Guide: What to expect at your first yoga class

Yoga either seems really relaxing or way too hard to most novices. It is one of those workouts where, although there’s some sweating involved, you must control your breath and keep your heartrate low. Using only your bodyweight, you get a strength training and stretching session that works your whole body as well as your mind. Although yoga may be a little intimidating to some, it’s a great workout for everybody, and we want to calm your reservations about taking a class.

In your first yoga class, you can expect to challenge your body and mind, learning new poses and ways to breathe. You should wear comfy clothes and bring a mat and water bottle. Also, since yoga is structured, you should learn proper etiquette and bring a positive mindset to maximize results.

Going to a yoga class can be slightly intimidating, especially if you are a first-timer. You may feel that you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. That’s nerve-wracking. The truth is that yoga classes are a great place to relax and focus on your own body and mind. The instructor should be helpful and supportive, but no one is watching you or laughing at you. That fear aside, by the time you finish reading this article, you’ll know exactly what to expect from your first yoga class.

How to Prepare for Your Yoga Classes

The best way to prepare for either your first yoga class or a new level is to start with the website or sign up description. The marketing materials will explain what the class covers, and that can mold your expectations.

If you can’t find a description, call the studio and ask questions. Find out what you should bring. Ask what other people have thought of the class and what the instructor’s style is. Aside from managing your expectations to ease your nerves, here are some tips that will help you properly prepare for your first class.

  • Make sure that you signed up for a beginner’s class. Since yoga involves several different moves and intensity levels, it is advised that you sign up for a beginner’s class. However, if you have practiced yoga solo at home, then you may want to consider a slightly higher level. As you’ll read later on in this article, there are many levels to yoga, and if you have never taken part in a class before, then it is advised that you start off as a beginner.
  • Do not do yoga on a full stomach. On the day of your class, it is advised that you eat a light meal no later than an hour before your class, according to yoga instructor Kristin McGee. Since yoga involves alternating muscle contractions with relaxing, passing gas may happen. This is natural, but you don’t want to toot through the whole class.
  • Bring your own materials. You will want your own mat, comfortable yoga clothes, a water bottle, a block, and possibly a blanket. The studio may have mats and blocks to rent or borrow, but it’s more fun to practice on a pretty mat. Choose clothes that fit closely (so your shirt doesn’t flop over your head) but are not so tight you can’t move (no one wants to rip their pants). Finally, the blanket is useful to stay warm during savasana, but it can also be used for extra padding when you’re on your knees.
  • Make sure you have full knowledge of yoga etiquette. When it comes to yoga, there are some often unspoken rules of etiquette. Watch how closely people set their mats and follow suit. Listen to the level of talk and match the tone (or silence as the case may be). Remember not to clap at the end of a lesson, but to bring your hands together in a prayer position and bow during Namaste. A little extra research will prepare you for a faux pas-free session.

With the proper preparation, you can arrive confident and excited to practice. Remember that you will be in a class full of beginners, and that everyone has felt the same way you do now. But once you finish that first yoga class, you will see that there’s nothing to fear. The preparations that you made were so worth it and contributed to an excellent yoga experience.

Misconceptions About Yoga

Yoga often comes with a few misconceptions, and most of these come from the images that we see on television. The truth is that yoga is not just a room full of Lululemon-clad models who are all-natural yogis. There will be people from all walks of life and levels of skill. Here are a few things you should know about yoga that can put your misconceptions to bed.

  • Flexibility is a must. This is probably the number one assumption about yoga. Most people like to assume that, in order to participate in yoga, you have to be flexible in order to do the movements properly. The truth is that yoga actually makes you more flexible, so if you are a beginner that has little to no flexibility, do not worry! As you continue to participate in yoga sessions and practice the movements, you will become much more flexible. Until then, use a block or as for modifications when you can’t get into a pose.
  • Yoga is just too slow. Another myth that must be thrown out of the window is that yoga is too slow to be considered a workout. Yoga comes in many different forms. There are even forms that are much more rigorous thus causing you to sweat more and potentially lead to weight loss. For beginners, yoga will be a bit slower because your body needs to get used to this new form of exercise.
  • If you are older, you cannot do yoga. Another false narrative is that yoga is only meant for younger people. Yoga is great for any age group, and there are no limitations for older people. If you are older and are considering participating in a yoga class, you can consider looking for a class for people in your age group, where the instructor is likely to teach with modifications.

We really do not want you to have hesitations or reservations about taking a class because of a preconceived notion about who can do yoga. Yoga is meant to be a mindful experience for everyone. So, start with the mindset of “Yoga is for me!” and keep reading to add to your peace of mind before your first class.

Things to Expect from Yoga Class

With all those misconceptions and fears out of your head, let’s talk about what you can expect from your first yoga class. Here are a few things we wish we’d known.

