Welcome to our Beginners Guide to Your First Yoga Class
written by Connie Abbas, our in house Beginner Yoga Specialist. Connie has prepared the below guide for you to help prepare you for your first class and ease any worries or nervousness you may be experiencing. At Namaste Studios we understand that choosing to come to your first yoga class can put you out of your comfort zone and can be downright intimidating! Our staff is committed to welcoming and assisting you to help you feel at home when you walk in the doors. Are you considering attending your first yoga class but have questions that you’re too afraid to ask? Read the below tips to help set your mind at ease.
The Beginners Mind
Listen, you won’t be “bad at yoga”. Yes, there will be people in the class who are stronger and more flexible than you, but so what? It’s the approach with which you practice that is key! Patience, openness, the commitment to show up on your mat, respecting your body’s boundaries, learning to connect with sensation and your breath and the willingness to be in the present moment are all far more important than whether you can balance in tree pose for 5 minutes.
Let the instructor know of your fitness history, any injuries or limitations before class. Don’t be shy in this regard, as it’s in your best interest- your teacher can, for example, offer helpful modifications for certain postures to avoid possible re-injury or cause pain. Ideally, start in a class specially designed for beginners - where you will learn foundational poses, alignment and breathing fundamentals. Arrive 5-10 minutes early for class to give yourself time to get settled in. And be sure to place your mat so that you can beat hear and see the teacher.
Adho mukha what?!
Yes, your teacher may use some Sanskrit names to refer to the yoga poses but don’t sweat it! The more classes you attend, the more familiar you will become with the yoga lingo, and don’t worry, we won’t leave you hanging in the dark not knowing what to do next.
As a beginner, it may be difficult to distinguish the difference between pain and discomfort. Pain is sharp, like a sudden pinching sensation. You should not feel pain during yoga. Discomfort is more like a nagging sensation and may ease off or intensifying depending on the length of time you are holding a pose. The golden rule of thumb is - you know your own body better than anyone else and if something feels wrong, it probably is, so slowly ease your way back out of the stretch and take rest in child’s pose at any time you need to catch your breath.
Don’t be afraid to use blocks, straps, or cover up in a blanket during Savanasa. Using props during a yoga class can help bring the earth to you (reduce the reach) to assist with flexibility and provide support. Don’t have a mat, that’s ok. Most studios/teachers will have a mat you can use but you should check beforehand. Ps. Don’t forget to bring water.
What to wear?!
I suggest layers on the top half so that if you build up enough heat, you can remove a layer and put it on again during Savasana. Wear something that’s not too lose as you will be forward folding, hanging upside, bending and twisting (don’t be scared). Leggings, stretchy shorts or loose pants but nothing too slippery. And yes yoga is typically practiced in bare feet but you might like to put them back on just before final relaxation.
Eyes On Your Own Mat
Yoga is not a competition. There are no winners or losers. We practice progress, not perfection. Keep your eyes on your own mat in order to focus on moving through the class in a way that serves your body and your needs. The goal of yoga isn’t touching your toes but about what you learn on the way down. No two bodies are the same. So what you can’t squat down in Malasana or balance yet on one foot! Don’t expect your body to move or look like the person next to you.
Many yoga classes will begin with a chance to breath and center before moving into the postures. At the start of class, the teacher may take the time to explain the theme of the class or give you the time to set your own intention. For example, you may decide to focus on breathing deeply throughout the class or to practice not judging yourself or others. Offering gratitude for the opportunity to use yoga to care for your body is another way to ground your practice. Whatever your focus, call it to mind any time you need some inspiration or could simply use a reminder of your reason for coming to yoga. And after 40 minutes or so of yoga postures, the class will end with a Savasana- the most precious pose of class. It can act as a ‘reset’ button, calming the central nervous system and bringing the breath back to normal. It's the part of the practice where we can truly allow ourselves to simply Be. Many classes close with the teacher pressing their palms together at their heart bowing their head and uttering the word, ‘Namaste’ - ‘the light within me honors and acknowledges the light within you’. So, if you’ve been considering going to your first yoga class, wait no more! And rather than being frustrated as a beginner, enjoy the experience. Allow yourself to be a beginner. No one starts out excellent...where would the fun be in that!
From my heart to yours