Yoga Class: What Should I Expect From My First Yoga Class?
Heading to your first yoga class? Here’s what you should expect...
So you are thinking of going to your first yoga class? You might think that everyone will be super flexible and you will look like an inflexible misfit. That’s just totally not true.
Yoga classes are made up of a whole range of different people - from beginner yogis right up to advanced practitioners. As you will read below, you can’t be ‘bad’ at yoga - that’s why it’s called ‘yoga practice’ because we are all just practicing!
Another common misconception is that yoga is a religion. It’s not. While yoga derives from the Hindu tradition, it’s an entirely secular practice, so you don’t need to believe in God or believe the ancient philosophy if you don’t want to.
Not only is yoga a great way to build strength and become more flexible (therefore helping prevent future injuries) but it’s also a brilliant way to quiet the thinking mind, relieve stress and become more aware of living in the present moment.
THERE ARE LOTS OF DIFFERENT TYPES OF YOGA
You might go to your first yoga class and not enjoy it, simply because it’s just not the right style of yoga for you. There are so many different types of yoga. You can read our guide to yoga styles here.
Just as a brief round-up, ashtanga yoga is generally an active, physical style of yoga whereas hatha yoga tends to be a gentle, more beginner-friendly style of yoga. Vinyasa flow is somewhere in the middle. It’s a good idea to try out lots of different styles of yoga and different teachers to see which one suits you
WHAT SHOULD I WEAR TO PRACTICE YOGA?
It’s a good idea to wear loose comfortable clothing to your first yoga class. Women tend to wear leggings or yoga pants with a yoga top and a yoga bra underneath. Baggy tops are best avoided because they will flap over your face and/or reveal your stomach in poses like downward-facing dog and shoulder stand.
Men generally wear shorts and a vest or t-shirt. Wear similar clothing to what you go running in. Tracksuit bottoms can be worn for a slow, gentle class like restorative yoga or yin, but you will probably feel too hot. Layers are good because you can take them off/put them on depending on how warm the room is. Always take your shoes off before entering the yoga studio or room - you will probably see a pile of shoes at the door.
Read our full guide to yoga equipment and clothing here.
TAKE YOUR SOCKS OFF
You might be tempted to wear socks during your yoga class - especially if it is winter and you are practicing yoga in a cold church hall. However, most yoga teachers will encourage participants to take socks off, because they make it very slippery for you on your yoga mat.
ARRIVE EARLY AND KEEP QUIET
It’s a good idea to arrive five or 10 minutes early for your first yoga class. Sometimes there will be a registration form to fill in. Make sure you tell the yoga teacher if you have any injuries or medical conditions they need to know about. Arrive early and you’ll have lots of time to find a place for your yoga mat and work out which props you need. Once the class starts, try not to chatter to your friends or start giggling - it’s polite to stay quiet until the class is completely finished.
YOU DON’T NEED TO BE PERFECT AT NAILING A CERTAIN YOGA POSE
Yoga isn’t about being the most flexible person in the room. You can’t be ‘bad’ at yoga. There will always be someone who is stronger or more flexible than you. The key is being able to approach a yoga class with an open mind and non-judgemental view of your own body.
REMEMBER TO BREATHE
It sounds obvious, but when people are finding a pose difficult in yoga or they are concentrating hard, they will start to hold their breath. Try not to do this. By holding your breath, you will find the body tenses up and you won’t be able to ease any further into the pose. Usually you will take a big inhale and then exhale into a pose. With each exhale, you can start to inch a tiny bit deeper into the posture - it’s really important to keep breathing deeply throughout the class.
WHAT DOES ‘OM’ AND ‘NAMASTE’ MEAN?
You’ll hear a lot of Sanskrit terms that you might not understand. You might hear the teacher and students chanting ‘Ommmm’ at the start and end of class.
When chanted, the word ‘om’ vibrates at the frequency of 432hz, which is said to be the same frequency found through everything in nature. By making the sound, it is meant to tune into and connect with all living beings, nature and the universe.
You also might hear the teacher say ‘Namaste’ at the end of class. ‘Namaste’ means ‘I bow to you’. It’s a greeting in India and is used at the end of class to signify gratitude, give closure to the class and honour the people around you. You don’t have to join in with the chant, you can just listen.
You can learn more about yoga and the yoga tradition by reading these excellent yoga books.
YOU SHOULDN’T BE IN PAIN BUT YOU MIGHT FEEL DISCOMFORT
Pain and discomfort are two different things but easily confused. You shouldn’t sit with hot sharp pain during a yoga class. If you do, carefully come out of the pose and rest. Discomfort is more like a lingering, discomfort sensation which might change as you sit and breathe deeply. You are your best teacher - you know your body better than any yoga teacher, so if it feels wrong, it probably is.
SAVASANA IS THE RELAXATION BIT AT THE END
Savasana means ‘corpse pose’ in Sanskrit and is the final resting pose at the end of a yoga class. It basically involves lying on the floor and resting to finish the class. Don’t get up and leave before or during savasana - it usually only lasts about five minutes and is a crucial part of the yoga class, allowing the body to assimilate and absorb the practice. It’s a great way to allow your mind to become quiet and learn the basics of meditation.