Heading to your first yoga class and not sure what to expect? Don't be intimidated - the yoga community is always excited and eager for newcomers to join the practice. A quick read below will have you informed, equipped, and feeling comfortable heading into your first class.
Know What You’re Signing Up For
There are a number of different types of yoga classes out there so it's important to know what you're jumping into before diving in the deep end. People have different preferences, bodies, endurance levels, and flexibility. All these characteristics play into what class you will want to take.
There are a few yoga buzz words that will go a long way in interpreting what a class will entail. The main categories that most yoga classes fall under are Hatha Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Hot/Bikram Yoga, and Sculpt/Power Yoga.
If you’re interested in a more slow-paced class, look for Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga, while also used as a general term for Yoga, focuses on stretching, breathing, and learning about the poses. This type of class is perfect for beginners to ease you into poses, stretching, and how to slow your mind down. Definitely recommended for those looking to destress!
When you see the word ‘Ashtanga Yoga’ used, expect something more challenging. Ashtanga Yoga is structured by poses similar to Hatha Yoga, however, these types of classes are constantly flowing. If you’re looking to move, this class is for you! The challenge comes from keeping up with the poses and pace of the class, making it a great mental distraction as well. These classes tend to have the word ‘flow’ in the title, indicating that you will be constantly moving, but don’t scare away, there are still periods of rest and slow down.
The third type of yoga class that you may see is ‘Hot Yoga’. The majority of Hot Yoga is practiced in a studio that is set at around 100 degrees. If you can’t handle heat or humidity, this class will be extremely challenging as you remain in the room anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes. That being said, the heat does add a challenge to anyone so keep that in mind when signing up. The benefits of practicing yoga in a hot studio are: loosens muscles, helps flexibility, burns fat from having a warm body. A popular sub-section of ‘Hot Yoga’ is a style called Bikram Yoga. Bikram Yoga is practiced in a room set at 108 degrees so expect some heat! Every Bikram class follows the same 26 postures so after you’ve done one class, you will know exactly how the next class will go. Enter a Bikram class hydrated, with a towel, and mentally prepared to sit out on a few postures if necessary!
The final type of yoga that you may encounter is ‘Yoga Sculpt’ or ‘Power Yoga’. Yoga Sculpt is a great way to intensify your yoga practice! Sculpt uses yoga poses and sequencing with the additional challenge of free weights in order to increase muscle strength. If you love yoga and are looking for a way to boost your metabolism and build lean muscle mass, this is a great class for you!
Know What to Do Before/ Bring To Class
As with any exercise, hydration is crucial before, during, and after the class. Especially when taking a Yoga class that is aimed at detoxing your body, it is vital to replenish the lost toxins. For Hot Yoga, remember to drink throughout the class as you are losing more fluids than you feel in the moment.
In addition to a water bottle, bring a yoga mat and a towel. While some yoga is relaxing and more meditative, you may sweat more than you think so you might as well go prepared! Mat placement is key with your first class. Finding a spot where you can see yourself in the mirror while simultaneously allowing yourself to see more expert peers around you will help you when confusion strikes in class. Looking over at your mat neighbor comes in handy when you don’t know a certain pose, terminology, or just want to make sure you’re doing it right!
Frequently Used Terms
People scare away from yoga as it can be seen as intimidating- the truth is, yoga communities are just the opposite, always wanting to teach and welcome newcomers. A way to help ease into the intimidating first class is to familiarize yourself with these frequently used terms throughout classes.
Pranayama: indicates that you will be doing breathing techniques. Your pose may look like this photo below.
Downward facing dog arguably the most common yoga pose; your hands and feet are on the ground and your back is straight up in the air; expect to do this in your first class.
Chaturanga: a fluid movement going from high plank down towards the ground, ending in a low plank; very gradual pose
Child’s Pose: a relaxing pose in which your toes are together while you sit back on your heels and spread your knees to hip-width; when comfortably sitting on heels, you lay your shoulders and hands on the floor and relax
Savasana: aka lay down and rest!; this pose is done at the end of your practice to relax and slow your breathing. This pose can also be done at your own freewill- whenever you need to catch a breath, feel dizzy, or anything abnormal, lay down and practice savasana during class.
Namaste: at the end of class the instructor says this as the parting message
Now that you know everything you need to know in preparation for a yoga class, go sign up for one, it’ll be worth it!
Yogi - Courtney Mickley Hamm
Photographer - Devon Albeit