What to Expect at your First Yoga Class

Ready to try your first yoga class? If you are at all intimidated by the thought of moving your practice out of your living room and into the yoga studio, here’s a guide for how to proceed and what to expect when you make it to the shala (studio) for the very first time.

1. Make sure you have a Mat

At PHD Yoga, we do provide yoga mats; however, your mat will be making direct contact with your entire body (including your face!), so it’s recommended that if you are investing time in your well being, it is worth investing a few pounds in your own personal mat

You can buy yoga mats for under 20 pounds on Amazon.

Choose which class is most appropriate. This is a very important step because you want to attend a class that will move at an appropriate pace and keep you safe. Classes that are labelled for beginners are obviously the best, but you can also look for words like “Introduction,” “Basics,” “Gentle,” and “All-Levels” to be sure you’re headed in the right direction.

PHD offer small intimate classes where all levels are catered for, but please discuss with your instructor if you have any specific needs.

2. Picking the right Class for you

3. What to Wear

For yoga, appropriate attire includes loose, comfortable, active wear that won’t restrict your movement. You want your clothing to be loose enough for you to move in, but not so baggy that it gets in your way or that your teacher can’t see your form. A tank top and leggings/yoga pants for women, and a t-shirt and elastic-waisted shorts for men should be perfect. You may also want to bring a long-sleeved layer, as it’s common to get cold at the end of a practice. Finally, it is customary to have bare feet during class. This is so you don’t slip.

No matter what style of yoga you choose to pursue, yoga is ultimately about slowing down and calming the nervous system. Therefore, start yourself off on the right foot (no pun intended) by avoiding rushing and stressing yourself out by being late. The studio will be open about 15 minutes before the start time, so why not take advantage of a few extra minutes, and to get yourself settled.

4. Arrive 10 to 15 Minutes Early

5. What to Bring into the Room

We have already mentioned your yoga mat, but water, and a small towel (if you plan on sweating) into the space. That is it. An important piece of etiquette is that you should not bring your phone into the studio space, as your practice is a time to unplug and disconnect from technology.

You’ll also leave your shoes outside of the yoga room, so just see what everyone else is doing and go with the flow. As you enter the room, find a spot where you can see the teacher well. Also, it is proper etiquette not to step on anyone else’s mat while you are in transit

Your mat should be unrolled so that the edges curl down toward the floor. Line the mat up with those of your neighbours so that you help to create organized rows (unless you are advised to arrange in a different orientation).

“Props” are the tools you can use to help accommodate for anatomical differences in your poses (i.e., arm length, flexibility, etc.), and include blocks (foam or cork), blankets, straps or belts, and bolsters(pillows).

PHD Yoga do supply these but you are more than welcome to bring your own if you wish. If the teacher knows you are new to the practice, she will give you some guidance on how to use them, but the basic rule is that they should be used to bring more stability and easefulness to your poses.

6. Unroll Your Mat and Get Some Props

7. Communicating During Class

If you need to communicate with the teacher, do so before (not during) class. It’s common practice to tell your teacher before you begin if you have any injuries or are pregnant so he/she can provide you with proper modifications and guidance.

It’s also a good idea to let them know you’re a beginner! But once class starts, the proper etiquette is to remain quiet and attentive. If you’re in a situation where you feel confused or in danger, simply raise your hand or wave the teacher over so she can come to you.

The following are some common yoga traditions that you may encounter in your first public yoga class.

  • Chanting Om: Many yoga classes begin and end the class by chanting the sound “Om.” This Sanskrit word is said to be the sound of creation, and helps to unite energy and bring sacredness to the practice.

  • Child’s Pose: This pose is the most common and accepted “resting pose” in the physical practice, and is a good one for you to be familiar with for when you need to take a break. From your hands and knees, simply sit back on your heels and put your forehead on the floor with your arms outstretched or wrapped back around your legs. Feel comfortable taking this pose anytime.

  • Savasana: Pronounced sha-VAH-sah-nah, this is always the final resting pose in any yoga class. It translates to “corpse pose,” and while that might sound morbid, it simply represents the natural ending of the practice, and reminds us that everything in life happens in cycles. The pose is quite simple; you’ll just lie on your back for a few minutes while the benefits of the practice absorb into your system.

  • Namasté: The tradition at the end of any yoga class is for the teacher and students to say the word “Namasté” to each other. This word has many beautiful translations, but essentially means “I bow to the Divine in you.”

8. Yoga Traditions You Can Expect During Class

9. And last but not least……

Make It a Routine

Sometimes the hardest part is making it to the studio in the first place! Once you’ve crossed the threshold, remember that the practice only truly becomes effective once you’ve made it a routine. You wouldn’t go to the gym only once and expect results, would you?

At first, you can aim to go yoga class twice a week and see how you feel. You will likely notice an increase in strength, flexibility, calmness, and better sleep as a result. And don’t forget to relish the feeling of accomplishment for doing something new and good for yourself. You deserve it!