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How Should I Prepare for My First Yoga Class?

I still remember my first yoga class. It was over 20 years ago, so yoga wasn’t as mainstream as it is now, and few people even knew what it was. I walked into a carpeted room, was asked to take my shoes off (why? confusing…), and we started with a chant in a language I’d never even heard of before. I felt a little scared. And the class was hard for me! I definitely was not used to moving my body into all those crazy poses. However, by the end of the class I felt so light and peaceful that I knew I had found something special and wanted more.

Going to your first yoga class can be intimidating. Because of Pinterest and Instagram, “yoga class” brings up images of people in spandex doing pretzel-like poses. Skinny bodies. Arg. Fortunately, as is often the case, Instagram and real-life are not the same thing. Real yoga classes are filled with real people (rather than Instagram models), and everyone there has a shared goal: more mental and physical health. Yoga has so many benefits: decreasing stress; relieving anxiety; improving strength, flexibility and balance; and increasing mental focus, to name just a few. It’s worth the effort to get over our preconceptions about it. I hope this article will take some of the mystique out of your first yoga experience so you can feel confident when you step onto your mat. Yoga has changed my life in so many positive ways, and I want to share that positive change with you. It all starts with that first class!

There Are So Many Classes on the Schedule! Which One Should I Take?

The best would be to sign up for a series aimed at first-time yoga students, if one is offered in your area. I teach a series called “Yoga 101” four times a year, and it’s a great way to learn the basics. Because everyone there is just starting out, the class is tailored to you and you get a lot of individual instruction. If it’s not possible to take a series, start with a drop-in class labeled something like “Level 1” or “Foundations of Yoga.” I’d suggest avoiding the “All Levels” classes as your very first class. There will likely be people in those classes with lots of experience, and the instructor will have to cater to everyone, so the class will probably move a little faster and have less instruction. If “All Levels” is your only option, go for it. (Some yoga is definitely better than no yoga!) Just tell the instructor that it’s your first time doing yoga before class, and that you’d welcome any modifications she might have for you.

What Should I Wear?

Wear comfortable clothes you can move in. You don’t need to go and spend a small fortune at Lululemon. Stretchy pants and a T-shirt and sports bra are just fine. Remember that you’ll likely do a fair amount of moving from standing to the floor and back again, so be able to tuck in your T-shirt, or wear a shirt made with some spandex that’s not going to move much.

What Should I Bring?

(1) A sticky mat if you have one. Most studios will have extras to rent if you don’t have one, but since you’ll be putting your face on the mat, I think it’s worth the $20 investment to have your own. I’ve seen mats for sale at Target, TJ Maxx, Whole Foods, Amazon, and lots of other places.

(2) Water

(3) A hand towel. You probably won’t get super-sweaty in a level-1 basics class, but it’s nice to have a towel just in case.

(4) Beginner’s mind. Accept that you’re new to yoga, and like anything else worth doing, it’s going to take some time to get good at it. Give yourself the time and space to learn.

A note of caution: If your mind is anything like my mind, it will want to judge. ALL THE TIME. When I was first starting out, I judged myself for not being as flexible as..., as strong as..., as thin as..., as graceful as..., as … My outfit wasn’t cute enough, or hip enough, or … The chatter just went on (and on and on). Please know (1) this is totally normal; minds judge; (2) none of it matters; just because the mind is judging, you don’t have to follow those thoughts and react to them. Yoga helps us get quiet enough to hear the mind, and sometimes, it gets loud in there! That’s WHY the practice is transformative. We of course get stronger in our bodies, but we also learn to listen to the mind, and that just because we’re thinking a thought, it doesn’t mean we have to act on it. This is wisdom we can use both on our mats and in our daily lives.

My best piece of advice? Start and stay with it--for you. Yoga is a gift you give yourself. Yoga helps you build total-body strength and flexibility through the poses. The focus on breath helps calm both body and mind, which relieves stress and anxiety. Best of all: with a regular yoga practice, you give yourself time to move and breathe and just be with yourself, and so you also start to know yourself better. You develop a deeper relationship with the most important person in your life: you. What could be a bigger benefit than that?

Enjoy your first class. Congratulations on taking this amazing step toward doing something so powerful for your health and well-being. I’d love to hear how it goes!

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