So you've made the decision to go to a yoga class- GREAT! Now what?? You might be wondering, "Where do I go?" "What should I bring?" "How might this class be different than other fitness classes I've taken before?"
Well, after going to hundreds, if not thousands of classes throughout my life, I have a pretty good handle on what you should- and shouldn't- do in a yoga class. I'm here to answer your questions and help you feel a little more relaxed and confident.
Okay, so let's start from the very beginning. Once you've finally talked yourself into attending class, there's so much to think about (especially if you're anxious like me and like to have everything planned out)- what to wear, what to bring, where to set up your mat...and the list goes on...
So here's my list:
What to wear: In yoga, there is a lot of movement- you're standing up, coming back down to the mat, in Downward Facing Dog (half upside down), you could go all the way upside down even in a headstand/handstand pose if you're ready for it too. Long story short, you're moving around in every which way, so it's crucial to be wearing comfortable clothes.
My go-to is typically a tight fitting tank top (so my shirt doesn't flip up/down when it's not supposed to), tight fitting yoga pants/capris (I usually don't go with shorts because they expose too much for my liking), my hair up (don't try to look cute because you'll be moving too much to keep it tamed and sweaty by the end- at least that's how it is for me anyway), and lastly, barefoot! It's a better grip on the mat as opposed to socks, lighter than wearing shoes, and more freeing.
What to bring water, towel/sweat rag, yoga mat, props (optional), warmer clothes (during colder months). Water is definitely important as yoga is a physical activity and if you come to my classes, you are bound to sweat. Therefore, it's important to stay hydrated. Along with that, I sweat a lot, so I like to bring a small hand towel as a sweat rag to wipe off my sweat occasionally. You will need a yoga mat, but if you don't have one, you can also just use a towel. Props such as yoga blocks and straps are optional to bring (they are provided at some of my locations) and their purpose is to assist you with reaching your greatest potential in the pose. Warmer clothes can be helpful to cover up with during savasana (keep on reading for more info about what this is).
Where to go: If you are a very new beginner, I would suggest setting your mat up in the middle of the room. This way, you can see the people in front of you when you're facing forward and see the people behind you when you are facing the back of the room. Align your mat so that it is perpendicular (not parallel) with my mat at the front of the room. This way, you can see what I am doing.
Also, keep in mind that whatever you bring in with you that you don't need for your actual practice (bag, phone, keys, shoes) should be placed along the wall or to the very back of the room. **MAKE SURE YOU SILENCE YOUR CELL PHONES BEFORE STARTING. The last thing I'd want is to be fully relaxed in savasana on the brink of falling asleep, just to hear someone's phone go off. I know I can't be the only one.
Okay, so now that you are ready to begin class, let me walk you through how my classes typically go. If you're waiting for class to start, just have a seat on your mat until class begins. My classes typically start out in child's pose and we begin centering. This means, we let go of other distractions (let go of the mental to-do list, stop replaying scenes or conversations in your head, etc. - this is very hard, especially when you have anxiety, but it's also very important). We do a few Sun Salutations (lots of ups and downs), planks, chair poses, twists, balancing, back bends, hip openers, core work, inversions, savasana. If you don't know what these are just by reading them, then chances are you may not know what they are when you're supposed to do them in class. I have news for you though.....IT'S OKAY! We were all beginners once, and we had to learn the poses and gain the strength and/or coordination to be able to look like we somewhat know what we're doing.
So, there are two things to remember: 1) Look around and use your classmates, teacher (me), and mirrors, if available to try your best. I know that if you come to my class for the first time, you might think it's impossible to do what I'm asking you to do. Just know that if your body is not able to do it at the time, that's perfectly okay. As long as you don't have a physical limitation prohibiting you from being able to, you will get there after lots of practice, staying consistent, and being patient with yourself. Hint: that's what's worked for me so far. 2) You're going to mess up and look kind of silly and be facing the wrong way and stumble and fall and maybe even face plant. But, it's all good! No one judges in yoga! And also, if they even happen to notice what you did, they are probably just thinking, "Yep, been there."
Another important thing to keep in mind is to not get frustrated with yourself. Maybe you have physical limitations, you haven't exercised in months- or even years, you have injuries your body is still trying to recover from, or you're just not ready for something at the moment in class. Just let it be. Acknowledge you're not where you want to be, and if you can work towards improving it, then work at it but don't expect an overnight miracle.
Okay, one more- I don't know how to say this in a nice way, but please- no talking, no [obnoxious] laughing. It's a distraction to others and quite frankly, a distraction for yourself. Focus on yourself and try to limit the distractions in class.
Not to play favorites or anything, but I think savasana should have its own section. Savasana (SHUH-VAH-SUH-NUH) is the final resting pose. It's also sometimes called Corpse Pose, but I personally think that sounds a little too creepy and morbid. Savasana is the best pose, in my opinion, because it's when you have permission to just rest. How amazing is that?! So often, we feel rushed and feel like we have to stay busy. Savasana contradicts that idea and is a little gift you can give yourself after all your hard work- throughout your class and your day. **MAKE SURE IF YOU HAVE TO LEAVE BEFORE CLASS ENDS, YOU LEAVE BEFORE SAVASANA BEGINS. WE ALL WILL SILENTLY THANK YOU!
If you can lay comfortably on your mat, that would be the most common way to enjoy the pose, but you can also do it sitting or even standing. The point is to be as comfortable as possible, releasing any tension, clearing your mind, and focusing on the present moment. If you happen to get so relaxed that you fall asleep, well then you really needed it- so, you're welcome! Savasana typically lasts about 5-10 minutes in my classes (so get comfortable with stillness!), and I offer hands on assists during this time. These are completely optional, and I always ask who would like to receive them. Hands on assists are little massages for your legs, feet, arms, shoulders, neck, and head. I sometimes use essential oil as well (also optional). At the end of savasana, I typically share a reading that is meaningful to me, and I hope is also meaningful to you.
Then, I ask you to roll to your right side and pause for a moment of gratitude before coming up to a comfortable seated position. The knuckles of your thumbs are brought to your third eye center- which means you bring your thumbs to your forehead. I end class with, "The light and spirit in me honors and respects the light and spirit within you," I thank you, and then we bow our heads in respect for each other and say, "Namaste."
Some people like to take a few more minutes to themselves in stillness, which is perfectly acceptable. Then, you can just gather all your belongings, clean off your mat if spray is available, and you're ready to get on with your day. I do really appreciate feedback, so if you'd have any after class, it would be great if you could personally tell me what you liked, what you weren't a fan of, what was confusing, or anything else. I strive to get better and better, and I can really only do this by knowing how everyone is reacting to my classes.
Well, I hope this was helpful, and you learned something. Hopefully you are a very respectful yogi now after learning some of the tips. If you found this helpful, or if you have anything else to add, please comment below. Feel free to share with others as well! Check out my schedule on my website for my next class and your next opportunity to practice these tips :)