9 Tips for Surviving Your First Yoga Class

Though intimidating for many first-timers, yoga is an incredible way to nourish your mind, body, and spirit. It can help you conquer your fears and overcome your ego—likely the very things that are holding you back from giving it a try. Here are nine tips to surviving your first yoga class.

Acknowledge That Trying Something New is Scary
It’s okay to be a little nervous. Trying anything new can be intimidating, especially when it seems like everyone else is already a pro. Remember: everyone had their first yoga class once. Acknowledge your fear, but don’t let it stop you. Sign up and show up—that’s the hardest part.

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Find the Right Studio and Class for You
Every studio and teacher has their own approach. Some will fit you, some won’t. Ask friends for recommendations or do a little online sleuthing. Many studios offer a complimentary introductory class or some kind of deal to make it possible to try without committing. If you don’t love your first experience, try something else.

As for classes, read up on descriptions. Yoga classes come in all shapes and sizes—from slow, relaxing yin-types to fast-paced, muscle-burning flow classes. Find something that matches what you’re looking for, and try out a few different styles to get the full experience.

Get Ready and Gear Up
Most studios will rent mats and towels, so there is no need to invest in your own equipment if you’d like to try it out before committing. Wear something non-constrictive and comfortable. Don’t worry about making a fashion statement, just make sure that you can move in what you’re wearing. Refrain from dousing yourself in perfume, cologne, or other smelly stuff. Drink plenty of water before class (including the day prior), especially if you’re trying hot yoga. Don’t eat anything too heavy and if you’re hungry an hour before, have something small and clean, like a piece of fruit or some veggies.

Tell the Teacher it’s Your First TimeTell the Teacher it’s Your First Time
When you arrive at your studio, tell the teacher that it’s your first time. The teacher will likely be thrilled to introduce you to yoga and many times, will offer specific cues throughout class so that you can follow what is going on. They might come over and offer you some adjustments—this isn’t a critique, it’s a way of teaching you the proper way of doing a pose.

Secure Prime Mat Real Estate
A beginner might feel more comfortable somewhere in the middle of the room. You want to be close enough to the front so you’re able to see what’s going on, but it helps to have a few people around you to follow if you’re not sure what a particular pose entails.

Listen and Focus on You
Many people who try yoga are intimidated because they’re afraid that those around them will be judging. Practicing yoga is all about focusing your efforts on yourself. The truth is – the people around you are preoccupied with their own poses (that involve so many different alignment cues and muscle movements) that you may hardly notice your peers. Try to turn off your mind and just listen. Listen to the teacher and try to follow their cues and tips. Don’t think, just try.

One Step at a Time
Many poses offer multiple variations but don’t feel like you need to do the maximum your first time. Yoga is about doing poses properly to benefit your body. Don’t sacrifice proper alignment for depth. Know when to reel your ego.

Have an Open Mind
Many classes will include breathing exercises, some “om”ing, and/or the singing of mantra towards the beginning and end of class. The first time you hear a roomful of people erupt into a Sanskrit chant, it can be a little startling. You don’t need to participate in chants if you don’t know them or don’t feel comfortable – just sit quietly and listen.

Classes often close with a salutation of “Namaste”. Take a moment afterwards to collect yourself, return any props you used (blocks, straps, etc.), clean down your mat and return it to the appropriate area. Congratulate yourself on having tried something new!