Just a few short years ago, I was the girl who never thought twice about yoga. I ran, I did tricep dips from time to time (never got around to my biceps back then.. poor guys). To me, it honestly seemed like not enough of a challenge for this impatient, sweat-craving, sometimes ADD-ridden Yankee.
That all changed when I went with a friend to my first power vinyasa yoga class in my hometown of Lancaster, PA. This was years ago, but I remember how I instantly liked my teacher & the urban chic of the tiny 2nd floor studio.
Those next 90 minutes on my mat shifted my view on yoga forever. It was no longer this ancient, un-relatable practice, it was hard work! I was moving my body in ways I hadn’t before. Growing up as a soccer and field hockey player, my legs and arms tended to vacillate on one plane (back and forth)– with yoga, I felt like I began wringing out all those years of pounding the grass & never taking more than 2 minutes to stretch before games (admit it.. you’ve probably skipped the stretches in workouts once or twice.. or 100 times).
In the months and years following the first, memorable yoga class, I’ve had many, many more classes & began teaching myself. I often get some nervous, first-time students wondering what their first class will be like. In my humble opinion, here are 5 helpful tips to get the most out of your class:
1). Expect an open environment – I have so much love for everyone who walks through our studio doors. It’s an automatic acceptance that we as teachers bring to students, and students bring to teachers. Don’t worry about looking silly, not knowing a pose, or falling in the balance series. Yogis are known to be very respectful.. and honestly, they are probably so involved in their own practice that they are not looking at you. So be open. Try something new. Make it a goal to stumble.. that way you’ve succeeded, not failed.
2.) Don’t get freaked out by OMs. If you’re in a vinyasa practice where the teacher leads a guided OM.. it’s cool! It’s not a religious thing.. we are simply sharing energy. If you’re self-conscious.. simply close your eyes and listen. But I’ll bet through consistent practice, OMs will become a part of class that you look forward to.
3.) If you practice in a heated room, prepare to SWEAT! We keep our hot classes at 90 degrees. I’m not a sweaty person by nature, but I WRING out my clothes after a hot practice. Your body is working hard to cool itself, so go into the class being totally fine with sweat. Bring or rent a towel for your mat.. once your hands get too slippery, you’ll need it.
4.) Set an intention. Whether or not your teacher gives you a moment to set an intention for your practice- do it! Think about what brought you into the room, and WHY you are practicing yoga. Then, in a tough pose, remember that “WHY” and take a giant breath. You’re here, you’re doing great, and your body needs this.
5.) Have fun. So cliche, but so true. If you dread your practice, you won’t come back. You’ll miss out on all the amazing life shifting things that come with a consistent practice, so bring some fun into the class. Smile. No one is staring at you, so let the corners of your mouth turn UP and let your mind chatter turn DOWN. See fun in the smallest things.. in being upside down, in rolling your spine on the mat, in Happy Baby pose..anything!
Yoga has changed and continues to change my life, yet it’s taken me years of looking back to see how those shifts have taken place. So give it time. Everyone, even the most experienced Yogi, started with their very first class.