1. What you need to bring: clothes, mat, cash, water
Here are some things you might want to know as you head to class.
If you have a mat, bring it. Most studios have mats you can borrow (sometimes for a nominal fee); however, if you’re going to a class that isn’t at a studio, there’s a good chance they won’t have them. You can find perfectly good mats at discount stores like Ross for half what they’d be elsewhere.
Most classes cost money. At studios you can usually use credit or debit cards but many teachers deal only in cash.
Bring a water bottle. Even if it’s a gentle form, it’s a good idea to bring your own water with you.
2. What to expect when you get there: paperwork, shoes, props
Then they’ll show you around and answer any questions you have. Come about 15 minutes before class starts to make sure there's time for all of this. After your first visit to a place, come 5 to 10 minutes early to allow time to check in and set up.
You’ll leave your shoes in the lobby or off to the side of the room. Then you’ll spread out your mat and get any props the teacher recommends (blankets, blocks, and straps are common). When you have everything you need, just chill on your mat. You can sit or you can lie down; you can stretch out or meditate.
Most people appreciate quiet before class so they can begin to get centered. However, there are also classes that are super social. It just depends.
3. The three parts of every class: centering, movement, savasana
After centering, the teacher will guide you through stretches and postures (called asana). Especially as a newb, you’ll find yourself watching other students to see how to do the poses. That fine. Just don’t compare yourself to them. While every pose has a “full expression,” which is what you see in books and magazine, every pose also has a feeling or an energy that comes with it. That’s the real pose, and it looks different on different bodies. Eventually, with practice, you’ll come to find that feeling.
In the meantime, don’t overdo! Yoga should never cause strain or pain. Overstretching causes tears in muscles and attachments. If you find yourself in a class you can’t keep up with, just do what you can and take breaks when you need to. It’s not a competition and there is no judgment.
The end of every Yoga class is a pose called savasana (sha-vA-sa-na). Savasana is usually done lying on your back with you feet angled toward the corners of your mat, and your arms are about half way between being at your sides and being in a T. Palms face up. If this is uncomfortable because of soreness in your low back, bend your knees, set your feet wide apart, and let your knees rest in on each other. Or, if that doesn't fix it or you're uncomfortable for other reasons, you can always do savasana on your side, face down, or in an upright seated posture.
Some classes have short 5 minute savasanas and some have longer 10 to 15 minute savasanas. The goal here is to relax the body completely, experiencing physical stillness and mental peace. It’s not as easy as it sounds!
4. Finding the right class for you
To say that Yoga styles vary is putting it mildly. If you want strenuous, athletic Yoga, there’s Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow; if you want to focus on getting the alignment of each pose just right, there’s Iyengar; if you’re more interested in consciousness altering, there’s Kundalini, and the list goes on.
More than anything else, what will matter is the teacher. You may have to try a few different schools and/or teachers before you find the one who clicks with you. But along the way, you will learn and grow. And if you stick with it, your mood will improve, you’ll think more clearly, and you’ll feel better in your skin. Maybe you’ll even become a yogi.
Best wishes as you embark on your Yoga journey!