This was originally all in with a ‘tips for new yogis’ post, but I realised that actually talking about what you can expect from your first class is enough of a subject to deserve space of it’s own. There will be a little crossover between the two posts, but I’ve tried to keep the duplication to a minimum.
So, you’ve decided to give yoga a try – but you’re not too sure what will happen when you get to class.
Arrival etiquette – if you’re attending class at a yoga-specific centre rather than a gym, you will usually remove your shoes before you go into either the studio or the changing room. There will be shelves/cubby holes to put your shoes in, and they’re usually pretty safe to stay there happily (though if you’re concerned then pop them in your bag). Reception staff will tell you where your class is, and you’ll usually wait outside the room until the previous class is finished.
Storing your things – In my experience, yoga studios aren’t the best at providing adequate storage lockers (at least not in comparison to gyms). You might get lucky, but if not then generally follow the lead of those around you – you may need to leave your bag in the changing room, or more likely be able to take it into class and leave it at the side – just make sure it’s not going to be in the way and be sure your phone is on silent.
Clothing – I’ll talk more specifically about this in my new yogis post, but in general wear something you’re comfortable in and that won’t get in your way. For any type of hot yoga or Ashtanga, don’t wear anything you’ll be uncomfortable sweating in. For more passive forms (Yin, Restorative, Nidra) you may want to take something to keep you warm if you’re prone to being cold. In any class you will get a total mix of people wearing all sorts of different things, so don’t feel that you need to go in wearing top to toe Lululemon to fit in.
When you go into the room – Either the mats will be all laid out, in which case just go and choose one (try to head for the back or middle if you can – again, something I’ll talk more about in my tips for new yogis post), or you’ll need to go and pick up a mat and select a spot. If it’s a relatively quiet class you might be lucky enough to place your mat with lots of space around it, but if the class is full you may only have a few cm either side (don’t worry about the lack of space, just arrange yourself with consideration for the people around you when you go into positions where you might clash, and they will more than likely do the same for you), so try to line your mat up with the people in front and beside you. There will probably be people around you doing complex-looking stretches, people lying with their eyes closed, people having a chat and some just sitting waiting – do whatever feels most comfortable to you. Most teachers will ask before class if anyone is a beginner so let them know – it’s quite likely that you won’t be the only one.
Equipment – Don’t feel that you have to buy a yoga mat – I think about 10% of people in the classes I go to bring their own mat. Studio mats are usually fine and used by the vast majority of people (though some smell funny – in that case I would bring my own or cover with a towel!) – if you’re practicing in a local hall or somewhere like that they may not have mats, so check before you go if you do need to bring one. When you go into class you may see some people picking up blocks, belts, blankets etc – as a general rule I would only pick these up if absolutely everyone else is doing so (this would imply that they’re used for something specific in this class) – otherwise the people with them will usually know that they need something to adjust them in a particular position and pick this up at the start of class. You won’t know if you might need this yet, but you should usually be able to rely on the teacher to suggest if you could benefit from using any type of prop as the class progresses, and if so they will often bring it to you.
Type of class – The way that class levels are listed will usually depend on the type of place you’re practising – if it’s a dedicated yoga centre you will see things like ‘Open Level’, and ‘Level 2’ – in this case, always pick Open Level or Level 1 classes (if there are no beginners drop in sessions and you’re not sure you want to sign up to a whole course). In places with a more limited offering, you’re probably fine if you just see ‘Yoga’ listed (but avoid anything intermediate or advanced – you’ll be immediately intimidated!).
Styles of yoga – If it’s your first ever class it’s probably a good idea to go for something just listed as ‘yoga’ or ‘hatha’ yoga – this is the most basic form and will help you to work out if you like what’s happening and what you like about it – once you know this you can start to try out different styles (or stick with hatha if it’s working for you) – for instance if you like the bits of the class where you feel more relaxed you could try Restorative or Yin, if you want to move a bit more or like doing sun salutations you might want to test out Ashtanga or Vinyasa. Check out descriptions of the different styles of yoga here.
Once you’ve done your first class and think you want to try a little bit more, check out my post of tips for new yogis to help you progress! (and if you didn’t like the class, maybe try with a different teacher – a yoga teacher whose style you don’t click with can put you off entirely).