Coming to Class: 5 tips for Beginners

So you’ve just about survived Christmas and you’re about ready to attempt some New Year resolutions (Brace yourself!). Yoga happens to be sat quite high up on that list (I’m just assuming here given you are sat reading this post), but something is holding you back from booking your first class.

Any new environment is daunting, we’ve all been there I promise, but Yoga from my personal experience (even as a teacher), can be especially niche and ironically quite exclusive. I remember turning up for my first class (that, may I add, had taken a good month to pluck up the courage for) and found myself willing the ground to open up the minute I walked in. It was horrific, I didn’t understand what the teacher was asking me to do as she was speaking in some funny language, I didn’t feel comfortable asking any questions and I felt down right stupid not being able to move my body into what seemed like these fairly straight forward shapes. Not to mention I was wearing the completely wrong outfit, forgot a towel and I was sweating like hell within the first 20 minutes. I’ve gotta break it to you, this wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last time I felt totally out of place, it was tough but it did get easier as I felt more and more at home.

To this day, I still wish someone had warned me or at least prepared me before walking into these situations. Which is exactly why I want to share the top 5 things I wish I had known before stepping foot inside a yoga class;

  1. Lose the Ego – Yep I know I’m starting big but this has taken me a loooooong time to master. In fact the reason this is at the top of my list is because it is one of the biggest fundementals to yoga as a physical practice but also as a lifestyle, not just for beginners. Yoga has recently become very much about making pretty postures, sharing your latest achievement with the world of social and for us teachers, securing the most up and coming studio gig. It’s become a lot about status and trust me, we’ve all got enough of that in our normal lives. Honestly, leave your ego at the door. It took me years to realise why I wasn’t getting anywhere after going to class after class. My practice wasn’t improving and I found myself leaving class feeling worse than when I went in. Why? Because I was in competition with the person next to me, with myself, with my reflection in the mirror (also something I would steer away from! Mirrors!!) and I just couldn’t move past the idea that I had to be better, physically. Trust me, try not to think about what you look like in class but how you are feeling and what you are learning and you will see things develop in no time.
  2. Understand the type of Yoga class – Yep there’s more than one type of yoga, in fact there’s hundreds but your class will most likely be a fairly popular style. Some of these are; Vinyasa Flow, Power/Dynamic, Hot Yoga (different styles but all in a hot room), Bikram (hot room), Ashtanga, Hatha, Yin. If you’re not sure what any of these mean, just have a little search before you commit. In my opinion this is probably one of the most important things to consider when recommending beginners as the style of yoga is totally personal preference and it can also have a huge impact on the persons first impressions of ‘Yoga’ (the loose term) and put them off from going to any further classes. If you have never been to Yoga before I would personally recommend booking yourself onto a Yin, Restorative or Nurturing class for your first go – this will ease you into the teacher, the other students, the room and the studio (there’s a lot to think about so try and simplify it for yourself). If you’re unsure, don’t feel afraid to ring the studio or teacher before hand to ask what you can expect – if you explain you haven’t been to a class before the teacher/receptionist should usually be able to tell you straight away if the class style is suitable or not.
  3. All the gear, no idea – ultimately just make sure you have everything you need! This is important as it will make you feel more comfortable. There’s nothing worse than feeling out of place and not being able to help yourself. So if you know you sweat, bring a towel, bring two if you’re trying hot yoga (one full size for your mat and another smaller for your face and body). Bring water (always!). Yoga is thirsty work and you don’t want to be feeling funny half way through a downward dog. Wear appropriate clothing, and by that I don’t mean your full work out kit. Nearly all yoga classes are done bare foot so be prepared for this (you, more often than not, will also be asked to leave your shoes at the front door for hygiene reasons, so wear socks if this bothers you). If you want to wear socks in class make sure you have pilates or yoga socks with special grip otherwise it can be pretty dangerous. Finally if you are female, ensure you are supported (if you know what I mean). I have made the mistake of wearing beautiful dainty kit which looked beautiful but I spent a full hour concentrating on what body part was looking to escape next. Just make sure you’re comfortable 🙂 it’s also normal practice to wear a sports bra without a top in most classes as it allows for free movement. Don’t be put off by this, give it 5 minutes and you’ll totally forget that you’re not wearing a top!
  4. Pace yourself – you know your body better than anyone so don’t push it. This sort of feeds into my point about ego, in that the pressure of your first class can often feel like you need to prove you belong and the sense of competition can become heightened. Try and ignore the urge to conform! Believe it or not, you don’t have to be the best version of yourself in every class. Your practice is SO dependant on each and every day and that goes for teachers too. My teaching style personally revolves around pausing, feeling and then moving so you are acknowledging in that moment how your body and and your mind are feeling and this will very likely be different to yesterday and tomorrow. Just be aware and work with what you’re body is able to offer there and then. We are all students, learning and growing. If you continue to push, push, push you leave no space for experimenting and that means no space for growth. If you don’t feel like doing something, don’t do it. Most teachers should give you options at the beginning of the class that you can come back to you when you feel like it throughout the class. If they don’t, just come to kneeling or lay flat on your back. Simple. Oh and also remember to stretch after class!
  5. Try and try again – Your first few classes may be the most daunting but they don’t have to set the precedent for your relationship with yoga, at all. If you loved what you tried then great, go back and enjoy it but if you didn’t that’s okay too. This doesn’t mean you aren’t good at yoga or that it’s not for you. Teachers, styles, studios, environments are all personal to each and every one of us. Find what works for you, I promise there will be something out there and if you cannot find it, why not try jumping on a mat at home or even better pop along to one of my classes!

I hope these have been useful and encourage at least one of you to finally make it to that class! If you have any questions on any of the above please do just shoot me a message at info@hilo.yoga or message me on any of my social channels – I’d love to hear from you and remember we all have to start somewhere!

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