It can be a bit intimidating to come to a yoga class if you are a beginner – particularly if you come on your own. But the yoga basics are not difficult to grasp and you can rest assured that you will find a welcoming environment and friendly people.
There must be something in the air, a renewed energy, as I have recently had a lot of enquiries from people who have never done yoga before and now want to join a class. They all share similar concerns: ‘What shall I bring, what shall I wear, how is the class like, do I need to be flexible?’.
What shall I bring and wear?
- A yoga mat. In a yoga studio, yoga mats will be provided but you can still bring your own. For a communal class, you are usually expected to bring your own mat, unless the teacher can lend you one first time round.
- Loose-fitting, comfortable clothing. It does not have to be fashionable yoga pants and flimsy tops! Wear something that feels comfortable, allows you to move freely, and fits your personality, too. Wear layers so that you can take a jumper off when getting hot and put it on again when cooling down and relaxing at the end of the yoga session. Gents beware of wide shorts as they may reveal your private bits. Yoga is practiced with bare feet, expect to be asked to take your socks off. Think about wearing a headband or tying your hair back (I always struggle to tame mine – any tips?).
- Water. Yoga is exercise after all and you may get thirsty. Avoid getting dehydrated and feel free to take a sip from your water bottle during class.
How is the class like?
There is a huge variety of yoga styles around, usually specified on timetables, leaflets or the teacher’s website. Yoga classes range from gentle to dynamic, instructive to meditative, upbeat to relaxing, from yin yoga to pregnancy yoga.
Arrive 5-10 minutes before the class starts so that your teacher can answer any questions you may have and you have time to settle in. You may be asked to fill in a health questionnaire if this has not already been done in advance. Typically, there will be a brief period to calm down and focus, often with a breathing exercise. Next a warm-up followed by practising yoga postures and flows, and finally time to cool down and relax, sometimes with a guided visualisation. Some yoga styles include chanting and/or meditation.
Do I need to be flexible?
The short answer is no. It is interesting how many people are worried that yoga isn’t suitable for them because they are not flexible. But you don’t have to fit into yoga – yoga will fit around your requirements! You will become more flexible as a result of practicing yoga, also stronger and more balanced.
You will learn as you go along. We all have different bodies, different abilities, different strengths, different preferences. Developing self-awareness, accepting and supporting yourself, and treating your body respectfully are essential elements of your yoga practice. If you are mindful of yourself you will get the most out of every yoga class.
Practice. Enjoy. Grow.
“Yoga is 99 per cent practice and 1 per cent theory.”