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Preparing for Your First Yoga Class

By Kellee Bryan
Yoga-ing when You are Flat Broke  - How to get Free, Trade or Discounted Yoga Classes
Photo by Synergy by Jasmine

Over the years, I’ve had a number of nervous friends ask me how to prepare for a first yoga class. Far and away, the two most frequently asked questions are: “What shoes do I wear?” and “Do I have to chant?” (The answers, by the way, are none and probably not.) But I send them off with a few more tips than that in order to make their first yoga experience a little less frightening and a little more fun.

What to wear 
You want your attire to be close-fitting and comfortable. Fitted clothing allows the instructor to observe your form and offer corrections when necessary, plus it stays put during all the bending, stretching, and twisting you’ll be doing. Depending on the temperature, you might want to wear layers that you can easily remove as you warm up. I usually opt for a long-sleeve t-shirt over a tank top and capri-length athletic pants. Although yoga is generally practiced barefoot, you might want to bring a pair of socks to keep your toes toasty during warm-up and cool-down.

What to bring
Bring a water bottle and yoga mat, if you have one. If you're not ready to invest in any gear yet, find out if the studio has mats you can borrow or rent. Don't worry about straps, bolsters, blocks, or other equipment - they are often available at the studio and, although they can be useful, aren't crucial for practice.

What to expect
This is a hard question to answer, since classes can vary greatly depending on the instructor and the style of yoga. But generally speaking, the class will begin slowly with some gentle stretches or a guided meditation, move through a series of traditional yoga poses, and eventually end in savasana, or “corpse pose,” in which practitioners lay on their backs with eyes closed and, ideally, experience complete relaxation. To signify the end of class, the instructor will press his/her hands together as if in prayer, bow his/her head, and say “Namaste,” to which the students will respond in kind. This is a gesture of gratitude and respect meaning “I bow to you” or “the light in me sees the light in you” or “be well,” or any number of similar sentiments, depending on who you ask.

Proper class etiquette varies from studio to studio and from teacher to teacher, but there are a few constants:
  • Remove your shoes before entering the studio. There are usually cubbies or some other designated shoe repository provided. 
  • Bring your water bottle in with you, and sip from it as needed throughout class. (Usually. Watch what others are doing or ask – it’s not common, but sometimes water isn’t allowed inside the studio.) 
  • Turn off your cell phone. Instructors go to great lengths to provide a calming ambiance, and your Katy Perry ring tone will throw it completely off. 
  • Arrive early and introduce yourself to the instructor. Let him/her know that it’s your first class and that you might need extra guidance for proper pose alignment. Communicate any injuries you have so that he/she can suggest pose modifications for you. 
  • Use the restroom before class to avoid interruptions later. If you must excuse yourself mid-class, do so as quietly as possible. 
  • Skip the perfume. The co-mingling of 20 people’s perfumes can be overwhelming, especially for those sensitive to fragrance. 
  • Respect savasana. If you must leave class early for some reason, do so before the class relaxes into corpse pose. Otherwise, you’ve essentially transitioned from a corpse to the walking dead, and nothing is more distracting for the remaining corpses than a yoga zombie.

Please chime in with anything I've left out in the comments! Namaste.

Posted on October 26, 2011 03:00 PM