That's what I hear so often from people wanting to join a yoga class. Not knowing what to expect, then not realizing that there are many different types of yoga so it can all seem quite confusing and overwhelming.
Here's what you need to know:
The types of yoga
What to bring & how to dress
What happens in a class
What you do
Types of Yoga
Much of the yoga around is hatha, ashtanga or vinyasa flow. Hatha is a general style and easy for a beginner to join. Ashtanga and vinyasa flow can be quite quick. What I struggled with in the beginning joining vinyasa classes is that because of the fast pace, I struggled with looking up at what the teacher was doing, then trying to get myself in that position and the pose had already moved on...but that's just me! There are many reasons these classes are so popular so try different styles and different teachers no matter where you live to see which teacher you click with best. That is more important than the style of yoga really.
There is yin yoga which is incredibly slow, could be holding a pose for 5 minutes or longer. Restorative yoga is also slow and doesn't include many poses either. (Click here if you want to know more about the difference in these 2 styles.)
I teach zen yoga. Yes it's actually a thing, not just that I wanted to name my company after zen, calmness, like the fad. If you want to read why I chose the style of zen yoga, here ya go. It's pretty much Hatha yoga using qigong to work the body's energy lines. I teach men and women of all ages, mostly over 40s who are looking to relieve the stresses of the week, tone up, feel stretched, energised and relaxed.
What to Bring & How to Dress
Bring an open mind and know that you will forget about the to do lists and your cares for an hour. We leave the day behind and find a calm place within the mind and body. Dress however you want - comfortably in clothes that aren't too loose fitting. We don't wear socks when practicing yoga. You can if you want though it's not as easy to do yoga with socks on. Bring a water bottle.
I have mats to borrow though I recommend you buy your own, partly because it's really fun to get a new amazing mat and partly because you are more committed to making changes in your life if you invest in it. Plain and simple.
TK Maxx has amazing mats to choose from. I recommend this brand because it's inexpensive and they last a very long time. No it's not recyclable but I used to analyze textiles for life cycle analysis - it's typically better to buy something once that will last for much longer than buying something 'environmentally friendly' that you will have to buy 5 times over your yoga lifespan.
What Happens in a Class
For your first class, I'd like you to arrive 15 minutes early so you can fill out a registration form and we can chat about any concerns, past injuries or surgeries. This is important so I know the right cues to give if you have hurt your back, experience wrist pain etc. You won't be singled out like 'hey, the new person over there fell off her bike so she needs to not do this pose.' Don't worry it won't be like that. More on adaptions in a minute. (**After your first class you should always get to a class at least 5 minutes early. It's impolite to come in late as everyone else is getting calm and checking out of the day, then someone comes in and changes the tone of the room. So leave earlier please!)
So you fill out the form, we chat, you sit on the mat and other people will be coming in getting their mats out and taking a space. Say hello and introduce yourself. Everyone is really friendly and helpful. They will know you are new to class as almost everyone that comes to my classes keep coming back. Knowing they were once in your shoes, they will be even more friendly and welcoming.
I start the class by explaining the theme of what we have been discussing and what we will do in the class. For example, the past 2 months we are in the Harvest Season of the Zen/Asian Calendar which means we are working the stomach and spleen energy lines. The theme is creating space in your mind to allow for more calm and less overthinking and over-analyzing. We are doing this by practicing a different mindful meditation over 10 weeks and perfecting a breathing technique.
Then we get get into the session! Each pose is explained and demonstrated so you see what I do and listen to the explanation of how we do it. Zen yoga is for all levels, especially for beginners. I have quite a few people that are seated in chairs so there's not too many reasons you can't join in! Each position has between 2 - 5 adaptions so there is something for everyone. The way poses are explained is often Level A for complete beginners, Level B for those that attend regularly and Level C for advanced yogis that have practiced for several years.
What You Do
Rule Number 1: don't look at other people and compare yourself to them. Complete waste of time. Trust me. This is your journey so own it and keep moving forward.
Watch what I'm doing, listen for the cues. If you don't get the breathing at first, it doesn't matter. Just breathe. If you notice you are holding your breath, that's ok too. You will inhale eventually! There can be a lot to think about when you start yoga. So focus on the moves and the rest will come in time.
2) Nothing is gained by pushing yourself into a pose. Go to about 60% of where you think you can go and then ease into it.
3) If something hurts, go back to what you were doing before. For the love of God, DON'T keep going! :D
4) Remind yourself of rule numero uno (Don't compare yourself to others!)
5) If you want a break, take one. Go into child's pose, see photo.
A lot can happen on a mat. When we finally stop and take an hour our for ourselves, thoughts, emotions, things you don't even realize can come to mind. Be kind to yourself. Take a break in child's pose or laying on your back if you need it.
6) You don't actually have to do what I say! If there's an adaption that you don't like, do something you enjoy or spend longer in pose that is giving you a good stretch.
Towards the end of the class is a relaxation period called savasana which is between 5 - 12 minutes. Everyone goes into the most difficult yoga pose there is....corpse pose. You lay on your back with your palms face up and allowing you feet to splay out wherever. This is the most difficult pose because no one truly knows how to relax anymore. Typically relaxing music is played, you may be talked through a body scan. It's the time to allow the after yoga feeling to settle into the body before walking out of class back into reality.
In some classes there is a meditation or mindfulness practice. You will be guided through this. Huge myth about meditation is that you have to calm your mind or get rid of the thoughts. Couldn't be further from the truth! A good meditation teacher guides you through with direction but choosing the right words that allow you to notice the thoughts then allow them to dissipate. It's challenging at first but true meditation leads you to a state of finding the deep happiness within.
Traditionally in zen there are 9 bows at the end of a class though we do 3 seated bows. First, we bow to our practice. Second, we bow to the teachers that have passed down these traditions to us. And lastly we bow saying 'Gaosho' which means 'I humbly bow to the light in you.' It's the Japanese version of namaste.
So I hope it's not as overwhelming as it seems with this explanation. Please message me with any questions. I'm happy to help. Check out my FB page where I add lots of regular info. My Instagram where there are tons of these magical things called random talking videos. And lastly, I'm here to help so reach out to me.
I look forward to seeing you in class!