Are you thinking about booking your first yoga class but are a little puzzled over what type to try, what to expect, and if there’s anything you should know before unfurling your mat for the first time in a quiet room filled with strangers? If that’s the case, we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know before taking your first yoga class.
Rest assured, despite what you might see on social media, yoga is just about for everyone and every fitness level. No experience is required. In fact, yoga has exploded in popularity in the last decade with reports that 36 million— 1 in 9—Americans practiced yoga in 2016.
With more than a dozen styles of yoga to choose from and countless other newfangled fusion-style classes created by fitness innovators everywhere, all walks of yogis flock to studios every day as an act of self-care to unwind, reduce stress and anxiety, and to improve their mood, sleep, strength, and flexibility, as well as to bond with their community.
So, in order to make sure that you head into your first class with a calm confidence, here’s what you need to know before you do your first downward dog!know before you do your first downward dog!
1. Yoga Is More Than Just A Workout — A Brief History
Sure, yoga might be the most popular type of group fitness class according to this report, but it’s more than just a trendy way to workout. Yoga has rich, historic, and spiritual roots in India where it originated more than 5,000 years ago.
According to Toronto-based Yoga Therapist and Mindful Movement Educator, Paul Galloro, the yogic path is a way for people to reach spiritual enlightenment. “Though the physical aspect is part of the journey, the practices and principles of yoga are designed to ‘liberate the seer,’ as described in the ancient yogic texts,” Galloro says.
The seer, or witness, he explains, is the observer within. “It’s an unwavering peace that is always present no matter what happens to us in life and the practices of yoga help us to connect to this peace,” says Galloro. “I consider this spiritual enlightenment… transcending that knee-jerk reaction to the challenges of life and staying connected to that.”
2. Yoga Is For Everyone — At Any Fitness Level
Ignore what you’ve seen on TV, or worse, while scrolling your social media feeds when it comes to yoga. Ultra-toned physiques in high-end yoga attire performing contortionist-style headstands is not the norm.
“Yoga is available to all bodies and fitness levels,” says Galloro. “An adage in yoga is ‘If you can breathe, you can do yoga.’ There are so many styles to choose from and each one has its unique features. Some are more physical and require a higher level of fitness that can often border acrobatics or gymnastics, while others focus on more gentle, restorative movements that are designed to soothe the nervous system and heal mental, emotional, and physical trauma.”
When starting out, he recommends beginning with a gentle to moderate class. “A good place to start is a hatha yoga class—it’s good for generally healthy people to start,” says Galloro. “If you have a special condition, seek out a class that is designed for that population (i.e. prenatal, trauma-sensitive, for athletes, etc). And always try more than one style and more than one teacher. Yoga is so unique that you might find you resonate more with one style or teacher than others, and that’s okay. Yoga is a journey, so enjoy the process!”
3. There Are Many Types Of Yoga To Choose From
Now that you know hatha yoga is one good style to start with, let’s take a look at some of the other major types of yoga to try after that.
Beyond this list, many studios develop their own types of yoga classes that fuse yoga and other forms of fitness such as HIIT training or pilates, which for newbies, can add to the confusion.
Before diving into more adventurous yoga-fusion classes, it’s a good idea to try some of the fundamental styles of yoga to get a sense of your preferred style.
- Hatha: A slower form of yoga that centers around foundational yoga poses
- Vinyasa: The most physically demanding of the yoga styles, vinyasa is a continuous flow of a set of yoga poses
- Yin: A series of postures held for anywhere from 45 seconds to 2 minutes, many of them floor poses
- Kundalini: Spiritual and physical at once, this yoga style sets out to release trapped energy with a rigorous series of poses, breathwork, chanting, and more
- Bikram (or Hot) Yoga: 26 yoga poses done in a sauna-like room set to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit
- Aerial: Yoga performed while hanging from the ceiling in a supportive silk hammock
- Iyengar: Slow, but very precise and methodical, this style of yoga spends more time in each pose making adjustments to go deeper and relies on plenty of props
- Ashtanga: The original yoga flow that gave birth to vinyasa, ashtanga is quick and intense. If you see Mysore-led yoga on a studio schedule, you’re expected to know the sequence and go at your own pace with very little guidance
- Restorative: A yoga style with very few poses, plenty of props, and more stillness than movement to help you relax and recharge
- Prenatal yoga: Just as it sounds, prenatal yogis can rest assured the class has been tailored to keep mom-to-be safe in all yoga poses
Generally speaking, a yoga class that covers some of the foundational yoga poses is a good option when you’re first starting out. It’s also advisable to opt for a non-heated room for your first few times as the sauna-like intensity of a bikram or hot-yoga class may overwhelm you.
