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How do we start yoga: answers to beginner yoga questions

Updated: Sep 5, 2021



My first yoga class


I was so nervous for my first yoga class. I didn't know what to do, what to wear, or if the people there would like me. I didn't even know what yoga was. I just knew it was supposed to be good for you since I was going with a pre-med club to get participation points.


Even though I had no idea what I was getting myself into, I tried it. I rolled out of my dorm with a loose t-shirt and jogging pants (since those were the only exercise clothes I owned) and hoped that I didn't look like a complete idiot and do the wrong thing.


I ended up loving it. Once I actually started the class, I tapped into my breath and my movement, and the anxiety melted away. I kept going back; and over time, it slowly but surely changed my life for the better: I was more relaxed, there was less pain in my body, and I became a kinder person.


So whether you're starting out to improve flexibility, relax, or because a friend is making you come; this blog post is here to answer your "I've never been to yoga, what do I do?" questions.



Things I wish I would've known about yoga before my first class


Even though, I took that first step of signing up and showing up, I wish there was someone who could've given me a heads up of what to expect or what I should do. (Google wasn't that big of a thing back in the day.)


Allow me to be the friend that tells you what's up


Questions for those curious about yoga


- What is yoga? Yoga means "yolk" or "union". It's bringing together the mind, body, and spirit through the linking of yoga poses with breathing and living the ethical practices of the yamas and niyamas. Practicing yoga is like learning how to live in your own body and relate positively with the rest of the world.


- Will yoga interfere with my religion? What are these weird words? Yama and niyama? What’s that? Yamas and niyamas are ethical practices such as non-harming, being truthful, self study, etc. The yoga that we practice in class is not a religion even though it has a traditions and asana (yoga pose) names that come from Hinduism. You are free to practice whatever religion you want. In fact, practicing yoga has inspired me to learn even more about religion. There‘s always a little spark in my heart when I’m sitting in church and something comes up where I can see the connection between what’s being said and what I’m reading about as I dive deeper into learning about yoga.


- What if I'm not flexible? You don't have to be. One of the main reasons people come to class is to improve their flexibility. There are ways to modify the poses by using props or doing the pose slightly different that still get you the same benefits. Like so many things, flexibility comes with time and practice.


Questions you might have if you've signed up for a class


- What do I wear? A whole new "yoga wardrobe" is not a necessity. Wear something that's easy to move around in. If you're not sure, try it on. Squat down. Fold forward. Lift your legs. Maybe even lay down. Does it feel comfortable? Can you see through your pants or shorts when you squat or bend over? When you lay down and lift your leg or bring it out to the side, would anyone see anything you don't want them to see? The answers to these questions could impact your decision about what to wear. I once had a pair of yoga pants with a zipper on the back. It dug into me whenever I laid down on the floor, so they're not even an option for me when I go to class.


- What do I need to bring? Well, that depends. Yoga in the west is usually practiced on a yoga mat. Some places have mats and props for you to borrow, and some don't. If you don't have these things and aren't ready to make the commitment of buying all the equipment, I recommend asking wherever you're going for they have some available and if you need to rent them or not.


That brings me back to the point of "usually". Depending on where you're practicing, you might not want a mat. When I'm at home and on carpet, I don't use a yoga mat because it moves around a lot. I just use the carpet. If I practice outside, sometimes I use a mat and other times I use a blanket or a towel or nothing at all. If you're not sure, feel free to ask the teacher or the studio leading the class. They'll be happy to answer your question and make you feel welcomed.


Questions you might have during class


- What do I do when I come in? Depending on where you’re going to class, you could do different things with shoes and sign in. For example, if you’re in a gym or community center, shoes can either be put off to the side or in the class cubbies. If you go to a studio, shoes are removed after entering in order to honor the sacred space that’s being set aside for the learning and growth that happens within the walls.


Wherever you go, please remember to silence your cell phone to prevent it from disturbing the class if it goes off. Then, find a place to put your mat and begin settling into the space. This can be done with small movements, sitting in stillness, or talking quietly with the person next to you. It's recommended that you show up 10-15 minutes early so that you're not rushed and have time to fill out any waivers for the first class.


- What are props? Those are blocks, straps, blankets, bolsters, and any other tool used to create support, connection, comfort, or sensation in a pose. If you're going to class in person, they're usually stored either at one end of the class or in a separate room. Using props does not make you better or worse than the person next to you, so feel free to try them out whenever the teacher offers it. You can experiment with them on your own too!

yoga props: strap, block, and blanket

- What exactly is Savasana, and do I have to lay down the whole time? Savasana is the final resting pose. It is a time for deep relaxation, and to allow your body to integrate everything it’s learned during the practice. The pose can be practiced anywhere from laying flat on the back without any props to being reclined or on the side supported by props. You can even sit in meditation if you’re coughing or having a hard time breathing. Ask your teacher about the different variations that are available. Once you find what’s right for you, this can easily be your favorite part of practice.



Remember, the hardest thing to do is show up. The second hardest part is remembering to breathe. Everything else comes with continued practice over time. If you can do that, you can do anything.

 

Did you have any questions that I missed? Please share them in the comments below. I'll be sure to answer them so you can be more comfortable starting this practice.

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