Ten Tips for Yoga First-Timers

Being a beginner at anything can be exhilarating and terrifying, intimidating as well as inspiring. First-time experiences spawn new hobbies, loves, and habits; however, they also send us scurrying back to the safety of routine if we’re overwhelmed by the new endeavor.

Yoga classes overwhelm people all the time. Lack of preparation, unrealistic expectations, and the occasional wave of nausea because no one told you to forgo the nachos before class can all throw your foray into yogic bliss off course, which is why I’m here to help.

  1. Know before you go. Is the class heated? How long is it? Can you rent a mat onsite, or do you need to bring your own? You don’t need to play 20 questions with the studio manager on the phone before your first visit, but you do need to have a vague idea of what you’re getting into. Studios and styles of yoga vary greatly. Some rules of the road are only learned through experience, but there are plenty of ways to inform yourself in advance. Keep reading, for example.
  2. Hydrate. Most unpleasant first-time yoga experiences and plenty subsequent unpleasant yoga experiences result from lack of preparation, particularly as it relates to nutrition. If you’re venturing into a heated class, this point is especially important: drink lots of water. Similarly, watch what you eat. Yoga aids digestion; however, it can’t do so if it has to compete with a latte, a burrito, two Red Bulls, and an afternoon vending machine raid. Eat lightly and healthfully, and don’t forget to bring a bottle of water.
  3. Skip the mayhem; arrive early. A common foible among beginners is to arrive just on time or, even, a little late. This isn’t a restaurant opening, people. Get there early so you can acquaint yourself with your surroundings and, perhaps, the teacher. The goal here is to beat the rush, so that the studio’s staff can spend enough time helping you get situated before being overrun by throngs of yogi veterans.
  4. Back row is best. As previously stated, it’s not a swanky restaurant opening, nor is it a Celtics game. The front row is no place for first-timers. The back row is much better, as you’ll get the gist of what to do by watching those around you (please note: this should not be confused with looking around the room or ogling others, see #8).
  5. Dress the part. Skip the slinky tank tops, booty shorts, and baggy mesh anything. Yoga poses demand a lot from your body and attire. You’ll be up, down, upside-down, and backwards. Make sure your clothes can comply.
  6. Guys, this is important … Doff your hats. Sox cap, fedora, beanie: it doesn’t matter what it is, take it off. It’s impractical and, frankly, embarrassing for all involved. Don’t ask questions; just trust me here.
  7. Shhhh. Some things are sacred. You don’t gab in church or chatter during your buddy’s backswing. Similarly, don’t talk in yoga class. Yoga is the experience of reconnecting to yourself. If you want to catch up with a pal, it’s better for everyone if the two of you did so over lunch at Stephanie’s.
  8. Keep your eyes on the prize. As a beginner, glimpsing around the room is somewhat necessary because you don’t know the lingo yet. However, looking around for interesting outfits, dating prospects, or a distraction from what is meant to be a meditative practice is counter-productive.
  9. Experience gratitude. You can practice yoga for the rest of your life, so there’s no need to conquer it all on the first try. Instead of fretting if you fumble with poses, be grateful that you have a healthy body that allows you to try new things, express yourself, and unwind.
  10. Rest. Deep, meaningful rest is one of the greatest gifts that yoga practice gives us. Savor this from the start.