Someone Say Wild Card Yoga?
As a yoga teacher, I’ve noticed the days after Thanksgiving often bring in more masses to yoga studios. It’s enough to make me suspect that amid all the holiday festivities, another trend occurs. ‘Tis also the season to start a new healthy habit that usually kicks off after Thanksgiving and rounds a big corner with New Year’s resolutions. In the days after these holidays, many of my classes are filled with more of who I like to call wild cards, people whose practice I am not familiar with. These wild cards include visiting relatives and friends trying to squeeze in some yoga on their vacation. There are also some locals who have been meaning to try a class, but didn’t have time until the holiday break. Among these groups, the levels and experiences can run a wide gamut. Some might have practiced yoga before, but not necessarily in the same style. Some might be completely new to yoga or some might be getting back into yoga after a long break. And some of these new students might be dealing with injuries or health issues that can also influence their experience on the mat. Yep, wild cards.
Being The New Kid On The Block
From the student’s perspective, it can feel overwhelming to try a new yoga studio this time of year for various reasons, from being in a crowded yoga room or practicing with an unfamiliar teacher to being new to yoga or even being in a new space. Certainly there are those who can more easily go with the flow, so to speak, where trying out a new class or studio doesn’t present a problem, but for others it can still feel a little awkward when you’re the new kid on the block. But, do not fear, with little bit of prep work before you roll out your mat, your first experience in a new class need not feel so clumsy. Here are some tips that might be helpful as you look for a yoga studio to start (or restart) your yoga journey:
Before You Try A New Class
- Do your homework on the class or the studio. In addition to figuring how much the class will cost, learn what the style of the class will be, the level of experience, and even spend some time reading the teachers’ bios. Most studio websites will contain this information, so all it takes is 10 extra minutes to review and then you can have a better idea of what to expect when get there. If there is no website, make an informational phone call to learn the lay of the land.
- Check the temperature. Perhaps it’s my experience teaching in a heated yoga studio, but the intensity of the heat is often one of the things that new students struggle with the most. As you’re researching the class or studio, check what the temperature will be like. Is it a heated studio or do they keep it at room temperature? You can usually find this information through the website or after a quick phone call to the studio. If you have any issues with heat, this will help you figure out if you should try another class or take extra care when you go.
- Pack your yoga survival kit. If you’re new to yoga, plan to wear clothes you’re comfortable stretching (and sweating) in, but aren’t too baggy that they will distract you once you move into different poses. It’s also a good idea to bring your own towel and a water bottle. If you don’t already have a mat, make sure the studio has some you can use.
- Arrive early. Try to get to the class anywhere from 15 – 30 minutes early, depending on the studio. Most likely you will need to fill out some registration forms before the class, and it’s best to get all this done without you or the studio staff feeling rushed. Plus you can have time to check out the space, learn any guest procedures, and ask the staff any questions.
When You Enter The Class
- Talk to the teacher. They don’t usually bite! Before class starts and if time allows, it does help to introduce yourself to the instructor. Let him or her know if you’re new to yoga or, if you’re not new, your experience with yoga. If you’re working with an injury, do let them know so they can either offer advice or modify their adjustments for you accordingly. This also makes you less of a wild card for the teacher!
- Find the best vantage point. In most scenarios this can actually be in the middle of the class. If you don’t know where the front of the class is, the middle often means you’ll be able to see the other students in front and behind you. No matter your experience, if you’re new to a class it is easier to keep up with any unfamiliar movements when you have a 360-degree viewing scope. And if you’re new to yoga, it will definitely help to have the other students around you to look at in case you get lost. The middle also puts you in a better position to see the teacher if he or she demonstrates a pose you’re unfamiliar with. If you’re in the far back, it’s often harder to see these demonstrations, and it’s also more challenging for the teacher to offer adjustments to you throughout the class.
- Be open to the new experience. For the more seasoned yogis, yes, it’s nice to be on your mat at your home studio, but every so often, it can be exciting and illuminating to try out a new class with a new teacher, too. I always enjoy hearing how teachers cue familiar sequences or breakdown a pose with their own flair. There’s never just one way to go about your practice, and these new experiences are great opportunities to explore it in a different way.
- Trust yourself, and listen. In a new class, it can be easy to ignore your body when you’re struggling to look like you know what you’re doing. However, when you’re not paying attention to your body, you open the door to injuries. So don’t be afraid to take breaks when you need to rest, such as a stint in Child’s Pose or Downward Facing Dog. And if you’re working with injuries or other health issues and you know safe modifications, do those instead. Remember your practice is for you, not for the people around you.
Happy exploring, yogis!