pick Your Style
Find out what’s right for you. There is something in yoga for everyone. Most beginners’ courses can help you improve your strength, flexibility and balance. Unlike other forms of exercise, yoga also releases tension, calms your mind and helps you relax. To get the most out of your practise, choose a yoga style that matches your current fitness levels and goals. Figure out your strengths and weaknesses and talk to your instructor regarding the best style for you.
Being a Beginner
Ouch. The thought of all that gear and those asanas puts a knot in your stomach? Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get into a pose but the challenge was to get out of it. It’s easy to get stuck here but don’t get intimidated or overly excited. Start slow, you’re not expected to set a world record on day one. Another thing, you do not necessarily have to be flexible to practice yoga. These poses are meant to help you improve flexibility and build strength. You may feel a little sore initially, but the practise should not be painful or exhausting. I struggled with stretches and slight muscle pain as the body loosened up. Stick to the basics and you’ll shine no matter what.
(Yoga for Weight Loss: 6 Ways to Get Back in Shape)
Catch Your Breath
Breathe in, breathe out, and breathe right. You may have never considered it to be one, but breathing is a form of exercise. Most of you may have known that you should never practise an asana while breathing through the mouth. You have to inhale and exhale through the nose. In yogic practise, it is believed that prana or life force can only be absorbed through nasal breathing. The first thing that I was taught was how to breathe correctly. It was the diaphragmatic breath, in which you inhale air that first fills the lower belly that protrudes out (this activated first and second chakras), it rises through the rib cage and finally moves out through the upper chest and throat.
It is also known as the ujjayi or victory breathing. Another thing, you need to match the length of your inhales to the length of your exhales. Try to make it even while increasing the span and deepening at the time but not to an extent where it feels strained or forced. You should have the consciousness of your breath. It sounds easy but the first time I applied it along with the asanas I felt lost. You have to try and master the pose and at the same time focus on the rhythm, pace and sound of your breath. That was a bit challenging but slowly you gain steadiness, resonance and depth. Yoga poses require free circulation of blood and flow of oxygen to muscles and therefore, you shouldn’t try and hold your breath.
(Yoga: Is it Worth it?)
The Balancing Act
You may think that getting into a pose is all that you need to learn but the real deal is to actually try and hold it. Concentrate on the alignment but don’t let that be your focus. Your mind should be occupied with creating a balance and not the posture. When you hold a pose, adjust and readjust till you create a balance. Maintaining the poses cultivates concentration.
Rest and Restore
One of the most important things that I learnt was how after every asana, we would rest which in itself is a form of exercise for the mind. By resting I mean, in Shavasana (corpse pose) where you relax lying down on your back and concentrate on your breathing. It is a relaxation technique to allow your functions to pause and heal. I also felt the child pose helped me relieve the tensions from the body.
(International Experts: Yoga Can be Good for Your Heart)
Eating 30 minutes Before Your Class
Yoga involves lot of tossing, turning and inversions which can make you feel uncomfortable if your food hasn’t been digested. Try having a light meal or munch on something snacky like nuts, juice, fruits or yogurt. Try a combination of protein and carbs to keep you fuelled. Avoid drinking too much water just before you start. While practising yoga your stomach should be empty.
Time and Frequency of Practise
You don’t have to slog yourself every day, three to four times a week seemed ideal to me. You don’t have to exert yourself. Again, find your balance, do what you can and don’t worry about it. As far as the time is concerned, there are no rules but you can define according to the type of posture. Some of them are energizing while others are calming. In general, a morning session can be quite invigorating and helps you glide through the day. You can also practise early evening, but around that time focus on relaxing asanas.
(Yoga May Help Overcome Anxiety Disorders)
CommentsFinally, what is it like? I would say the first day is gentle, the second is challenging but as you continue you feel more relaxed and energised. If body and mind is your fitness mantra, this is what you’ve been looking for.