How to attend your first yoga class
Published 29 January 2020. Written by Chris Worfolk.
If you read my previous article on yoga and felt moderately inspired, maybe you have decided to give it a go. If you feel nervous about it, this is the article for you.
Where should I start?
Yoga classes often take place at gyms or dedicated yoga studios. Studios are an excellent place to start because they usually run dedicated beginner classes.
If you want to do some research beforehand, you can try following some videos on Youtube. The NHS also offers an online taster class. But you really don't need to as you soon pick it up, and beginner classes are usually taught step-by-step.
What do I need to prepare?
Most studios provide all the equipment you need. You can bring your own stuff as well, but most people use the equipment provided.
What do I mean by equipment? A mat is all you need. Technically you do not even need that. However, it is typically more comfortable than a hard floor.
There are additional things called “props”. These are blocks that you can use to help you get into the correct position if you are not too flexible. A blanket is also nice to have during the relaxation (or for a bit of extra padding).
What should I wear?
Workout clothes. Start with your gym gear: you don’t need any special clothing. You need to be able to stretch and feel comfortable.
That said, I once packed what I thought was a vest and shorts, only to find out I had packed two vests. I had already paid for the class, so I did it in my jeans. A few of the poses were a challenge, but I got through it!
A lot of studios get pretty hot, so a vest works well. That said, a few have been a little cold in winter, so occasionally I take a long-sleeved top or have leggings under my shorts.
The one thing to keep in mind is that when you Are upside down, for example down dog, the neckline of your shirt can end up dropping down and covering your mouth. It is a little annoying, but a vest with a lock neckline or a compression top can avoid this. Don’t worry about it for your first session, though.
How does it work?
Typically, the teacher will have a mat at the front of the room. They will talk you through each pose, and demonstrate at the same time, so you copy what they do (and everyone else).
At times, the teacher may suggest you close your eyes. But we’ve all taken a peek to see if we are doing the right thing!
What if I am feeling self-conscious?
Some people jump straight in. Others feel a little awkward at their first class and this is completely normal.
This is especially true if you are a man because we are typically less flexible than women, and yoga classes are predominantly attended by women.
Reframe it as a challenge. See it as an exercise in building your confidence.
If we explore the thoughts behind these fears, it might be we worry about being judged. In reality, nobody is looking at us. They are too busy trying to sort themselves out. And teachers are used to teaching a wide range of abilities, and supportive of anyone who gives it a go.
You may wish to set your mat up at the back of the room so you can see what everyone else is doing.
And, if you feel like it would bolster your confidence, you could speak to the teacher before the class and let them know it is your first time.
If all else fails, give yourself permission to have a terrible time. Accept that it is going to be awkward and unpleasant the first time but that you will get through it anyway knowing it will feel less awkward each time.
Attending your first yoga class can be a leap into the unknown. We may imagine that everyone else will be a super-bendy master yogi who will know all of the moves.
The reality is far from this. There are lots of beginners. And returners who have forgotten everything. Classes are set up to be inclusive as you can copy the teacher or other people in the class, so you will pretty soon be feeling at home.