Keen to try yoga but nervous about attending a class? Going to your first class might be a daunting prospect, but I promise you it’s worth it. Get past the fear, onto the mat and let go of everything you think yoga should be.
Here’s a beginner’s guide to making your first steps onto the mat a little less scary.
1) Do your research
There are many different types of yoga, with new trends popping up all the time – 2015 saw the likes of AcroYoga, couples yoga and even Doga (yes that’s yoga for you and your pooch). Find out about the styles taught near you and, if possible, give a few a go to find what’s most suited to you.
2) Look the part
You don’t need to spend hundreds of pounds at Sweaty Betty on fancy yoga pants, but you do need to make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothes which are easy to move in. Very baggy clothes can be tricky – you don’t want a loose top floating over your head in downward dog. Take socks off once you’re moving on the mat – they can be slippy.
Taking a few layers is a good idea so you can stay warm during less active parts of the class and ensure you’re comfortable whatever temperature the room is.
3) Get the gear
One of the great things about yoga is you need very little equipment (if any) to get going. Studios will often provide mats or rent them, so find out in advance whether you need to invest in your own.
Water is vital, especially if you’re trying a hot class. Make sure you’re well hydrated before and after the session. During the class you can take little sips of water, but avoid drinking lots as it can feel uncomfortable, especially in upside down poses.
4) Be an early bird
Aim to get there at least 15 minutes before the start of the class. Give yourself time to arrive on your mat unflustered so you can settle in and let your mind come around to the practice.
5) Introduce yourself
Most teachers will spot a newcomer and come over to talk to you. Sometimes in big classes, or if it’s a stand in teacher, they may not realise you’re new, so let them know it’s your first class.
Tell your teacher about any injuries or conditions that might affect your practice and always talk to the teacher if you have any concerns during the session.
6) Expect to be confused
It’s your first class, you’re not going to know what’s going on the whole time or understand everything the teacher says. “I found it hard to understand the moves” says Alison, who started yoga in 2014. Be patient – it will take time to learn the components of the practice.
Don’t be surprised if the teacher uses Sanskrit words like ‘trikonasona’ or ‘chaturanga’. Teachers will explain and demonstrate the moves as you go along, so go with the flow and you’ll learn the words in no time.
7) Focus on your practice
It’s fine to take a peek at the person next to you when you’re not sure what’s going on, but keep your focus on what you’re doing as much as possible.
“Don’t worry what everyone else in the class is doing, just concentrate on yourself and learn the moves at your own pace” says Laura who started yoga in 2005. Other people in your class may have been practising for much longer than you – yoga is about working at your own pace. Worrying about what other people are doing will only take away from your own experience of being and moving in your body.
8) Get ready for weird noises
Your body and other people’s bodies are going to make noises. Clicking bones, stomach growling, farts, snoring during relaxation – they all happen – no biggie. Maybe just be a little considerate of your fellow yogis and don’t have a curry just before class.
9) Celebrate your limitations
“Remember that yoga is a journey, not a race. It may take weeks, months or even years to achieve some of your goals – the real learning and growth is how you celebrate your limitations as well as your successes,” says Katy Bateman, who teaches yoga in South London.
Don’t feel like you have to try advanced poses before it feels right. Give yourself time to enjoy being a beginner. Pushing yourself beyond your limits is more likely to result in an injury than progress. Everyone’s bodies are different, celebrate yours for whatever it can do right now.
10) Have fun
It’s ok to laugh – some things are bound to feel, look or sound strange – that’s the joy of trying something new. Don’t take it too seriously and most of all allow yourself to relax and enjoy the experience.
How did you find your first yoga class? Any more tips you’d give aspiring yogis? Put your thoughts in the comments section below.