  • Breathing is important. When it comes to yoga, it is important that you breathe properly. Yoga breathing is not your regular way of breathing. What you will be doing in your class is known as Pranayama. Your instructor will often tell you when to inhale and exhale for deeper pose work, or they might have you imagine breathing into a particular body part. This type of breathing will help increase your mindfulness and allow you to properly relax.
  • Your instructor will likely adjust you. At the beginning of the class, your instructor will likely ask the students if they are comfortable with being adjusted during the class. The reason for this is because some students will not be able to properly do the poses, so the instructor will adjust you so that you are hitting the poses correctly. There’s no need to be embarrassed about this because it is very typical in beginner classes.
  • Speaking of adjusting your poses, you won’t nail them on your first try. The truth of the matter is that you will not perfect your poses right away, and that is totally okay! As a beginner, you are not expected to have each of the yoga movements correct on the first try. So, before you go into your yoga class, give yourself a quick pep talk and tell yourself that it is totally okay to be a beginner, and you are also in a room full of beginners. You are not alone here!
  • When you need a break, go into child pose. If you need to take a break in between poses, then the standard pose is child pose. This is a very easy pose to do and does not cause a lot of strain on the body, which is why it is a perfect resting position. Take a couple breaths and catch up when you’re ready.
  • The vibe is so different from an aerobics class. Try not to expect an intense vibe during your yoga class. Since yoga is meant to be more peaceful and encourages mindfulness and relaxation, the vibe is much more tranquil.

By staying informed of what to expect during your first session, you will be able to maximize your results. Yoga is not like any other workout class, but in a good way. Managing your expectations is as much a part of getting a good session in as doing the actual work, but so is participating with proper etiquette.

Know Your Etiquette

Having knowledge of yoga etiquette will truly maximize you first experience. The rules create a structure so everyone feels safe practicing in a calm environment. That it is why it is so important that you brush up on the rules and arrive well informed.

  1. Make sure that you stay the entire class. You do not want to be that one person that leaves the class early and causes a disruption for the other participants. Show up early to set up and make sure you have time after the class to clean up. Know the start and stop times of your class. However, things come up, so in this case, you can inform your yoga instructor that you need to leave a little earlier before the class starts. Make sure you set your mat close to the exit. That way, you are not disrupting others when it’s time to leave.
  1. No shoes in class! Yoga is meant to be a more spiritual experience. Therefore, you are not allowed to wear shoes during your class. In most studios, you will be asked to leave your shoes on the rack outside of the studio or in your locker if the yoga studio provides one.
  2. Avoid wearing any strong scented lotions or perfumes. You’ll be deeply breathing through the class, and if everyone is wearing strong fragrances, it ruins the experience. Since the yoga class is used to help you find that peaceful relaxation that you need, you want to show up clean, but neutrally scented. Also, since the instructor is likely to run essential oils during the class, you want to make sure you can enjoy that part of the experience, too.
  3. Go in with a positive mindset. Remember, this class is meant to help you ease your mind and give you the opportunity to relax while getting in a workout. Therefore, do your best to go in with a positive mindset, and try not to worry if you are nailing your poses correctly, especially if this is your first time. Take a minute before class to meditate to set that intention.

These are only some etiquette tips laid out by the Washington Post. There are more things to take into account it is highly recommended that you read up on these tips to make sure that you stay well informed.

Get to Know the Levels of Yoga

When signing up for your yoga class, it is important that you take into account the level of yoga you are signing up for. You should be fully prepared for the amount of strain you are about to put on it. Although yoga is not meant to “strain” the body, you still want to make sure that you are not putting too much pressure on yourself. Before signing up for a class, make sure you read the guidelines below to see which level of yoga you are able to participate in.

Level 1: Beginner

This level of yoga is perfect if you have never participated in this form of exercise. The beginner classes are more slow-paced compared to other levels; that way, the participant can learn the yoga techniques properly.

Level 2: Experienced Beginner

This is perfect if you have already adjusted well to beginner yoga and are ready to take your skills to the next level. In this level, you will become more familiar with yoga poses, and slowly begin to perfect the breathing exercises.

Level 3: Intermediate

Congratulations! You are no longer a beginner in yoga! Here is where you’ll begin to learn slightly more advanced poses. Also, at this level, you’ll be able to properly handle your breathing and movements.

Level 4: Advanced

This is the more advanced level of yoga, where you’ll be able to take up more advanced poses. People who are more advanced in yoga tend to participate in yoga regularly and have perfected the connection between breathing and movement.

Why You Need to Know the Levels

So why is it important to know the levels of yoga? It is important for two reasons. One reason is that you want to sign up for the correct class. As you can see, the more advanced levels will require more strain on your body, and you want to make sure that you ease yourself into this new form of exercise.

The second reason it is important to know the different levels is that you should know that there is room to grow. As you continue to grow into this, you will be able to see how your body can adjust to different types of positions, and you will be more in tune with your body. Therefore, before you sign up for your class, check the level before paying.

Things to Expect in Each Level

Not every yoga class will be the same, and depending on which level of yoga you take, the class itself will be different from other forms of yoga. However, the etiquette will remain the same. Whether it’s your first yoga class ever or your first advanced yoga session, it is important that you know what to expect as soon as you walk through those studio doors.

Beginners Class

A beginner’s class will not be too demanding. The instructor will likely teach you the poses in Sanskrit. However, they will be followed by the English translation. Your instructor is likely to teach you simple yoga poses, as well as a few modifications.

