Although yoga is meant to be a non-judgemental practice (toward ourselves or others), going to that very first yoga class can still feel intimidating. It’s normal to judge ourselves and worry about how we’ll compare to other students. However, it’s totally unnecessary. To boost self-confidence and overcome fear of newness, we answer the most common new student questions, so that you feel prepared for your first yoga class.
What if I’m the worst student in class?
The great thing about yoga is that it’s impossible to be the worst student in class. It’s also impossible to be the best student in class! There’s no good or bad; it’s a personal practice that is completely void of judgement. Classes are broken down into beginner, intermediate and advanced, so that students can expect how difficult a class will be, but there really is no concept of "levels" in yoga. Yoga, at it's core, is about self growth and has little to do with physical ability. As you dig deeper into yoga philosophy, this will become more apparent. For now, try to set aside self-criticism and enter your first class with an open mind. (Learn more in The Nature of Fear.)
What should I wear?
Most students will be wearing lycra: stretchy yoga pants and tight yoga tanks. While it’s definitely a fashion choice, stretchy clothes do allow you to move and also wick away sweat. However, if you’re not comfortable in tight clothes, wear loose pants and a cotton tank or t-shirt. Sweats are fine if it’s a restorative class where you’ll spend most of your time lying down. (Learn more in Restorative Yoga: Relax and Recharge.)
Which yoga class should I start with?
Most yoga studios categorize their classes according to three levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced. No matter how fit and flexible you are, it’s best to start with a beginner class. Yoga uses muscles that you might not even know you have, making even a beginner’s class challenging.
No one knows the classes better than your local studio’s front desk staff. Give them a call and ask what they recommend; they can guide you toward the best yoga teacher and class for yoga newbies.
Hatha yoga is a great choice for beginner yogis. It’s a little slower than vinyasa or flow classes and gives you a chance to learn the ins and outs of proper alignment. (Read more in Why is Alignment Important to My Yoga Practice?)
Do I need a yoga mat?
Most studios rent yoga mats for $1-$2; call the studio ahead of time to find out. If your goal is to regularly attend yoga classes and become a yogi, a yoga mat is definitely worth the investment. Not only is it more sanitary to use your own mat, but it’s the only must-have equipment for your practice. Avoid the cheap, foam-type mats, as they sometimes contain toxic plastics and never lay flat. Look for a natural rubber mat instead.
Is it better if I’m in the front or back of the class?
While you may be tempted to hide in the corner, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice. When you’re led into a pose that has you facing the wall or back of the room, you won’t be able to see what other students are doing! It’s better to set your mat somewhere in the middle of the classroom so that you have students on all sides. That way, you can easily copy whatever they’re doing.
What if I can’t keep up?
Yoga isn’t like dance. Don’t worry too much about not being able to keep up. If you start off in a slower class for beginners, you definitely won’t face this challenge. But if you happen to choose an intermediate vinyasa flow for your very first class, you might find it difficult to maintain the faster pace. Don’t worry - no one will judge you - and your teacher will prefer that you move at your own pace anyway. Lie down on your back or rest in child’s pose whenever you need. Taking mini-rests is a sign of strength in yoga, not weakness. It shows that you can set your ego aside and listen to your body. (Read more in How to Dissolve Your Ego.)
What do I bring to class?
All you really need is yourself and possibly a yoga mat. You don’t need a water bottle in class. While some people like to keep water on hand, it’s traditionally discouraged, as it both cools the body down when the goal is to warm it up. It’s also a mental distraction. It's recommended to better hydrate before and after yoga class, not during. (Read on in How to Stay Hydrated Before and After Yoga.)
You can bring a hand towel to wipe away sweat but it’s just one more unnecessary distraction. You might see some students with towels on top of their mats, but it’s better to choose a class that won’t bring you to that level of sweat, as super-heated yoga aggravates the body.
There’s not much else you need to know! Ask the studio for guidance in choosing the best beginner’s class, wear whatever makes you feel comfortable and leave your self-judgement and fear at the door. Your first class will probably be challenging and you might feel a little lost, but all students feel the same way when they first begin. A few classes in, the studio will start to feel like a safe place and sanctuary, and you’ll wonder why you ever hesitated to started yoga in the first place! (Read more in The Freedom in Letting Go.)