4. Etiquette — What To Bring, How To Dress, and Studio Conduct
There aren’t a ton of yoga “rules” per se, but because yoga is a spiritual practice in addition to a great workout, there are a few things to be aware of before entering a yoga studio for the first time.
Let the teacher know you’re new
As an experienced yoga teacher and therapist, Galloro has seen his share of newbies. “Always let your teacher know it’s your first experience,” he says. “Arrive a few minutes earlier to introduce yourself and get set up. This allows the instructor to help you settle, prepare you with any equipment, and give you an idea what to expect in the practice. If you have any special considerations about your body, let them know, so they can offer modifications as needed.”
Arrive on time, never late
Beyond your first class, it’s important to always arrive on time, if not a little early. Coming early gives you an opportunity to unwind on your mat before class. This is especially helpful if you’re rushing from work, were in bumper-to-bumper traffic, or scrambling for school drop-off or pick up just before your class. It really helps to buffer in a few moments between rushing around and starting a yoga class so that you can reframe your mind, bring the focus to you, and be present on our mat.
And forget coming late. A lot of yoga studios and teachers respectfully don’t allow late-comers to enter the studio after the class start time for that same reason, it detracts from the students’ experience—which may be their only moment of solitude to themselves throughout the whole day.
Bring a towel, a yoga mat, and a water bottle
While some studios have extra mats you can borrow or perhaps towel service or a towel rental for an additional fee, it’s a good idea to bring your own mat, towel, and a pre-filled water bottle so you can partake in the class.
If it’s your first mat, you don’t need to splurge on the most expensive one. There are yoga mats of many sizes, colors, textures, thicknesses, and price points. You can always start out with a budget-friendly mat and upgrade down the road when you’re a more frequent yogi.
And speaking of mats, “Never walk on someone else’s mat,” warns Galloro. “It’s a sacred space, not to mention cleanliness—no one wants your feet where their face is going to go.”
Be as quiet as a mouse
A big part of the yogic experience is the peaceful serenity of the practice. From the moment you enter the studio to when you roll your mat up to leave, you’ll notice an unspoken whisper-level vibe, not unlike a library.
Before you enter the studio, either leave your phone in the car or turn it to silent mode. If you have a smartwatch, you’ll want to put it on sleep mode or consider leaving that behind, too.
Upon entering the practice room, quietly make your way over to an open space. Place any belongings down and unfurl your mat quietly, so as not to disturb any early arrivals decompressing from their day in Savasana pose (or Corpse Pose).
If you have to talk to a fellow student or yoga teacher, keep your voice to a whisper. When everyone is mindful about adding minimal noise to the practice, it shows respect to the process and will help everyone—including yourself—go deeper and get more out of the experience.
Above all, listen honestly to your body and do you
Galloro’s last bit of advice is probably the best, “Always listen to your body. Consider everything the instructor offers as a suggestion and not a hard and fast must-do. If the teacher insists you do something that doesn’t feel right, find another teacher. Consider approaching your yoga practice as you would dating. Sample what’s out there to find the perfect one for you. Now put on your best yoga pants and go have a yoga date!”
A great way to experience your first class risk-free is by getting a session for free! All you need to do to get a free wellness gift* up to $50, such as a free yoga class, is buy any participating Purely Inspired product before June 28th.
*Valid on purchases of participating Purely Inspired products between 5/3/22 – 7/17/22. Contiguous US only. Must be 18+ years of age to participate. Credit card may be required. Limit 1 reward per person. Additional Terms & Conditions apply at purelyinspiredrewards.com
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