What to expect from your first Yoga class...
So, you have decided to give yoga a try. Yoga is more than just physical exercise, yoga is a process of transformation, peace and self-discover (in my opinion anyway).
You probably know some of the benefits of yoga, from managing stress and anxiety, improving your flexibility and balance, increasing endurance, strength, stamina and also allows you to experience relaxation at it's best.
But, the thought of walking into a yoga class is a daunting one, what happens if you fall, what happens if you're faced with poses you just Can. Not. Do? What if you come in with great expectations and they don't materialise, what if the class isn't anything like you expected? What will the other people be like?
Yoga classes differ from teacher to teacher and venue to venue. Unlike choreographed fitness classes, yoga classes are the creation of your yoga teacher and their philosophy about what yoga is - to them. And, the word Yoga means something to you.
Some people think of yoga as bendy handstands or challenging poses like the crow or splits, some think it's just meditation or the tree, others stretching and other people see yoga as singing, chanting, praying or religious and some people think it is just exercise - the truth is at the heart of yoga it is all of these things and more.
Yoga is for everybody, but having taught mixed ability I have found that beginners walking in to a mixed ability class is intimidated and conscious, leaving feeling paranoid and disappointed in themselves, equally the more advanced practiser can feel disappointed they didn't attend a more challenging class - if your into headstands/handstands and floating splits on your first session my classes will not be what you are looking for, if you want to increase strength, flexibility, body awareness, less fatigued, less frazzle, have more confidence and peace of mind then this class is ideal, if you are nervous, shy or anxious then again my classes are designed for all of you.
I put together this little guide to give anyone thinking about starting yoga as heads up at what to expect. This is just a few things I've heard before.
YOGA IS A GENTLE STRETCH
Yoga is a full body stretch...but I don't know if I would call it a gentle stretch.
I predominantly teach a slow and progressive yoga (Hatha) which is typically advertised as a relaxing, stretching and flexibility class - and it is. However, and it's quite a bit however, you may be using muscles that you have not used for a long time, you will be holding poses for at least 30 seconds - I have clients who go to 6 exercises classes a week and find that the poses that they do in a cool down are harder than they thought.
So be aware that you could feel achey the day or two afterwards. This is called DOMs or Delayed Onset of Muscular Soreness, which is experienced any time you increase demand on your body. DOMs are pleasure pain, because you know you have worked your muscles so increasing flexibility and strength but a sore reminder. Drinking orange juice/milk or taking an Ibuprofen can help.
Stretching and flexibility is a process that takes time - remember you are going to yoga to honour your body not punish it.
YOUR TEACHER WILL EXPECT YOU TO GET THE POSES THE FIRST TIME
No, a teacher is there to teach you - period. Some of the poses can look complicated, some require thought getting into them, some require strength and flexibility, some you just can't get by looking and need the verbal cues...that is normal.
Yoga isn't a competitive competition, it is a process of development. If you get it wrong - and we all do, it really doesn't matter. If you do the pose a wrong leg and face everyone, so what we all do that and we all have a little laugh/cringe (if its you) because we know how awful it feels.
If you get the poses right 1st time, great and if you don't great - there is never any judgement.
YOU'LL GET A WORKOUT
As you develop you will develop into more demanding poses and sequences, certainly a beginners class will focus on alignment and safe postures, building your flexibility and strength.
Correct technique and posture is a workout, but not the hot sweaty workout that you might expect.
I CAN ALREADY BREATHE
Yes, you can. But, the yoga breath is a complex skill to master and does require concentration. Hardly anyone masters the yoga breath in the first weeks. The yoga breath can be as challenging as the crow or the splits.
YOU'LL FEEL RELAXED THE WHOLE WAY THROUGH
Yoga is well known to promote relaxation and stress relief. Sometimes when you walk into your first class your mind is whirling wondering how to do a pose, if you got it right, what if you do it wrong, how the hell do you even breathe?!
Then meditation is totally relaxing, right? Of course, but sometimes you just can't relax the first time. Expect a guided meditation and expect a full body relaxation; this was once described as a story that the participant couldn't stop thinking of something else happening and Santa appearing which was not the vibe I was going for!
So my advice to you is:
Try yoga with an open mind
Expect to not "get it" your first session, but keep going
If you don't get how to do a pose, Ask. PLEASE, this helps me and it helps you.
Give feedback, if you liked something, need something or want to develop something let your teacher know.
There is no right and wrong - only safe.
If you loved the class leave a good review and if you didn't give your teacher feedback so they can develop their teaching craft and they can be aware.
Your yoga teacher is a person too, not an icon
Finally, remember above all else to ENJOY yourself!
Hope you have an amazing yoga journey.