After completing my yoga teacher training this year (shout out to my awesome teachers at Tough Love Yoga!), people started asking me where to start if they are new to yoga. One of the comments that I hear pretty often is, “It’s so complicated, I don’t really know where to begin.” I totally get that – I didn’t either! I remember my first time ever jumping into yoga; I was about 21 (which feels like so long ago). There weren’t many options for yoga in my town so I decided to get the yoga fitness game for my Wii. Okay, this wasn’t the best workout ever, but it did help me understand some basic terms and what a few poses looked like. It prepared me to take that step of doing yoga in public. It’s not always easy to jump into a yoga class at a studio, but here are a few things to prepare you for your first class.
Know some basic pose names and what they look like
Adho Mukha -whhaaatt?? Your class will feel more comfortable if you can recognize some of the common posture names and shapes. Some teachers will say the name and explain the shape, but some will just say the Sanskrit name. Knowing a few basic postures you’ll see in almost every yoga class will help you to not be twisted in a pretzel cranking your neck up to look at the teacher every few minutes.
English Name & Sanskrit Names of each pose shown above
#1 Cobra / Bhujangasana
#2 Down Dog / Adho Mukha Svanasana
#3 Triangle / Trikonasana
#4 Mountain / Tadasana
#5 Tree / Vrksasana
#6 Warrior 1 / Virabhadrasana I
#7 “Tabletop” a neutral hands and knees position
#8 Warrior 2 / Virabhadrasana II
Don’t beat yourself up
It’s pretty common to walk into your first yoga class and be nervous. Even teachers and students who have been practicing for years get nervous! There’s a secret though – nobody will notice. In a typical class people come in either really focused on practicing or really focused on something else. The yoga studio is like a sanctuary that many people go to release for an hour and get out of their minds. Some days I can hit a headstand with ease and other days I really have to focus or use a wall. It’s all about how you feel in that present moment. Remember: don’t compare your day 1 to someone else’s day 50!
Talk to your teacher
Your teacher wants to guide you! Yoga teachers know the issues everyone faces starting out and we want you to feel comfortable. Show up a few minutes early, introduce yourself before class, ask where the best place to set your mat is, and make sure to tell your teacher about any injuries you may have before you start.
Wait an hour after a meal and drink plenty of water
You’re not only going to be active, but you are going to be actively twisting your body into strange shapes. A main cue in yoga is to activate your core or tone your abs. Standing in Warrior 1 trying your best to tone your abs while thinking about that taco bowl you just ate is very uncomfortable. As a rule I usually wait an hour after I eat a big meal and hydrate all day. Yoga may seem like just a bunch of breathing and stretching, but before you know it you’ll be swearing off taco bowls forever.
Remember to breathe
This sounds like a silly yoga pun, but it is actually the most important thing you could ever do in your practice. Breathing is the essence of yoga. Your breath helps calm you in a mental and physical way. When you exhale your muscles relax causing them to release tension and become a little more flexible. If your forward fold is a little tight, take a deep breath and slowly exhale. Your muscles will begin to relax and you might notice a little more room to bend.
Just go out and try it! The best part is that you’ve decided to try something new. Give yourself some time and remember to keep practicing – yoga is a journey, not a destination. I hope these tips help you to have a great first class experience.
Yoga students I want to hear from you! What was your very first class like? Is there any good advice a teacher gave you as a first time student that you’d like to share?