When I went to my first yoga class, I was really nervous about it. As a complete beginner to yoga, I didn’t know any of the yoga norms or that was a yoga etiquette.
Upon entering the yoga studio I found out that there are norms and etiquette to a yoga studio and class. These are designed in a way so that upon entering the studio everyone can enter a safe space and then be able to get the most from their yoga practice.
There is so much more to yoga than stretching and just breathing. And so for anyone interesting in starting yoga and joining a yoga studio has a look at what it would be helpful to know before your first yoga class.
- Why Do Beginners think Yoga Is Hard: Is it really?
- Top 11 Misconceptions About Yoga
- Should You Wear Underwear With Yoga Pants? Is It Necessary?
- Do I Have To Do Yoga Barefoot? Does It Matter?
- 8 ways NOT to Fart In Your Next Yoga Class
Arrive early for your first yoga class
Aim to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early for your first yoga class. This way you will become familiar with the space, you can talk to the teacher and introduce yourself, set up your yoga mat, and even ask someone in the class for advice on what props to use, and basically, get yourself settled.
Arriving early is a nice opportunity to get settled. The last thing you would want is to arrive stressed for your first class. By arriving early you get the opportunity to become familiar with the space and perhaps even speak to some other students in the class.
In my studio I often notice my older students guide the newer students and advise them on where to position their mat in the class and what props to use. It is beautiful to see as in most cases I remember them as the new students seeking out advice.
Try the beginners class
Try to first go to a beginners class. The reason is that beginners yoga classes are aimed at complete beginners. they will guide you along with the basic concepts and principles that most other classes take for granted. This way you will learn the fundamentals of breath and movement, at a gentle pace.
One thing to remember is that everyone in that class is a beginner and so there should be no room for judgment, just a very relaxing learning environment tailored to your needs.
Most yoga classes follow a similar structure
Yoga classes generally follow a specific structure. First, once everyone is settled, the teacher greets the class and helps the students focus on their breath. Next, the teacher guides the class through a sequence of postures (either dynamic or gentle). The class then ends in a relaxing savasana.
The type of poses the class moves through depends on the type of class. For example in a dynamic practice like Ashtanga yoga, the breath becomes the guide through a dynamic sequence of postures. For a more gentle class like a Hatha yoga class, the class will be less dynamic and there will be some more relaxing postures. For an even calmer class like yin yoga, you may just do up to 10 postures in a class.
Regardless of the type of yoga class that you choose, you will leave feeling relaxed and more alive than you felt when you walked int to the studio.
You probably wont be able to do all the poses
As a beginner, you may find some of the poses challenging. One main reason is that when we first start yoga, we ask our bodies to move it ways that are new. We ask certain muscle groups to move in ways that we are not used to and we ask it to start finding a greater range of motion.
This is something completely normal. You may have the flexibility to easily sit in lotus in your first class, and yet struggle with poses requiring flexibility, like plank pose. Or you may experience the opposite.
Either way, yoga is a way to find our limitations and try to work on them. And through consistent practice, you’ll be amazing at what you are to accomplish.
You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga
This is something most beginners ask me. Can I do yoga even though I am not flexible? Absolutely! You definitely do not need to be flexible to do yoga. Flexibility is something that you can work on and develop through a consistent yoga practice. Just give your body time and you’ll see the results.
If this is something that concerns you, then definitely check out my article: 8 Reasons You Don’t Need To Be Flexible To Do Yoga
Introduce yourself to the teacher
Introducing yourself to the teacher is very polite, as yoga teachers want to get to know everyone in their class. This is also important as you will need to tell them about any injuries or pains that you have so that the teacher is able to offer you alternatives in each pose.
Your teacher will most likely want to talk to you after the class to make sure you were ok and to perhaps offer you any guidance.
Your teacher may adjust you in some poses
Depending on the type of yoga and with the student’s permission, teachers may offer hands-on adjustments. These can feel wonderful are intended to help students with their alignment, to prevent injury, and/or to help the students get deeper into the pose.
One thing to point out to yoga beginners is not to feel discouraged when the teacher offers an adjustment. Instead, they are trying to help you and find more ease in the pose.
Correct breathing is important
In yoga, we are guided to breathe in a particular way. This is because how you breathe can affect how you feel. Focusing on your breath can help quiet your mind. Studies have shown that conscious breathing may help with stress and anxiety and generally can help us cope with our ever-demanding lives.
