How to prepare for your first yoga class

So you did it; you signed up for your first yoga class! Congrats, you [probably] won't regret it. (kidding!! You'll love it.) I know a lot of y'all have been interested in yoga and/or dabbling in a home practice here and there and have been reluctant to take the public plunge of going to a class. 

I totally get it. 

It's intimidating to sign up for an in-person yoga class. If you're incredibly unflexible (like I was when I first started practicing several years ago), you're probably expecting to make a fool of yourself. You may be under the impression that everyone in the class will be skinny vegans who watch TV in the splits. I thought that too. 

Luckily for all of us, that is not the case -- and it's also not the right mindset to go into a yoga class. Unlike most athletic ventures, yoga isn't a competition. It's designed to be a personal journey towards becoming a better, more balanced, and more limber version of yourself. And you know what, everyone has to start somewhere. There's no better time than now to start up a yoga practice. 

I often hear people say, "Well, I'm just not flexible enough to do yoga." And I always reply, "You know who's flexible? People who do yoga."

It's a vicious cycle that non yogis get themselves into. I was totally there with ya. I didn't practice yoga because I thought I wasn't flexible enough, and I got more and more unflexible because I continued to not practice yoga. 

Doing yoga will help to increase your flexibility -- no doubt about it. Excuse busted. 

The next question I often get is, "Can't I just practice at home?" The short answer is yes, of course. But it's a bit more complicated that than. It's always nice to build a yoga practice on a solid foundation. Going to an in-person class will help you to start your practice with good habits and good form. Just like any other exercise, you don't want to do yoga with bad form. Bad form can keep you from growing in your practice and it could also cause injury. Nobody wants to claim a yoga injury. 

I like to encourage people to attend in person classes at least at the beginning, when they are first learning poses. I also like to encourage people to do check-ins every once in a while (if they don't want to or can't afford regular classes) just to make sure that their form and alignment is still in the right place. 

How did I get so distracted? I'm supposed to be telling you about how to prep for your first class. Let do a Q&A:

What should I start doing as soon as I sign up?

Stretching. Begin to make stretching part of your daily routine. It can be as simple as forward folds, lunges, neck rolls, and shoulder rolls to begin with. You could even try my popular 100-day stretching challenge.

Should I warm up before class?

I'd say yes. You're much less likely to pull a muscle during yoga if your muscles are warm when you go in. Maybe try walking or biking to class. Or just do 25 jumping jacks before class -- whatever works for you.

Should I eat before class?

That's a tough one. You don't want to go into class starving, but you don't want to go in with a fully tummy either. I recommend positioning your meal about 3 hours before your class. If you get really hungry before, have a light snack. You don't want to be the person who accidentally lets one loose in class-- especially if it's your first class. 

What should I wear?

Top: Element | Sports bra: Lorna Jane | Pants: Lululemon | Shoes Chaco | Mat: Manduka Pro | Water bottle: Nalgene

Top: Element | Sports bra: Lorna Jane | Pants: Lululemon | Shoes Chaco | Mat: Manduka Pro | Water bottle: Nalgene

Pants: I like to wear form fitting pants or shorts. I don't like loose pants (the traditional bell-bottomed yoga pants) because the extra fabric gets in my way. And running shorts are a bad choice because I don't want people to be able to see up the leg of my shorts. 

Pro tip: make sure to do a see-through check on your pants. A lot of yoga pants that appear to not be see-through when you are standing upright become very see-through when stretched into a forward fold. It's a weird thing to do, but do a forward fold in front of a mirror or a friend to see if you can see things through them. Save yourself the embarrassment in class. 

Tank: I like to wear tank tops, as opposed to tshirts, because it gives my arms freedom of movement. If I pick a more loose tank, I just tuck it into my pants/shorts when we do downward dog or anything upside down. 

Sports bra/undies: As for the stuff that goes under my clothes, I just like to make sure there is enough support in my sports bra and that my undies/panty line can't be seen through my pants.

Shoes: I pretty much always wear sandals to class. That way you can just slip them on without dealing with socks. And I've found that my feet are less smelly when I wear sandals, as opposed to running shoes.

Hair: I like to wear mine in a low pony or braid. That way it doesn't get in the way when I'm laying on my back or when I'm balancing on my head.

What should I bring?

what-to-bring-to-yoga

Keep it simple. Bring water, a mat, a towel (if you're doing hot yoga), and a good attitude. 

What should I do when I get into class?

Arrive early so that you can get your pick of spots in the room. Try to be courteous and quiet. Most classes seem to have the short edge of the mat facing the front of the room, but just do what others seem to be doing with their mats. If you notice people grabbing blocks/straps from the supply room, get the same things they're getting -- if they're regulars, they'll know what the instructor uses.

Make sure you either turn your phone off or edit the settings to where it won't vibrate or ring. Don't disrupt the class. Once you have yourself situated, sit down on your mat and do some light stretches on your own. Or you can sit patiently and wait for the instructor to begin.

What should I expect?

Expect to be challenged and surprised at what you're able to do. Have an optimistic and playful mindset towards this new adventure. Don't take yourself too seriously. If you can't touch your toes and if you fall out of a pose, that's okay! Yoga is a journey. Enjoy the place you are in. 

Also, expect to be really sore the next day. You'll be moving and stretching muscles in a way that you're probably not familiar with. Keep at it, and the soreness will subside.