If you’ve never attended a group yoga class but are considering giving it a go, getting ready is thankfully very simple and taking a few minutes to do a little research on what to expect can ease some of the possible anxiety.
Before you go
- Yoga is best practiced on an empty stomach so try to avoid eating anything before attending (or give yourself as much time as possible to digest full meals), you’ll be glad you did.
- Hydration is very important so make sure to drink plenty of water before and after class. You can take a bottle of water with you, especially if it’s a Vinyasa flow or hot yoga class, but be aware that some traditional classes in the Ashtanga style would ask that you not drink during practice.
- Wear clothing that doesn’t restrict your movement in any way. Active wear is best but also consider you’ll likely be spending a bit of time upside down so a top that fits more snugly or can be tucked in would be ideal.
- Check if the venue has mats that can be borrowed but if possible, bring your own because it’s more hygienic. The mat should offer some padding and have a good grip as holding your first downward facing dog will be challenging enough without hands and feet sliding all over the place
Class structures can vary greatly depending on the style of class and teacher but they usually begin with a few moments of settling down followed by a warm up designed to get the heart rate up. The warm up is generally some form of sun salutations, which are faster paced sequences, that link movement to breath and usually include lunge position variations (Iyengar and some Hatha style classes don’t usually include this section).
The warm up is then followed by peak poses that are usually standing and may include balancing and twisting. After this, the teacher may take it into seated stretches such as forward folds or backward bends. And towards the end of the class, inversions such as a shoulder stands are taken for those who want to try then. Classes usually conclude with at least a few minutes spent in complete relaxation, this is where you just lie down flat and be still so that the mind and body can really reap the benefits of the practice, it’s the part that makes all the effort worth it.
Things to keep in mind
- Yoga is not a competitive practice and it’s very important that you listen to cues from your body as to when you should rest and take it easier. Tackling more challenging poses doesn’t usually happen on the first day (although its fun to try) and it can sometimes take years to build up enough strenght to be able to hold certain more challenging poses.
- Your breath is a good indicator of the quality of your practice and it should be full and free at all times. If you are struggling to breathe, chances are you have probably gone a little too far as there should be steadiness and ease of breath in every posture.
- It’s generally accepted in most styles of yoga that you can rest in a child’s pose (or while seated upright in a hot class) whenever you need a breather or the practice gets too intense.
- If there are props such as blocks and straps available at the venue, the teacher will usually specify what you need to have before class begins.