Going to your first yoga class can be intimidating, and for some, this goes on up to your second, fifth, or even hundredth yoga class. There is always going to be someone in class who is stronger, more flexible, or more advanced than you.
The first thing I like to tell new students who are thinking about practicing yoga is to throw their ego out the window. Yoga is not about competition. What your neighbor’s body can do today has no connection to what yours can do.
Everyone has to start as a beginner. I know this is all easier said than embraced, and it’s only human to feel self conscious entering a new world, especially one as daunting as a first yoga class. So to help you out, here are some answers to the most common beginner yoga questions.
1.Where should I take my first yoga class?
Most local studios have classes for beginners. But, I’ll warn that a lot of studios who advertise “all level classes” are really catering to their regulars who come every week and are familiar with the practice.
I think that the best place to start is with a class explicitly labeled “beginner” or “Level 1”. It's also a good idea to try a Yin or gentle class where you’ll spend time in more passive, beginner poses. Some of the best beginner classes I’ve taken are not at yoga studios at all but rather at community centers like the YMCA or gyms that offer studio classes.
Do your research and don’t get discouraged if the first class doesn’t go well. Finding the right style and teacher for you is crucial to finding your practice.
2. Why should I start practicing yoga?
Yoga has tons of benefits and it's for absolutely everyone — it’s for the young, the old, the flexible, the inflexible, the weak and the strong. Yoga is so much more than a physical practice. It is a coming home to your body, mind, and spirit.
It will stretch you to your limits and teach you so much about yourself. I recommend yoga for anyone who is looking for an outlet for stress, a complementary balance to their workout routine, a way to relieve stiffness in their body, or simply a way to connect with a new community.
3. I’m not flexible, will I be able to do it?
Fun fact: it took me 5 years of practicing yoga before I was finally able to touch my toes. Yep, five years. I'm sharing this because the most common concern I hear from people before starting a yoga practice is that they’re inflexible.
My response is usually, “perfect, so am I!”. Being flexible is not a requirement to practice yoga, but over time, it's one of the results of a yoga practice.
Each yoga pose has many ways to modify to suit your individual body. Yoga is also full of props to help you get into the shapes of each pose. Being inflexible should never be a barrier for a new student!
4. What should I wear and bring?
Wear anything you feel comfortable in that will allow you to have a full range of motion. I like to wear leggings and a tank top and bring a long sleeved shirt for the start and end of the class.
Bring water, and a towel if you’re prone to working up a sweat. Leave the socks and sneakers at home, you’ll be practicing in bare feet. If you have a yoga mat, bring that as well, but most studios will rent them to you.
5. Where can I get a mat?
A good yoga mat can make all the difference. However, if you’re not sure if you’re going to stick with "this yoga thing," there’s no need to splurge. Borrow a mat from your studio while you decide.
When you’re ready to make a purchase, there are thousands of options. Sporting good stores will have some good affordable options. There are also loads of high end, trendy options. If you feel comfortable, I would talk to your yoga teacher about what they like, and even check out their mat if they’ll let you.
Personally, I prefer a thinner mat because I find it harder to balance on a more bouncy mat. For some, a little cushion might be necessary if you experience pain when sitting on your knees.
6. What are the different styles of yoga?
It seems like there is a new style of yoga popping up every day now. This is great because it’s so easy to find something that works for you. There are slow classes like Yin, gentle, and Restorative yoga. In these classes, you’ll spend a good amount of time on the floor in long, deep stretches.
Vinyasa and Hatha classes will feature more movement and challenging poses, usually placing emphasis on moving in harmony with your breath. You can find more information on different styles here.
7. Why is everyone Om-ing?
OM is said to be the sound of the universe. It is a symbol of our connection to all living things and beings. It is a way to seal in the lessons of the yoga class. It is however, pretty intimidating to new students, and you are by no means required to participate. You are also allowed to giggle, yogis love laughter.
8. What if I can’t remember the names of the poses?
If it seems like your yoga teacher is speaking a different language, it’s because she is! The names of yoga poses come from Sanskrit, although they also have english names. If you can’t remember which Warrior is which, don't sweat.
Just look around the room and you’ll usually be able to follow along. A good yoga teacher will be aware of new student and make sure that you’re not let behind or lost in translation.
9. Is the teacher going to touch me?
Probably, but if you’re not comfortable with being touched, make sure to let the teacher know.
I will say that adjustments are a wonderful way to experience poses. A slight touch or pressure can help you to realize that you’re holding tension in a muscle or help you go just a little deeper into a pose.
If a teacher plans to make adjustments, they should ask students at the beginning of class to signal if they’d prefer to skip this. If not, it is absolutely your right to ask them to skip you.
10. Is it ok to fall asleep during Savasana?
No one will kick you out of the studio for snoring during Savasana. However, this is not nap time.
Savasana can be the most important pose in a yoga class and it is the much needed restorative compliment to more active poses. It is a time to be completely with yourself and do you best to silence your mind. Rather than doing this through sleep, the challenge is to keep an awareness of breath and body without distracting thoughts.
11. I can’t get my mind to shut off during meditations, what can I do?
My best advice is not to judge yourself for not being able to meditate. Just try to relax and don't berate yourself for thinking about not thinking.
Accept wherever you are today and honor whatever comes up for you without passing judgment about it. Mediation is a practice, and it can be much more difficult than the asanas or physical aspect of yoga.
12. I’m too nervous to go to a studio, how can I get started?
The great thing about the popularity of yoga today is that you don’t have to leave your house to get started. There are so many wonderful yoga classes online, and this can be a great way to get your feet wet without leaving your comfort zone!
Hopefully that clears up some concerns and gives you a little boost of confidence to get started! Yoga is magical and will change your life if you let it. Feel free to ask any lingering questions you may have!