Also, you can expect that the instructor will be doing a lot of adjusting. Do not be offended by this. You are not expected to know all the poses right away. The instructor is there to help you get into the pose correctly and safely.

There will be a possibility of an introduction to slightly more advanced poses as well. You will also learn the art of breathing in this class, which is crucial for yoga.

Experienced Beginner Class

This is a second-level class, so it is slightly more advanced than the beginner’s class. The instructor is likely to teach the class in Sanskrit and will likely not give the English translation. Additionally, the instructor is likely to demonstrate less and instead will be seen walking around the class and observing, making adjustments to students when necessary. The breathings techniques in this level of yoga will be slightly more sophisticated as well.

Intermediate-Advanced Class

This is where you begin to put your body to work. At this level, you will be fully in tune with your body and will have almost perfected your breathing. This is a no-nonsense level, so you can expect that it will be much more intense than other levels. You will likely be doing more deep backend positions and arm balances at this level.

As you can see, the expectations are quite different for each level of yoga that you participate in. This is why as a beginner participating in yoga, you should not worry about the assumptions that come along with it, as a beginner you will adjust well, and you will give yourself room to grow.

Types of Yoga

Most people believe that yoga is universal in the sense that there is only one type. The truth is that there are several types of yoga, and according to Samsara Healthy Holidays, there are six types of yoga that are actually very common. Here is a list of the six most common types of yoga.

  • Hatha Yoga: This is the most common form of yoga, and it covers the more traditional poses.
  • Vinyasa Yoga: This form of yoga is more active and allows you to transition from one pose right into another; it is perfect for someone who wants to be more active.
  • Kundalini Yoga: A much more spiritual form of yoga which also encourages meditation, if you are looking for a more mindful escape, then this is perfect for you.
  • Ashtanga Yoga: Very similar to Vinyasa, this form of yoga allows you to flow from one position into another. However, Ashtanga allows you to increase your flexibility and your breathing. This is, by far, one of the more demanding forms of yoga.
  • Iyengar Yoga: This form of yoga is meant to improve your overall spin structure. Iyengar yoga is perfect for people who are just recovering from an injury and are looking for a way to ease their bodies back to normal.
  • Bikram Yoga: Looking to lose weight? Then this form of yoga is perfect for you. In this class, the room temperature will be set to 40 degrees (Celsius), which will increase your chances of losing weight. It is believed that you can burn up to 600 calories in one session.

Depending on what type of work out you are looking to have that particular day, it is best that you keep your options open and do not commit to only one type of yoga. This will allow you to maximize your results and really see what your body truly needs instead of forcing a workout on yourself.

Take a Look at the Benefits

Whether you are looking to stay in shape without putting too much strain on your body or you are looking for a great way to be active but also mindful, you’ll want to know what the benefits of yoga are. The benefits of doing yoga are absolutely amazing, and while doing research, you may have noticed that there are great things that come along with doing yoga. Here are a few great benefits that come with yoga.

  • You’ll be able to increase your flexibility through regular yoga exercises, especially if you are not flexible to begin with.
  • Toning your body can also be done through yoga since you are exercising your muscles during the session. Clearly, you do not need heavy lifting equipment to tone your body.
  • You’ll be able to protect yourself from injury. Since you are regularly working out your body and muscles, you will be able to condition your body to prevent possible injuries.
  • Weight loss is very much possible with yoga. Although people believe you cannot lose weight by doing yoga, the reality is that you actually can. This is perfect if you are not looking to do intense workouts constantly.
  • You will increase your positivity. This is, by far, one of the most beneficial components of yoga. Doing yoga will allow you to become in tune with your thoughts, practice your breathing, and give you the opportunity to relax, all by working out!

The benefits of yoga are absolutely endless, and while doing your research and signing up for your class, you should really take these benefits into consideration. As you continue to participate in yoga, you will see that your mindset and your body will continue to change as you progress.

Consider Going Virtual

What if one day you cannot make it to a class? Or maybe you’re stuck at home because of a pandemic. Consider taking a yoga class online. With the increasing benefits of technology, it is becoming much easier to find things online, especially a workout. Consider going on YouTube and searching for practice videos to build your skills at home. The instructor will not be there to adjust you, but at least you’ll be familiarizing yourself with the different poses.

Conclusion

It’s okay to feel slightly nervous about attending your first yoga class, especially as a beginner. With the right preparation and information, you will be more than ready to attend your first class, as long as you abide by the proper yoga etiquette you will be more than ready to attend your first class. It is also important to note that you do not need to be an advanced yoga professional to participate in yoga after all the most advanced participants started off somewhere!

Before your class, just remember to take the proper materials with you, brush up on your yoga etiquette, and be sure to go in with a positive mindset. Once you have all of those things in mind, you will be ready to attend your first class!

Sita

Mother of three and Yogi of 20+ years and 200 Hour Certified Yoga Teacher. I am also a Certified Thai massage therapist and I have taught Gymnastics for more than 10 years. In the last couple of years, I've been a big promotor of intermittent fasting.

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