Your First Studio Class: Five Tips for New Yogis

Yesterday I was hosted by my dear friend Kristen, who's off galavanting all over Europe like the lucky dog she is. (In all seriousness, I'm green with envy over her amazing trip, but I hope she's having an amazing time!) She let me take over her space to chat about yoga, and I took the opportunity to be obnoxiously sarcastic, write a list, and talk about yoga...three of my favorite things!

In case you missed it, go check it out here! I'll wait.

Welcome back! Now, in case it wasn't painfully obvious, that whole list was completely sarcastic. But for new yogis and wannabe yogis and yogis just stepping out of home practice and into a studio space, I want to really set the record straight. Here's the flipside to yesterday's post, and five tips for yoga students new to studio classes:

(For Real This Time)

1. What to bring: Yoga is a workout. Of course, different types of classes will include different levels of sweat. But it's always a good idea to bring a water bottle to sip on, even if you just need an excuse to take a short break or regain your focus. If you know you sweat quite a bit, feel free to bring a hand towel to dab your face with or keep your hands from sliding around the mat. Besides that, you may see a number of different props in a yoga studio, aside from mats: straps help to be where your hands can't always be when working on flexibility; blocks help bring the ground closer to your body when you can't quite get there; blankets and bolsters may be used in restorative classes to add pressure in meditation or support under the back, knees, shoulders, etc.

A studio will most likely have blocks for students, but if you know you need them and it's your first time at a studio, it doesn't hurt to bring your own. Don't let any of these props intimidate you. There's always a modification if you don't have access to them!

2. Prepare to disconnect: How often throughout your day are you solely and 100% focused (physically) on the thing you are doing? Probably not very often. We multitask while we're working, eating, even driving to and from work. Aside from maybe being in the shower, yoga is the only part of my day where I'm not checking my phone, balancing two things in my hands and ten in my mind, or making a list. Use your class to unplug from the day and be present. This doesn't mean if you can't "clear your mind" (a complete misnomer; ask any yogi!) you're doing something wrong. But even attempting to let go and dismiss thoughts or concerns you don't need while on the mat is a crucial and a great benefit of your practice.

And on top of that, your instructor will (hopefully) give you crucial guidance through each and every pose. He/she will give instructions on pranayama, offer variations you're not sure of, and explain what the purpose is of the pose you're in or moving into. You'll miss so much of the value of your class if you don't let yourself receive every part of it—so get your money's worth!

3. Keep your eyes on your own paper: Don't worry about what anyone else—other than your instructor—is doing. No one is looking at you to judge what you're doing, so no need to do so either. You may be tempted to peek at your neighbor to make sure you understand what the instructor said if you zoned out for a second, but it's generally best to keep your eyes on your own paper. Your neighbors may be doing fuller or lesser expressions of the pose than you are, and that's A-OK. Tune in to what your instructor is saying and demonstrating, and let her/him be the one to correct your alignment or posture if you need a little guidance. That is literally exactly what they are there for. Your classmates are there for their own reasons that you may not and don't need to know.

4. What to wear: Wear comfortable, moveable, form-fitting clothing. You may feel self-conscious walking around in leggings and a skin-tight tank, but a yoga class is not the place to worry about whether or not leggings are pants. The last thing you want during your practice is for all that excess fabric to make you feel overheated, or get in the way of your downward facing dog step-through. Baggy t-shirts and wide-ankle sweatpants are great for lounging on the couch, but they'll be more trouble than they're worth in a yoga class. Keep with tight leggings or cropped pants, a supportive sports bra, and a tank top that will stay put. And you'll be taking class barefoot, so shoes that are easy to slip on and off make for fewer traffic jams outside the studio doors!

5. Stay for the best part: This is the part I find myself talking with yoga beginners about most often. People say frequently that they aren't good at yoga because they can't shut off their minds. Spoiler alert: no one can. That's not a thing. Trying to quiet your mind is really, really challenging, and even if you don't fully get there, the pursuit is rewarding in and of itself. To borrow from my instructor, consider this: You can't stop the thoughts from coming to your mind—not most of the time, at least. But a good guided meditation can bring you to a really relaxing place where you can say to those intrusive thoughts, "I see you, I acknowledge you, but you do not serve me right now or require my attention. I will come back to you later," and let them go for a few minutes. The best part about end-of-class meditation? In a good class, that exchange of energy seems to fill the air, and your neighbors can enhance and elevate your shavasana.

And as much as it can benefit you, you want to be a good classmate. Packing up and heading out while everyone else is trying to enjoy their few minutes of silence and solitude is disruptive and rude. You don't want to cap off your class experience that way. Wait until your teacher brings the class out of shavasana, seal in your practice, and be a courteous student and classmate. You may find in time that the final meditation is your favorite part of class!
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And there you have it! If you're really new to yoga, be sure to check out a few other posts I've shared about how to get the most out of this discipline. Any other questions about what to expect? Ask away in the comments!

Comments

  1. The disconnecting is always the hardest part for me, but being able to even just acknowledge and then release distracting thoughts is a major plus of yoga!

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  2. that's one thing i love about yoga - the disconnecting part. even at the gym, ahole bros are always chatting or on their phone and it totally ruins my mojo!

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  3. Great tips! I honestly don't know if I'll ever do a studio class, but some of these are applicable outside of the studio also. I've been feeling tense and stressed lately, but for no good reason (had a bunch of deadlines, but they've all passed and I can't seem to get rid of the feeling), so I've been trying to do more meditation to help with that. It's so hard! I'll find myself thinking about something else, and realize my mind drifted off a good 3 minutes ago and it took me that long to notice.

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  4. These are really great tips I dont have a problem disconnecting from my phone in classes it's stopping my mind from racing that's the hard part for me! We tackled some yoga poses in my barre class this morning and I totally thought of you! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

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  5. Whenever I read your posts about yoga, I always picture you as a traveling yogi with pop up classes in random cities because you send people on an instagram scavenger hunt to find you. Which just makes you becoming an instructor priority numero uno so you have more excuses to come to Raleigh. At least in my head.

    Also, do you have any advice for disconnecting from a cat who just LOVES to be all over you during home practice ? I swear B's cat wants nothing to do with me until the mat comes out.

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  6. Shavasana is my favorite part of yoga, I don't understand WHY people leave during the best part. It's a qualified adult NAP TIME!!! ENJOY IT!

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  7. Awesome tips- One of these days I WILL try yoga! I can't imagine leaving a class before it was fully over. When I go to Zumba or any other workout class there's a cool down and I don't leave, why would this be different? People are weird ;)

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  8. Such great tips. I'm going to my first class in a long time (besides Wanderlust) tonight and I'm kind of freaking out and feeling like a newbie. Could also be residual freak out feelings from doing something big and crazy today...hard to say.

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  9. My favorite part of the yoga that I used to do was at the very end when you la in corpse pose for a few minutes....so I totally get the shavasana part!

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  10. I tried to take some yoga classes. I want to enjoy it. I really do. Maybe I needed better instructors.

    #3 is so important. As is #4. Dress for the body you have, not the body you want (or think you have).

    And confession: I used to legit fall asleep during the cooldowns. THAT'S how you shut your mind off.

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  11. love this post!! of course, i loved your sarcastic one as well ;) i love #3. so true!

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  12. I love this!!! The disconnecting part is the one part I actually needed to get accustomed to since my phone is attached to my hands. I actually love that I get a chance to disconnect though!

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  13. I have been wanting to take a yoga class for so long I just haven't taken the plunge yet. We have a really nice yoga studio downtown, I will have to bite the bullet and go. I will admit that I am always pretty nervous about trying new things ha ha!

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