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Ready to try your first public yoga class? If you are at all intimidated by the thought of moving your practice out of your living room and into the yoga studio, here’s a guide for how to proceed and what to expect when you make it to the shala (studio) for the very first time.
Maybe you’ve walked by a studio that looks appealing, or you have a recommendation from a friend of where to go. Luckily, yoga studios are plentiful, so you should be able to find a studio that is a good fit relatively easily.
Don’t know what you want? Some differentiating factors worth considering are:
Most studios have yoga mats that you can borrow or rent (for a few dollars) if you’re in a pinch; however, your mat will be making direct contact with your entire body (including your face!), so it’s recommended that you buy and bring your own. Plus, it sends a message to your system and the Universe that this is a habit you are willing to invest in.
You can buy yoga mats for under $20 at stores like Target or TJ Maxx, but once you’ve really committed to the practice, you might want a sturdier one, like those from lululemon or Manduka. These can be priced up to $100, but will last much longer.
Once you’ve decided where to go, choose which class is most appropriate. If you can’t tell from the website, call the studio and ask them which classes are best for beginners. This is a very important step because you want to attend a class that will move at an appropriate pace and keep you safe. Classes that are labeled for beginners are obviously the best, but you can also look for words like “Introduction,” “Basics,” “Gentle,” and “All-Levels” to be sure you’re headed in the right direction.
For yoga, appropriate attire includes loose, comfortable, active wear that won’t restrict your movement. You want your clothing to be loose enough for you to move in, but not so baggy that it gets in your way or that your teacher can’t see your form. A tank top and leggings/yoga pants for women, and a t-shirt and elastic-waisted shorts for men should be perfect. You may also want to bring a long-sleeved layer, as it’s common to get cold at the end of a practice. Finally, it is customary to have bare feet during class. This is both so you don’t slip, and so that you can more firmly connect to the Earth beneath you.
No matter what style of yoga you choose to pursue, yoga is ultimately about slowing down and calming the nervous system. Therefore, start yourself off on the right foot (no pun intended) by avoiding rushing and stressing yourself out by being late. Most studios open the room about 15 minutes before the start time, so why not take advantage of a few extra minutes to learn the lay of the land, pay for your class (many studios have a New Student Special, so be sure to tell them it’s your first time), and to get yourself settled.
Bring your yoga mat, water, and a small towel (if you plan on sweating) into the space. That is it. An important piece of etiquette is that you should not bring your phone into the studio space, as your practice is a time to unplug and disconnect from technology.
You’ll also leave your shoes outside of the yoga room, so just see what everyone else is doing and go with the flow. As you enter the room, find a spot where you can see the teacher well. Also, it is proper etiquette not to step on anyone else’s mat while you are in transit.
Your mat should be unrolled so that the edges curl down toward the floor. Line the mat up with those of your neighbors so that you help to create organized rows (unless you are advised to arrange in a different orientation).
“Props” are the tools you can use to help accommodate for anatomical differences in your poses (i.e., arm length, flexibility, etc.), and include blocks (foam or cork), blankets, straps or belts, and bolsters (pillows). If you attend a class that provides props, simply ask the teacher which props you should get today, or see what everyone else has and get the same ones. If the teacher knows you are new to the practice, he/she should give you some guidance on how to use them, but the basic rule is that they should be used to bring more stability and easefulness to your poses.
If you need to communicate with the teacher, do so before (not during) class. It’s common practice to tell your teacher before you begin if you have any injuries or are pregnant so he/she can provide you with proper modifications and guidance.
It’s also a good idea to let them know you’re a beginner! But once class starts, the proper etiquette is to remain quiet and attentive. If you’re in a situation where you feel confused or in danger, simply raise your hand or wave the teacher over so he/she can come to you.
The following are some common yoga traditions that you may encounter in your first public yoga class.
Sometimes the hardest part is making it to the studio in the first place! Once you’ve crossed the threshold, remember that the practice only truly becomes effective once you’ve made it a routine. You wouldn’t go to the gym only once and expect results, would you?
At first, you can aim to go yoga class twice a week and see how you feel. You will likely notice an increase in strength, flexibility, calmness, and better sleep as a result. And don’t forget to relish the feeling of accomplishment for doing something new and good for yourself. You deserve it!
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*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.