Read this before your first yoga class
The No. 1 question I get in my inbox is, "I want to try yoga, but I'm not sure where to start. Any advice?"
I started to tackle this question and quickly realized this requires more than one post. This one will focus solely on the yoga class. We'll backtrack and look at the big picture later. Cool? Cool.
So you want to try yoga. Why?
First, ask yourself why you're drawn to yoga and what you hope to get out of it. Knowing your intention beforehand will not only help you choose a studio, but will also help you get more out of your practice. Here are some ideas if you're not really sure:
- Relax/relieve stress
- Live a more mindful life
- Work on my fitness
- Connect to my inner Self
- Spiritual development
- Connect mind, body and spirit
- Improve strength/flexibility/balance
Now that you know your intentions, let's choose a class
Yoga is growing in popularity in America faster than the PSL. There are so many studios to choose from and every studio is different. However, one thing to note (at least in the KC area) is that teachers often teach at more than one studio. So if it's a teacher you love but you're not digging the studio, you still have options. Here are some things to consider when choosing a yoga studio:
- Style of yoga (Bikram, Hatha, Vinyasa, Power, etc.)
- Class offerings/teachers
I think it's good to try a few studios when you're starting out. Yoga studios are not one-size-fits-all and you should be able to quickly see what jives with you and what doesn't. Some studios focus mostly on fitness/poses while others are super spiritual and chanty. I tend to like to be in the middle myself, but everyone has the flavor they like.
Show up early
Yoga is a discipline. You start on time and end on time. It is considered disrespectful to walk into a class late. Some teachers don't get offended, but some do, and you don't want to kick off your yoga practice with a bad first impression.
For your first class, you'll need to take care of some housework: Sign a waiver form, pay a fee, get a tour, etc. Go plenty early so you have time to get settled AND get first dibs on mat space. I'd recommend showing up 20-30 minutes early.
Sit near the middle
A lot of newbs fight over a spot in the back of the room, where "nobody will see me." Real talk: We move around in yoga. The back of the room is sometimes the front of the room. Therefore, I recommend sitting in the middle. That way you can have a good view of the teacher and you'll always have other students in front of you to help guide you through the class.
Introduce yourself to the teacher (Don't be shy!)
Since you're plenty early, you have time to chat. Make a point to introduce yourself to the teacher and let him or her know that it's your first class. Yoga teachers want to help you as much as possible, but can only do so with information. Knowing that you're new, they'll likely offer more modifications and explain foundational postures more in-depth than usual.
Have an open mind
Like I said before, there are different flavors of yoga and not everyone has the same taste. However, you might surprise yourself. I used to think I was only in it for fitness, but when I opened my mind to the full mind-body-spirit connection, I fell in love. Be open to everything that's happening before passing judgment or deciding something's not for you.
Be kind to yourself
Lastly, remember to be kind to yourself. I tend to have unrealistic expectations of myself, and I used to get frustrated that I wasn't as "advanced" as other students. In actuality, the most advanced yogis aren't necessarily the "best" at the poses (asanas), but rather, they are more in tune with their own bodies' needs and are able to give themselves exactly what they need at the given moment. They aren't in competition with others or with themselves, and they probably don't even notice that your heels aren't touching the mat in downward-facing dog; They're in their own world during their yoga practice. And anyway, here's the truth about that oh-so-perfect yoga body on Instagram.