Over the several years of teaching, I’ve been approached by many yoga newbies who tell me they are nervous about their first yoga experience. There are many reasons they come with, the most common including having no idea what to expect or coming back from an illness/injury. I do my very best to make them comfortable, giving a short little synopsis of what to expect. Still, the nerves are present for the beginning of class. Flash forward one hour, as they leave class relaxed, smiling, and at ease, I receive a “thank you, I’ll be back!”
So I thought to myself, how wonderful this person came in open to the experience even through their nerves! And whether or not they return to my class, I know they left with the feeling of conquering, exploring, and experiencing something new. My next thought was, there must be so many people curious about yoga, seeing the difference yoga can make in lives and hearing about all the benefits, but unable to take the first step into a yoga class to find out for themselves because of the same feeling of uncertainty.
So here I will give you a brief list of what to expect in your first class. From sounds and feelings to the basics of clothing and props, here is what you are likely to experience:
- Your teacher will greet you as you enter, introducing her/himself, and (should) ask about injuries or illness. Please know the instructor is not trying to be rude. Far from it, this information is important so s/he can provide you with safe modifications if necessary and be aware of how to keep your safe and sound. You will also be given a waiver to sign and need to provide payment.
- Don’t buy into stereotypes. Your instructor may or may not be a swami in robes, have dreadlocks, smell of incense, be tall/short, big/small, young/old, male/female, etc. We are like you, everyday people, often with day jobs, exploring life with a passion for yoga.
- Yoga is practiced on a mat. Some facilities have mats for use or for a small rental fee if you do not own one. This simply provides a lightly padded surface to practice on as well as giving traction to feet, hands, and other parts of the body while moving into and out of postures.
- Some classes will make use of props such as blocks, straps, blankets, bolsters, chairs, even the wall. These props can be helpful to your practice and simply make many postures more accessible to some bodies.
- You should wear comfortable clothing to class. Loose fitting clothes which are easy to move in are a must. Sweatpants and tee shirt: YES. Jeans and dresses: NO.
- Yoga is practiced in bare feet. This is to make a deep connection with the ground, to activate and work the muscles of the feet, and give you better traction. Many people are uncomfortable with this, and prefer to wear socks. Feel free if this makes you most comfortable, however, in standing poses it would be best to remove socks to avoid slipping and possibly getting hurt.
- Chanting is a possibility in class. Most classes begin and/or end with chanting OM, with everyone invited to join in. This is not required. If you are uncomfortable, take it for face value, enjoying the beauty of the sound and the peaceful sensation it creates.
- Some classes are practiced in silence with just the instructor’s voice leading the class. Others play soothing music in the background. It’s all a matter of style.
- There will be many postures, seated, standing, lying on the belly, lying on the back, and more. Don’t worry about remembering them all. It will come with time.
- Breath work, or Pranayama, is a huge part of a yoga practice. Some classes are taught simply using yogic breath which is breathing in and out through the nose. There are many other different ways of working with the breath, which may be introduced with time or in specific classes.
- Meditation is a yet another key component of a yoga practice. So many people think they can’t meditate because their mind is constantly “on”. I’ll tell you a secret: everyone’s mind is on! It’s a practice for everyone, I’m quite sure. Try it, do your best, and just see what happens.
- Every class ends with final relaxation, or Savasana. This is a deeply restful, often most loved portion of practice. Here is where you will integrate all the benefits you are cultivating in your physical practice. Stopping completely so you can start to absorb the beauty of the practice. Be prepared to lay flat on your back (or side), eyes closed, and simply be for 5-10 minutes. This silence may feel incredibly long at first, but as you come back, it may never seem quite long enough.
These are the basic elements of a yoga class. Keep in mind there are many different styles of yoga and ways to teach. So be open, embrace something new, and get yourself to a studio. It may just change your life.
What keeps you from attending your first Yoga class?
What was your first Yoga experience like?
Peace & Namaste.