Inspired by this article on how to find the right yoga instructor, I started writing some tips for those new to yoga. Parts 1 and 2 covered deciding what you’re looking for in a yoga class and how to find a class in your area. Now we’ll talk about some tips for your first yoga class.
It’s hard to know what to expect when you’re doing something new for the first time. Once you’ve identified a yoga class you’d like to attend, it’s a good idea to find out as much as you can in advance – this will help you to feel more comfortable on the day of the class. Do you have friends or colleagues who go to classes at this gym or studio? Pump them for information. Does the yoga studio, gym, or yoga teacher have a website? Check it out. Find the phone number and call for more info.
Here are some frequently asked questions about yoga classes. In general, the answers to these questions are applicable to most yoga classes, but it’s always good to confirm with your particular instructor! If the info isn’t on the website, call to double-check.
- Do I need to bring my own yoga mat?
You don’t need a yoga mat – often the gym or studio will have mats you can borrow or rent for a small fee, and if they don’t, you can use a towel or try practicing right on the floor. Some studios may require that you use a mat, for both cleanliness and liability reasons (i.e., it’s easier to slip and fall on a hard wood floor if you don’t have a mat), so check your location’s policy.
When thinking about the mat question, consider whether you have knee or joint problems that make sitting on a hard floor difficult for you, or if you sweat a lot, or if you have cleanliness concerns (“Put my feet on a mat that other people’s feet have been on? Ew!”). If you want your own mat, you can get one very affordably. Target and Walmart carry yoga mats, and I’ve even seen them at stores like Five Below or the “under ten dollars” store. Extra-tall, extra-wide, and extra-thick mats are available to be ordered online if something like that appeals to you, but you don’t need a fancy mat when you’re just starting out – you can find something serviceable for under $20, no problem. But if you want to wait until you try the class before investing in any equipment, check with the studio to see if you can borrow or rent one there.
- Do I need to bring anything else?
A bottle of water is always a good idea! Also, not a bad plan to bring a small towel, especially if you’re trying a hot room or athletic-style class, or if you know you sweat a lot. If you’re renting or borrowing a mat, you may want to consider bringing a full-size towel for cleanliness reasons – you can lay the towel over the mat so that the mat will cushion and support you without you actually putting your feet right on it. Also consider: ponytail holders, headbands, and bandannas, to keep your hair out of your face. Some people don’t seem to have an issue with this, but having hair in my eyes drives me nuts.
- What sort of clothes do I need to wear?
For clothing, wear something comfortable that you can move around in. Some people prefer baggy shirts and shorts; I tend to prefer close-fitting and stretchy. Keep in mind that you may be upside down sometimes, so tuck your shirt in and make sure whatever’s under your shorts covers you adequately so none of your bits fall out. Pants or sweatpants are usually fine, but you probably want shorts for a hot room type class. Also, you don’t want to be overly distracted by your clothing – this isn’t the time to wear that one sports bra you have to adjust fourteen times throughout your workout (or the sports bra you fall out of!). Use your common sense and be comfortable.
Clothing to avoid: anything itchy, and anything restrictive that limits your movement. Jeans are a bad idea for yoga class (trust me, I know!). You may also want to avoid wearing clunky jewelry – that necklace won’t seem so pretty when it smacks you in the face during downward dog, and big rings can cut into your hands. I usually just wear stud earrings and my wedding band.
Be aware too that yoga is typically done barefoot. Many first-timers don’t know this and get upset when they’re asked to remove their sneakers. Remember that this isn’t aerobics class or a treadmill – in yoga class, you need to be able to move, bend, and flex your feet. Also, the etiquette is different here than at a gym: many yoga studios ask you to leave your shoes at the door to help keep their floors clean. If you are truly uncomfortable having your feet out and proud, you can try practicing in socks, but bare feet will stick better to your yoga mat than socked feet will, and if you don’t have a mat, you will slide around a lot more on a hardwood floor in socks. It can be a big distraction. Be aware in advance that you’ll be asked to bare your toesies, and get used to the idea so you won’t be blindsided with it at your first class. (Really, no one cares what your feet look like, but if it’ll make you feel better, give yourself a little pedicure before class!)
- How early should I arrive?
You probably want to show up to your first yoga class about 10-15 minutes early. Even just for practical reasons this is a good idea – if you’ve never been to the place before, you could get lost! Arriving early also gives you the opportunity to meet the instructor, sign a release form, pay for the class, and talk over any concerns you might have. If you’re nervous about starting a new thing, give yourself this time – rushing to get there and running in at the last minute will make you even more nervous and worked up. You will feel so much more comfortable if you have plenty of time to get to the studio, look around, check things out, talk to the instructor, and settle in.
Next time: making the most of your yoga class!