Yoga is both a form of exercise and meditation. Various studies reveal yoga is helpful in controlling stress, improving bone density, and strengthening the mind and body. And it can also be combined with your exercise regime to create an excellent fitness workout.
Anyone can do yoga, but it’s a good idea to first learn all the basics to have a better appreciation of how it goes well beyond a simple physical practice.
As you enter your first yoga class, you are filled with fear and trepidation. The class is filled with women and men who look like they take yoga really seriously. They are clad from head to toe in Lululemon and their mats are top notch. There is a respectful silence in the room. You take a good look at yourself and at once wonder if you belong here.
If you can relate to the above, fret not! We’ve compiled a few do’s and don’ts for your first yoga class to help you settle in (almost) like a pro!
Yoga is a Personal Journey – No Judgments, No Pressure
In yoga, you have to go with the flow. You should follow your instructor but you also need to have a firm grasp on your body’s limitations. Vinyasa Yoga’s founder Baron Baptiste suggests adapting your movements based on your current level. This will help you feel more comfortable in a certain pose and avoid injuries.
Do also focus on alignment. It’s not so much about reaching your toes or getting your leg behind your head. Yoga pays a lot of attention to alignment as it keeps your practice safe and helps you progress better. Ignoring alignment can be detrimental to your health and body and before you know it, you might find yourself on your way to the chiropractor.
If a pose is too demanding, you can always assume the child’s pose. You can always start following the class when you are ready.
While alignment is highly important, don’t worry about performing the pose perfectly. Keep this in mind –yoga is a personal journey and you control the pace.
Don’t forget to take a seat at the front, especially if this is your first class! Leave your ego at the door and focus on why you are here. This is especially important if you learn by sight (as most people do). It can get quite hard to see (or hear for that matter) anything if you stand at the back.
Don’t be afraid to use props! If you need a block or a belt to feel comfortable in any pose, be sure to use them. They are there to help you get into correct alignment. Over time, and with regular practice, you will find that you no longer need them. But until then, it is always good to have a prop near you.
Focus on Your Breathing
Have you ever heard taking 10 breaths or less in a minute will make you live to be a hundred?
Studies reveal that taking ten breaths or less in one minute could increase the oxygen in your cells. This means you become more energetic and active.
Yasodhara Ashram founder, Swami Sivananda once said that a yogi measures life “by the number of breaths, not by the number of years.”
Controlled breathing is central to yoga. In yoga training, you will hear several instructions on how to manage your breath. All yogis need to understand how important breathing is in yoga. Achieving a relaxed but alert state of mind is only possible when you master the proper way to breathe.
Conscious breathing is the key to tapping your inner energy in yoga. Through this technique, yogis can enter different levels of consciousness. More than just a spiritual experience, conscious breathing has positive effects on your physical, mental, and emotional disposition too.
At class, remember to bring a towel. You will sweat quite a bit in yoga, and if you breathe properly, you’ll probably sweat even more! When you’re tired and sweating profusely in class, take a step back, wipe your sweat away and start again. You’ll feel as good as new.
Learn Basic Yoga Lingo
The yoga studio is an entirely different world with its own language. The best way to prepare is to familiarize the basic lingo.
Here are the most important terms in yoga and what they mean.
At the beginning and end of each yoga session, you will chant “ahh,” “oooh,” and “mmm.” These three syllables represent creation, maintenance, and destruction –together they are simply referred to as om.
Om is also the distinctive shape recognized among yoga enthusiasts –a dot on top of a slash and the number three with a tail underneath.
When chanted together, the blend of voices makes the purpose of om clearer –harmony, wholeness, and the completion of a cycle.
This term simply means breathing technique. As mentioned above, breathing plays a central role in any yoga session.
There are different breathing techniques in yoga but the most common is Ujayii. This is a prolonged breathing technique where each breath is intentional and full.
This Sanskrit term pronounced as “Nah Mah Stay” means honoring your fellow yogis. A loose translation of Namaste is “I bow to the divine in you.”
This term is often uttered at the end of the class when you sit on the mat and close your eyes. Then, you bring your palms together at chest level.
When you bow your head towards your heart, you say “Namaste.” This means honoring yourself, the people surrounding you, and the art of yoga.
This term literally translates to corpse pose. This is also the final posture in most yoga sessions.
Here, you need to lie on your back in a state of active rest. You are practically doing nothing (like a corpse).
For new practitioners, this is also the perfect time to empty your thoughts. In Savasana, you train your mind to enjoy the stillness of the moment.
When in the Yoga Studio, Silence is Golden
A yoga studio is a place for meditation. You need to observe silence throughout the session. This means chatting is a big no-no when you are inside. Don’t bring your cell phones into class. Even if your phone is on silent mode, the vibration and lights may disrupt yours and other people’s concentration. Think of yoga class as a good way to go through a technology detox. Trust us, you will feel better at the end of it!
Silence can be awkward at first -this is normal. Ultimately, you will get used to the mood in the yoga studio.
When the practice starts, you need your full concentration to tap into your inner self. You should also slow down your mind so you can get into the mood right away.
One yoga instructor, Cyndi Lee, has the perfect words to describe the value of silence during yoga sessions:
“When people come to [do] yoga, they come to empty. If the teacher is filling up too much space with talking, too much music, or too many stimuli, it makes it difficult for people to empty.”
To help you feel more comfortable with the silence during yoga class, meditate before leaving your house. Remember, yoga sessions are all about inner silence, too much noise and distraction defeat the purpose.
Grab a Light Snack and Stay Hydrated
Yoga will require you to adhere to a certain eating pattern. You should attend yoga classes on an empty stomach. It’s normal to feel nauseous during yoga sessions. But you might feel extreme nausea when you are at a yoga class on a full stomach.
Ideally, you should stop eating three to five hours before your class. As a general rule of thumb, your digestion should be completed when you step inside the yoga studio.
Remember, yoga opens up the body’s energy channels for a smooth flow. Digestion uses up a lot of energy and it can impede your moves to be fluid.
A similar rule applies to your water consumption. Thirty minutes before the class starts, take only small sips if you feel thirsty. To avoid dehydration, one yogi suggests drinking 32 ounces of pure, clean water at room temperature when you wake up and half an hour before a hot yoga class. For regular yoga, aim for at least eight ounces, 30 minutes before the session.
Avoid caffeinated and carbonated drinks.
Headaches can help you determine if you are drinking enough water. If you get a headache after yoga, you are probably dehydrated.
Now It’s Your Turn
Don’t be discouraged after your first class! You might feel overwhelmed after your first class. After all, it would probably have been a crash course in breathing and alignment. But don’t be discouraged. Try another class, and this time with an open mind. You might just be surprised at how much you’d come to enjoy it!
When your mind is in a state of chaos, so is your body. You need to take time off from all your worries and just enjoy the silence in your head.
Try pairing yoga up with a vegan diet to align yourself with the yogic ways of living and get into a great shape.
Now you know it. If you want to fully immerse in a yogi’s lifestyle, start with these tips!
Jade Hong is a founder of HiGlamour.com. Having worked for a large nutraceutical company in Canada for years, she became well-versed on health subjects and has written many articles on healthy lifestyle, beauty and relationships.
Elaine is an aspiring Ashtangi who tries to get on the mat daily. She is a yoga teacher who believes that she learns more from her students than they do from her. Elaine is also a Content Marketing Team Lead at BookYogaRetreats.com.