What to Expect in Your First Yoga Class

Hannah Leatherbury
What to Expect in Your First Yoga Class

Going to your first yoga class at a yoga studio can be an incredibly rich experience. A special energy builds when you are surrounded by other breathers, and bodies being led by a guide standing in your presence.

But going to a yoga studio can also be REALLY intimidating if you’re new to the basic practices and expectations that most studios follow. Here are a few tips to help you take the leap.

Leave Your “Stuff” Outside of the Classroom.

The yoga classroom is a space where you are encouraged to be without your phone, shoes, family responsibilities, and title. Accordingly, you will have to leave your shoes outside of the classroom, silence your phone and consider leaving it along with your purse/wallet a good distance away from your yoga mat (some studios have lockers or cubbies that you can use).

When you avoid talking on your phone, texting, or talking in the classroom with other students about politics, stressful family events or work dissatisfaction, you contribute to a harmonious atmosphere in the room. Enter your classroom like you are entering an ancient forest or a temple, quietly finding a place to roll out your yoga mat.

If you don’t have a yoga mat, most studios have mats that you can borrow or rent for a small fee.  Once you’ve found your spot in the room, feel free to greet others around you with a smile and eye contact. There will often be regular class-goers who can answer your questions about the class before the teacher arrives. You may also choose to sit quietly on your mat until the teacher arrives.

Let Your Teacher Know and See You.

Most yoga teachers arrive to the classroom 5-10 minutes before the class starts. This gives them an opportunity to ask new students before class about any pre-existing conditions or injuries that might put them at risk during a class. This might include (but is not limited to) pregnancy, recovery from major or minor surgeries and high blood pressure.

Make an effort to arrive 10 minutes early to your first class so you can connect with your teacher to share any concerns you have and let them know it’s your first time coming to the studio. Even if you can’t talk directly with your teacher before class, you can help your teacher by wearing clothing that allows them to see an outline of your body (especially your knees, hips and spine.)

Baggy pants and t-shirts make it harder to assess if you are safely aligned in your postures. That being said, clothing that reveals your chest, butt, or groin area also creates distraction in the classroom. Aim for clothing that you feel comfortable moving in and wear layers so that you can adjust if you grow hot or cold during the practice. Once the practice begins, you will want to stay for the entire duration of the class.

You Might Encounter Some ‘Strange’ Smells.

If you start practicing yoga regularly in a studio, you will probably encounter at least one student who has strong body odor or who accidentally farts in class. You might even be that person at some point. Instead of feeling ashamed of (or shaming others for) this experience, know that it can be avoided by paying attention to what you are eating.

Garlic, onions and strong spices will increase body odor. Flatulence results from eating food that is hard for your body to digest. Experiment with finding foods that are mildly spiced and easier for your body to digest and aim to eat 3 to 4 hours before class.

There will be Some Chanting and Sanskrit Words.

You might be asked to use words in the classical language of yoga (Sanskrit) during class. The first word is “Om” or “Aum,” and it might be chanted at the beginning or the end of the practice. The meaning of this word is so big, but suffice to say, the purpose of chanting this word in your practice is to reconnect you to a “big picture” feeling so you can temporarily lay aside the details of your particular life circumstances.

The word “Namaste” is also frequently used as a greeting before and after class. This word acknowledges the common goodness that we all share within us and welcomes us to connect with that and with one another in our practice.

This is a small heads up about yoga classroom etiquette and what you can expect in a yoga class, but stay open to your first experience. If anything about your teacher, fellow students, or the class feels “off” to you, make note of what it is. There are plenty of options for other teachers, classes and studios out there. You’ll find your match. Namaste.

Image credit: Samrat Pasham