So you’ve decided to take a yoga class – now what? The stress of preparing for your first class is overwhelming. So many decisions: What do I wear? What if I don’t own a mat? What about personal space – how do I handle a crowded class? What is the basic etiquette? What if I don’t understand something? Do I need to learn Sanskrit? How will I know what my teacher is talking about? The stress of going to your first class is enough to make you need yoga!
The most important thing you need to know for your first class is: don’t forget to breathe. Everything else will fall into place.
- Arrive on time! Coming in late not only robs you of important warm up exercises, but also interrupts the other students.
- Leave your cell phone outside of the class. Having your phone ring during class is a no, no. Turn it off completely, and leave it with your other personal belongings in the locker room.
- If you borrow a yoga mat from the studio, clean it afterward. This ensures the healthy and safety of other practitioners.
- Do not wear perfumes to class. You will be doing deep breathing exercises. No matter how great it smelled when you first put it on, your neighbors will not appreciate the perfume and sweat mixture that now fills their lungs.
- Do not interrupt class unnecessarily. Asking your instructor to clarify something is always great, but asking your neighbor about her vacation plans can wait until class is over.
- Crowded classes: occasionally, you will stumble into a class that is standing room only. Typically this isn’t a big deal, until you have to bring your hands or feet out to the side. Be mindful of your neighbors, and adjust yourself to ensure nobody receives an unwelcome foot to the nose!
- Your clothing should be something comfortable that fits well. Nothing so loose that it flips over your head, and nothing so tight that it’s uncomfortable. You do not need expensive clothing to participate in yoga. You will soon find some of the more expensive yoga brands are tight and restrictive. You’ll want comfort from your clothing – something that moves with you.
- Yoga is done barefoot. For health reasons, please ensure your feet are in good health. If foot fungus or other contagious foot-related issues are a concern, try yoga socks or something with grips.
- If you must leave early (and it’s preferred that you don’t), leave prior to Savasana, the final pose of the class.
What is My Instructor Talking About?
You want me to align my what? What do you mean “engage my core”? Take a vinyasa? Who is Vinyasa and where am I taking him? Some of the yoga terminology can make your third eye go blind. As previously stated: just don’t forget to breath. Yoga in itself is similar to learning a new language. No one would expect you to be fluent in Spanish after 1 class, so why would learning yoga be any different? Let’s go over some of the most common terms you will hear in each class:
Asana: Pose. This refers to the pose. You’ll see that each pose will have an English name and a Sanskrit name. When in Sanskrit, it will have the word “asana” at the end of the name.
Engage (referring to muscle groups): “Engage” means “to activate.” Example: “Engage the core” means to pull the navel into the spine, activating the abdominal muscles.
Chakra: Your body has 7 main chakras, and each chakra serves a different function. Translated, Chakra means “wheel.” These 7 spinning wheels work in harmony to ensure proper mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. The start at the base of the spine and go all the way up to your crown.
Om: promounced A-U-M. This is the root sound; the beginning and the end. It is the sound of consciousness. Imagine a yogic tuning fork, and when you strike the tuning fork, you resonate in the vibration. Om works in the same manner. Your instructor may have you chant this sound followed by silence. This is to absorb the vibration.
Prana: Breathe or life force. Pranayama is simply the practice of breath, or breath work.
Namaste: This is a word you’ll hear a lot in yoga, primarily at the end of each class. Simply put, it means “The light in me recognizes the light in you.” To dig a little deeper, you may hear something to the effect of “There is a place in each of us where the entire Universe dwells. It is a place of peace and love and light. When you are in your place and I am in mine, we are One.”
Learning yoga can be intimidating, but with a small amount of knowledge and a few deep breaths, yoga can and will become the best decision you’ve ever made for your overall health and well-being. Go in Peace. Namaste.