It is very common for beginners to a yoga class to hold their breath, especially in poses they find challenging. At first, you may find it difficult to follow your teacher’s breathing instructions. And that’s ok. Breathe at your own pace and with time you will be able to follow your teacher’s guidance.
Not all yoga classes are the same
There are a variety of yoga classes, yoga types, and yoga teachers. Yoga classes may range from the very gentle type like yin yoga to the more dynamic Hatha class, to the even more physically demanding Ashtanga yoga. It is worthwhile trying them all out to see what is ideal for you.
This is something I say to all my students. Try out different types of yoga and teachers and find the one that clicks for you. You’ll know it when you experience it.
If you are still learning about all the types of yoga, I wrote an article that you may find helpful: Beginner’s Guide To The Popular Types Of Yoga And Their Benefits
Wear something comfortable and stretchy
In a yoga class, we want to feel comfortable and be able to move with ease. For this reason, you will want to wear clothes that are comfortable and stretchy so as to not restrict your movements. Try to no wear clothes that are too baggy as they may get in the way of your movements.
Most people, men, and women, tend to wear leggings or shorts to yoga. And then a T-shirt is a good option or a tank top. Just make sure to tuck your T-shirt into your leggings if it is too baggy.
You may hear some Sanskrit
The foundational texts of classical yoga philosophy were written in Sanskrit, and so we use Sanskrit in yoga classes as a way to connect our practice to the tradition with a common vocabulary used by yoga practitioners and teachers all over the world.
The most common word used in a yoga class is the word ‘Namaste‘. This is a greeting and it means: “the divine in me bows to the divine in you.” Most teachers begin and/or end their class with this beautiful word as a way to greet and then say goodbye to the class.
For more information on why we use Sanskrit in yoga, you may like my article: Why We Use Sanskrit in Yoga
You may chant Ohm
Om is considered to be the whole universe in a single word. It is the union of the mind, body, and spirit and that which is at the heart of our yoga practice. Made up of three syllables, a u m, it is generally chanted at the start and/or end of each yoga class.
Beginners tend to simply listen to this chant and when they feel more comfortable, they then join in.
You don’t need to bring your own mat
Most yoga studios offer yoga mats, so you don’t have to bring one to your first class. You could ask the yoga studio to be sure before your first class. With time, however, you may want to have your own yoga mat. Speak to your teacher about what type of mat they recommend.
Yoga mats come in a variety of sizes, colours and more importantly, types. Some mats are more geared towards a gentle practice like yin yoga (with more cushioning) while others are more geared towards a dynamic practice, like Ashtanga yoga (more durable and long-lasting).
So depending on the type of yoga you would like to practice, you may want to buy a suitable mat.
For a guide on the different types of yoga, as well as the yoga equipment you may need for each class, and recommended books, read my article: Beginner’s Guide To The Popular Types Of Yoga And Their Benefits
You need to be hydrated
Try to drink some water before the class so that you are not thirsty. Beginners are generally allowed to bring a water bottle with them to the class, so as to take a few sips here and there. With time you will find a good balance with how much water to drink before each class.
Just try not to drink too much water before the class as it may make for a slightly uncomfortable practice!
Child’s Pose is perfect for a rest and to catch your breath
Child’s pose is considered to be one of the most relaxing yoga poses. It helps relieve stress and stretches out the lower back. Yoga classes geared towards beginners tend to use this pose frequently and the students are told to return to this pose when they need a break.
It is done by sitting on your heels, putting your forehead on the floor (or on a block or on your hands). You can stretch your arms in front of you or you may wrap them behind your back.
This pose may become your best friend, especially when you first start out yoga.
Yoga classes all end with Savasana
Regardless of the yoga class, your last pose will be savasana. This tends to be in a guided format, with the teacher instructing the students on how to relax specific parts of their body. For some, this is easy and love it, while for others it is very challenging. Easy or not, it has many benefits.
As simple as this pose may seem, one study found that doing savasana every day for 30 days was able to reduce levels of severe depression. Read more here: 12 Reasons Yoga Is Calming & How It Reduces Stress (Science-Based)
Find a yoga studio near you
When looking for a yoga studio, a good option is to find a yoga studio near you. nowadays there are so many yoga studios so that you should be able to find a studio that is a good fit relatively easily. Use google to find the yoga studios near you or ask a friend if they have a recommendation.
