10 Ways to Get the Most From Your Yoga Class
1. Find the right class for you.
If you’re just started on your yoga journey, you might find that the first class you walk into makes you want to walk right out again. Don’t be put off if at first you don’t like it. There are so many different styles of yoga from which to find one that suits you most.
Similarly, if you’ve lost your interest in a class, or if it’s not feeling like it once did, it could be time for a change. It’s easy to be discouraged and think that’s the end of your yoga journey, but maybe you’re just on the wrong road. Don’t give up—just try going in a different direction.
2. Feel the fear and keep going anyway.
Many people new to yoga are surprised at how challenging a class can be, physically or mentally. We might struggle keeping up or understanding the terminology.
Yes, it’s intimidating walking into a yoga class for the first time, not knowing your Downward Dog from your Happy Baby. Research and home practice help; a little knowledge can give you the confidence to return.
Speak to your instructor—they want you in their class and they want you to love it. Every pose can be modified and if you feel out of your depth, they’ll guide you through those early weeks until you’re swimming with the tide.
3. Leave your ego at the door on the way in.
The yoga studio is really not the place for egos (although all too often you’ll find a few in there!) Be humble in your practice. Use a block if it means your hips are better aligned, use the wall if it means balances are more stable, and use a strap if it means your back is straighter and bends are deeper.
Be patient in reaching advanced postures. Yoga is neither a competition nor a race.
4. Leave the judgment by the door, too.
It’s hard, but try to concentrate on your own journey and that alone. Yoga is a personal practice. Each person in that class will have their own strengths and weaknesses, their own story, and their own reason for being there.
We’re all different shapes and sizes and individuals. None of us is perfect, but we’ve all turned up to class and we’re all trying our best.
5. Respect your teacher. LISTEN to their every word.
Give your teacher the respect they deserve by really listening to their instructions. If they’re making general posture corrections, assume that it might be directed at YOU. Check your alignment even if you’ve done that pose a million times. LISTEN to your teacher and OBSERVE your body.
6. Use the mirror, but not for comparisons.
Not all classes are held in a mirrored studio, and often teachers conduct class away from a mirror. Still, it’s helpful to use the mirror, not to preen or to compare yourself with others, but as a tool to observe posture and alignment and to develop awareness of how your body feels when it’s in the correct place.
Then, away from that mirror, when you can’t SEE that you’re correctly aligned, you will FEEL it.
7. Don’t dismiss Gentle yoga.
Away from the major towns and cities (especially in the UK), it can be difficult to find a dynamic yoga class. Often, the only one you can get to might be in a draughty church hall with a group of retirees. Embrace it.
Sure, you might be desperate to master Handstand Scorpion or Inverted Locust, but keep your mind open and go along anyway. Learn from the teacher and use the opportunity to be inspired and motivated by an older generation of yogis.
8. Show up on your mat…even when you don’t feel like it.
Of course, you should always listen to your body, but the saying, ‘You’re only one yoga class away from a good mood’ is just so true. I’ve dragged myself and my mat to classes when either my mind or body has just not felt like it, but I’ve never once come away thinking ‘I wish I hadn’t gone.’
Modify the poses, do a more gentle practice if need be, but be present, and it will be worth it.
9. Don’t be late.
If you’re going to make the effort to travel to a class, be respectful enough to yourself and the others in that class to get there for the start—to find your focus and centre. If you find you’re constantly late for class, find one that you can get to on time.
10. Stick around for Savasana.
This final resting pose is one of the most important poses you’ll do during your practice. If you need to be somewhere else before the end of class, attend a different class, or practice at home. Take the time to learn why Savasana is so important, be open-minded, and give it a go a few times.
It’ll be one of the main reasons that keeps you going back.
These aren’t the only ways to get the most from your yoga class, but they’ve helped me immensely, and maybe they can help you, too!
Committing to regularly attending a yoga class can sometimes feel like another thing to tick off the to-do list, but embrace the shared experience and energy you gain from group yoga, love it, and it might just change your life.
by Emma Griffiths – Emma is passionate about yoga. Not an expert, not a teacher…but a true enthusiast. When not on the mat, Emma is busy looking after her little family (Son+Husband+Dog), designing and making textile loveliness and aspiring to be a blogger and writer. Connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.