Beginner's Guide to Yoga
Walking into a yoga studio for the first time can be scary. Look, I get it. I was there once. Ten years ago, a dear friend asked me to go to a Bikram class with her, and I was terrified. I didn't know what to wear or what to expect. I was nervous about the heat. But I took a deep breath and I stepped inside that studio, and I fell madly in love with yoga.
Since then I've tried various types of yoga and currently I'm having a love affair with Vinyasa, though I'm sure I'll continue to love many forms of yoga throughout my life.
But what if you're new to the practice? What if you don't know "vinyasa" from "buti" and you just want to ease your way in?
First things first, make sure you sign up for a Beginner's Class. They will usually be labeled with a clue, like CP1 or Basic Flow. If you're not sure, read the class description or call the studio. Also, Community Classes are usually more appropriate for beginners, since these are reduced price (or sometimes free) classes and often times filled with attendees who don't have monthly yoga passes (aka people who don't go to yoga 5 times a week.)
Also, if I could tell you 3 things before you step foot into your first yoga class, it would be this:
1. Yoga is personal.
2. Yoga requires a combination of strength and flexibility. (Don't tell me you're not flexible enough for yoga. That's like never starting tennis lessons because you don't know how to serve.)
3. Yoga will show up for you as long as you show up for it.
Those are facts. The rest, is up to you.
You signed up for a group class. Now what?
1. Wear: for the ladies, fitted, breathable pants or shorts, a sports bra, and your top can be loose but not too loose. You don't want to be fidgeting and pulling your shirt down during each downward facing dog. A fitted top or just a sports bra is always acceptable, if you feel comfortable with that. Guys, I recommend loose, stretchy pants or regular gym/basketball shorts with cycling shorts underneath. A loose (but not too loose) shirt, tank, or muscle tee is perfect. If you'll be in a hot yoga class, moisture-wicking fabric is ideal since you will indeed be sweating quite a lot. Ladies, don't forget a hair tie if you have long hair.
2. Bring: a yoga mat (unless the studio provides one), a towel, and a water bottle. For beginners, a yoga mat with extra cushion is ideal, as it will allow you to get comfortable and feel grounded as you begin your yoga journey. It will also protect your knees and elbows. If you are attending a heated yoga class, bring a mat-sized towel to reduce slippage (something like this), and a hand towel to wipe your brow. If the class isn't heated, just a hand towel is all you need. And hydration is always key, so bring a re-usable water bottle (because we love Mother Earth).
3. Extra Points: Always remember to bring your smile. This is yoga! Have fun! And get ready to leave feeling better than you did heading into class, and that is something to smile about.
What if I'm more interested in a home practice?
Online Videos are a great place to explore your practice, though group classes are great early on so that you can see and learn from a trained instructor. However, if you feel like you have a good sense of the basic poses and alignment, I am a firm believer that a home practice is where you can really see your yoga practice progress. It's easier to challenge yourself and try new poses when you aren't worried about making a fool of yourself in front of a room full of yogis. (Though trust me when I say no one is there to judge you. Celebrate every wobble, every fall. They are steps toward mastery.) Not to mention a home practice is cheap and convenient!
When I first rolled out my mat in my home, I followed Yoga With Adriene's 30-day challenge on Youtube, and the next thing I knew, I was on day 112 and feeling more alive than ever before. It didn't hurt that I started seeing my abs, as well.
If you have a full-body mirror, practice in front of it, as it is a great tool to stay aware of your alignment and help ensure a safe practice. Also if you are trying to learn a new pose or an inversion, set up your phone and record yourself. Watching videos of myself practicing my headstand helped me see where my hips were in relation to my shoulders and where I was incorrectly dumping my weight. The next time I went upside down, I nailed it. Don't believe me? Try it for yourself.
I really want one-on-one assistance:
If you find yourself wanting more one-on-one attention, wishing someone could answer every alignment question you have, or just want someone to create a class specific to your mood that day, private classes may be for you. I teach private classes and I absolutely love them, because we can really dig in to your strengths and weaknesses and cater to your body that day/week/month. It's also easy to point out progress when working one-on-one, as you have someone personally leading your growth, eager to help you celebrate every little victory.
The yoga epidemic that is sweeping our country makes me so happy.
The beauty of yoga is that you don't have to be advanced or bendy to reap the benefits. Yoga has the power to calm the mind and sculpt the body, and there is a class or video or practice for every single body.
Come for the abs. Stay for the mind/body connection, the enlightenment, the increase in compassion and self love.
Tell me, what is the one thing holding you back from practicing yoga? Or what was the magic moment that helped you get past your fear and enter your first studio? I'd love to know more about your personal yoga journey, so write to me in the comments or over on Instagram at @TiffanyNapper.
Wishing you whitespace and wellness and more yoga,