October 13, 2014

Yoga Newbie? How to Prep for your First Class.

Tiffani Shipman

One of the things I hear most often from people when I suggest that they should try a yoga class is, “I am not flexible enough for yoga.”

The second most common response I get from people is, “I will when I get better” or, “I am scared! I need more practice first.”

Sound familiar?

If it does, know that you are not alone! As a yoga instructor, I want to take you all by the hand and gently lead you to your mat and remind you that your practice starts there no matter if you are at home, or in a studio.

Here is a short list of things you need to know and understand that will help you take that first step:

1. Research and Review. Google yoga studios near you and look at the reviews, as they indicate what kind of experience other people have had. Don’t be afraid to ask around for recommended teachers, studios and classes. Word of mouth is a powerful thing and will give you a starting point in finding the right studio fit for you.

Finding the right studio is important! If you are in a class that just doesn’t jive well with you, don’t let it turn you off of yoga altogether. Try another studio or another instructor before calling it quits, but doing a little asking around first may help point you in the right direction of where to begin.

2. You’ve got to begin somewhere. You do not need to have an advanced practice to take a class. You don’t even need an ounce of experience at all! What you need is the will to walk through the door.

Whether you have no experience whatsoever, or have a basic skill level from a home practice and want to transition into a live studio class, I do suggest starting with a Intro Level class. Chances are, no matter your yoga experience if it is your first time to attend a class, you may feel lost. Don’t fret! You will get used to the pace and verbiage and begin to find your way, I promise. Intro classes are generally slower paced and can give you a strong foundation for what lies ahead, so start there and keep progressing.

When you feel comfortable, then branch out and perhaps try a higher level class. Keep in mind that even in more advanced classes, instructors usually give modifications so that no matter where you are at in your practice, you have options, so don’t be afraid.

There are always options! And if nothing else, if you find yourself in child’s pose the entire class, it is still yoga.

3. Keep it simple. You do not need fancy clothes or equipment. This is a tough one because it helps to feel confident when trying new things, and sometimes a new outfit gives us that boost of courage. And, hey, if that is what you need, then go for it! It is important to remember though, that it is not necessary.

No one is going to look down on you if you don’t have the latest and greatest labels. The people next to you on the mat are on their own journey. Forget judgments and forget the fear of being judged. You may be mesmerized by the gorgeous yoga wear in the lobby of the studio, but, inherently, it is not the reason for you being there. Focus on yourself and your practice and splurge on the yoga pants later down the road if you wish.

Remember first why you are at yoga class to begin with. It is to feel better, deepen your practice and extend the journey within. Which brings me to the next point.

4. Get emotional. Expect (at some point) your emotions to overflow. Yoga can be extremely powerful not only within our muscles and bodies, but within our hearts and minds as well. I can attest that the physical manifestations of yoga can bring out incredibly intense emotions. I have seen tears fall many a time during savasana, and have cried tears on my own mat as well.

It sort of sneaks up on you, and when you least expect it, catharsis happens. Sometimes a teacher can lead you into a series of movements and guide you with a series of thoughts and questions to ponder and suddenly you find yourself acutely aware that you are getting more than just a workout within the safe confines of a yoga class. It is a little like therapy for the body and soul at the same time!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.. but look forward to it. Letting go of old stuff feels, in a word—liberating.

5. Say hello! Before class starts, make sure to introduce yourself and tell the instructor you are new and also make them aware of any issues or injuries you have, old and new. Neck or back issues? Let them know before class! That way, they are prepared if they need to give specific modifications to you for anything planned in class, and they are sensitive to any issues if they perform adjustments.

Also, know your limits. If something feels wrong, don’t do it! Listen to modifications given and hear what your body tells you to avoid injuring yourself.

6. Relax! Be prepared to have fun! Yes, you will have to look around during class at others to figure out which pose you are supposed to be doing, and yes, you will find yourself lost sometimes, and yes, you very well may fall on your face, or into your neighbor while attempting a pose! But hey, we have all been there!

You are not the first new person who has ever walked into the door, and you won’t be the last. Take comfort in knowing no matter where you are in your journey, there will be people in the room who were at your exact place at some point in time.

7. Bring a friend! Sometimes, things are easier in twos. And it also makes it a little less awkward feeling when the neighbor you fall into is your friend…

8. Smile! Enjoy the journey! Seriously.

Now get to class. You will love it!

Namaste, friends.




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Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Author’s Own

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