Beginning a Yoga Practice (Part 3): Your First Yoga Class

In my previous two posts, we’ve talked a lot about the language of yoga and some good poses to know when beginning a yoga practice. In this post, I’d like to talk about what you might expect when you attend your first yoga class.

First yoga class
If you don’t have a studio nearby, or don’t quite feel comfortable attending class just yet, don’t despair. I will have resources next week for those who want to begin their yoga practice at home. There’s no issue with being self-taught, and many people start their practice in the privacy of their own home. However, I can’t say enough about the benefits of working with a certified instructor in class.

Yoga 101

Main Street Yoga here in Fairmont often offers a “Yoga 101” class that is aimed at the total beginner. These classes will introduce you to the tradition of yoga and some of the beginner poses we have talked about in previous posts. This offers the advantage of having someone who can help you with alignment tips, prop and modification suggestions, and encouragement. I can’t say enough good things about this class. Even if you know the basics, attending a class like this can give you a low-stakes introduction to the studio and the teacher. MSY even offers a voucher for one free class after you’ve completed the workshop. If you aren’t in the Fairmont area, look around at the yoga studios near you. See if they offer something similar. Chances are that they have some kind of class or workshop geared towards the pure beginner.

Getting Ready for Your First Yoga Class

Going to your first yoga class can be overwhelming. You’re meeting a lot of new people and doing a lot of new things all at once. Knowing what you can expect can help alleviate some of the anxiety associated with attending your first yoga class.

First yoga class
The first thing to consider is whether or not your studio takes drop-ins. If you are planning to attend a regular weekly class, it might be a good idea to call ahead and see if there is any need to pre-register. Most studios are fine with someone just showing up, but if you live in a heavily populated area, they may have limited slots. Popular times and classes could be full before you even arrive. In order to avoid disappointment, check to see if you can sign up for a slot ahead of time. Some studios may even have a scheduler on the website that allows you to sign up and pay for the class ahead of time.

You won’t need too much prep. Wear comfortable clothing that doesn’t bunch up or slide around when you move. There’s nothing worse than constantly having to pull your shirt down through a whole class, says the voice of experience. Some studios will have water on offer, but you might want to take a small water bottle just to be sure. If you have a yoga mat of your own, bring it to class with you. Many studios will have loaners, but they may only have a limited number, and your own mat will likely be more comfortable for you. You may also want to bring a small towel, particularly if you have chosen to attend a hot yoga class.

Attending Your First Yoga Class

When you arrive at your first yoga class, you will likely be greeted at a reception area. If you have not pre-paid for your class, this is where you will do so. Because so much of yoga is practiced at the floor level, studios are meticulous about keeping the floor clean. It is proper etiquette to remove your shoes before walking out into the practice area. Studios generally provide a place for your shoes and other outerwear near the door.

Once you have removed your shoes, grab your mat and your towel and head out into the practice area. If you need to borrow a mat, you can ask the receptionist or teacher where they keep the loaner mats. Pick a space on the floor and unroll your mat. Gather any props you think you might need (blocks, strap, blanket, bolster) and sit them near your mat. Then it’s time to practice!

The teacher will lead you through a flow based on the type of yoga in which the studio or teacher specializes. Usually, classes start with a short meditation, followed by a warm-up. Then you will go into a series of flows that build in intensity. After you have reached a peak, there will be a gradual cool-down, eventually ending in savasana.

Make sure you stick around for savasana. Some students feel that when the work is over, they don’t need to hang around just to lay on the floor. Savasana is crucial for relaxing the body and integrating the practice you just experienced. The class will generally conclude with coming back into a seated position, and a namaste from the teacher.

First yoga class

You Did It!

Afterward, you can put your props back, wipe off your mat (essential if you are borrowing from the studio!), roll it up, and head home! You did it! Your first yoga class is over and you survived!

I hope this post has helped to alleviate some anxiety associated with going to your first yoga class. It really is a simple, fun experience. As a final word of calm, I would urge you not to be self-conscious. I can assure you that everyone there is too focused on keeping themselves upright to watch what you are doing. So go, relax, and have fun.

However, if you still aren’t sure you feel ready to go to a class, be sure to come back next week for the final post in this series. We will talk about some of my personal favorite resources to help you get started with a yoga practice at home. Even if you regularly attend class, having a home practice is important, and these resources can help you start building your own everyday yoga practice.