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Your First Yoga Class

If you are curious about trying a yoga class, but aren’t sure what yoga entails, don’t worry. There are lots of different kinds of yoga under the “yoga” umbrella; it’s just a case of figuring out what you want to get out of your yoga experience, and then finding a class that will meet your goals. At the core, all forms of yoga involve stretching and breathing deeply. Some classes are more active, moving from pose to pose and building up a sweat like a cardio class, while others emphasize slower movement and more time in each stretch to address deeply held tension. If you are looking to try yoga but aren’t sure where to start, take a look at the following tips.

How to Select Your First Class

There are many different variations of yoga, so be sure to take a look at the class descriptions before signing up, or feel free to call the gym or yoga studio where you plan to attend and ask for a class description. If you are new to yoga, beginner’s yoga is ideal, but if you cannot find a beginner’s class that fits well with your schedule, restorative yoga, gentle/slow flow yoga, or Hatha style classes will be the best way to ease into yoga.

Beginner’s, restorative, slow flow, and Hatha yoga classes will all offer a slower, gentler practice and will make use of props like bolsters, blocks, and straps to help make you comfortable in each pose. Yin yoga is another great style of yoga for those who do not want to move quickly or work up a sweat. Yin yoga focuses on holding poses for longer periods of time (usually between 3-10 minutes) in order to address tightness and strain in the connective tissues around joints like your hips and shoulders. This is incredibly beneficial for everyone, but be prepared to stay in a pose for longer than you might expect (try not to get fidgety).

What to Do Prior to Class

If you are new to a studio or gym, try to arrive about 20-25 minutes before class starts so that you have time to pay for class and fill out any liability waivers used by the facility. If you sign up online and have paid ahead of time, it is only necessary to arrive about 15 minutes before class, so that you have time to get familiar with the facility, put your belongings in a cubby, and get your place in class. If you do not have a mat, most places have mats you can rent or borrow for class.

Wear flexible and comfortable athletic clothes and if you have long hair, a pony holder is highly recommended. If it has been a while since your last meal, feel free to eat a small, healthy snack, and sip on water, but try to avoid eating anything heavy or drinking too much water right before class. You want to make sure you can be as comfortable as possible. Also, if you have any injuries, please bring them to the attention of the instructor. It is very helpful for them to know ahead of time, so they can offer you extra modifications if necessary.

What to Expect During Class

In many studios, there will be markings on the floor to indicate where the top of your mat should be placed so that there is enough space between each mat if the class becomes busy. If there are no markers, feel free to ask the instructor where he/she suggests you place your mat. While many beginners tend to head for the two back corners of the room, consider setting up your mat toward the front two corners, so that you have a better chance of being able to see the instructor when he/she demos each move.

Once you have your mat in place and have spoken to the instructor about any injuries you may have, look around the room for the props. Usually studios and gyms will have an area in the room with shelves to hold yoga blocks (blocks made of high density foam or cork), yoga straps (woven straps about 6 feet long), blankets, and bolsters (large, dense pillows). Feel free to ask the instructor if you need any particular props for the class; for your first time, it is usually good to grab a strap to help you stretch and a foam block to use for balance. Most yoga classes start off gently so you have time to settle in on your mat, let go of your day, and focus on your breath and moving your body.

Instructors will give lots of cues and instruction on how to set up each pose and how to modify or intensify each pose so that you are able to do what feels best for your body. Throughout class, instructors usually offer hands-on assists. If you prefer not to be touched while you practice, let the instructor know ahead of time. If you are comfortable with being assisted, know that if the instructor gives you an assist, it does not always mean you are doing something wrong. Very frequently, instructors will give deepening assists to help you get even more out of the pose.

Toward the end of class, the pace will start to slow, until you end in Savasana (pronounced “shah-vah-sah-nah” where you rest on your back and just breathe. Instructors will frequently offer Savasana assists where they massage your neck with essential oils or a muscle rub. If you would prefer not to be touched during your resting period, just let the instructor know; instructors will usually ask that if you don’t want an assist that you let them know by resting with a hand on your belly or some other signal so that they can make sure you are comfortable with everything.

One of the biggest reasons why people don’t try yoga is that they don’t think they are flexible enough for yoga and they are afraid of looking silly. Let go of those fears. In yoga, nobody will be looking at you; they are all focused on what they are doing. One of the best things about yoga is that it can be adjusted to meet every person where they are, regardless of how tight or how bendy they are. Ultimately, it is about making each pose feel good for you.

Your First Yoga Class

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