Ask to try out several classes to see if you find a teacher and type of yoga that is a good match for you.
Listen to your body
In yoga, we try to listen to our body, listen to our limitations, listen to what we can do, and work with that. This can be challenging for most beginners as it this is something we have probably never done before. With time it is something that we get used to and helps us avoid injury.
And so try to breathe, give your body the space and time to relax into the postures, and see where it will take you. You’ll be surprised at how much you will be able to progress when you take the time to listen.
Get comfortable setting up
Most beginners tend to go to the back of the room for their first yoga class. I advise beginners to come to the front, as this way they can see me better, they can hear my instructions more clearly and I am able to see if they need my help, something hard to do if they are hiding at the back.
So for your first yoga class arrive early and see what the other students are doing. And if in doubt ask one of your fellow students.
Yoga classes are a sanctuary from the outside world
A yoga class can become a safe space for people. A place where we are not judged and instead of a place where we are encouraged to listen to our breath, listen to our body and leave the outside world, outside. There is a sign some yoga studios have: “leave your shoes and worries at the door”
As a yoga teacher, I enjoy observing my students. Not only during the class but also before and after. Upon entering the yoga space, it sometimes appears to me as though they are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. And yet after the class, in most cases, they appear (to me at least) taller, lighter in energy, and more likely to smile.
For more information on why yoga helps reduce stress read this: 12 Reasons Yoga Is Calming & How It Reduces Stress (Science-Based)
Eat something light 2-3 hours before the class
It is recommended to wait 3-4 hours after a meal before practicing yoga. The main reason is that the energy for digestion should not be taken away for the purpose of our yoga practice. If we don’t give our body enough time to digest, bending and twisting will feel very uncomfortable.
For more information on what to eat before and after your yoga practice, read here: What To Eat Before & After Yoga). This article is geared towards Ashtanga yoga but it can be applied to any yoga practice.
There are many different types of yoga
Most yoga studios offer a variety of yoga classes and yoga types. These can range from gentle to dynamic. It is worth asking about the different types and trying them all out to see which one is the perfect fit for you. You may even find that you like them all. Even better!
If your studio offers a beginner’s class, best go to that one. If not, ask them which class they would recommend you try out first. And take it from there. Generally, if a Hatha class is too challenging for you, perhaps wait a while till trying our a more dynamic class.
There’s basic yoga etiquette to follow
When entering the studio, the first thing you will most likely see is a place to leave your shoes (and socks if you so wish). We always take our shoes off at the entrance of the yoga studio. We also switch off our mobile phones and quietly walk into the yoga room.
A yoga studio is a safe space for most people who want to get away from the noise of the outside world. By switching off your phone and trying to be respectful of the day, we are honoring people’s need for quiet time.
As more people come into the room, make sure there is enough room for everyone to place their mats and so try to adjust the placement of your mat if needed.
Also, remember that we practice yoga barefoot!
You may experience soreness and stiffness after the first class
You may indeed experience some soreness after your first yoga class and this is something completely normal. In yoga we are asking our bodies to move in ways it is not used to and we are asking our muscles to strengthen and lengthen in ways that they may find challenging.
The once point to be concerned is if the pain does not go away or gets worse. Then consult with your yoga teacher and even a doctor. Otherwise, a bit or a lot of muscle pain is completely normal.
Do a little research
Try reading up on the different types of yoga and even look up any information on your yoga teacher. This may give you some background information and may help you see if the yoga class is a good fit for you. Your aim may be to be more flexible or deal with your stress.
Search the internet and speak to your teacher to find a good fit for your needs.
Take your socks off
We remove our socks as they may be slippery. We practice yoga barefoot as it helps stretch and strengthen the muscles in our feet. This allows us to bring awareness and dexterity into our feet, something that will help us feel grounded, physically, and eventually, psychologically.
Many beginners tend to wear their socks to their first classes and that’s ok. With time, however, I do notice most of them leaving their socks with their shoes.
You will understand your limits
As a beginner, we tend to confuse the feeling of pain and discomfort. Pain tends to be sharp and is something we want to avoid. Discomfort is something that may ease as we relax and breathe into it. Ultimately, you will learn to listen to your body and stay away from anything that feels wrong.
Speak to your teacher if you do continue to feel pain or discomfort and you may just need a modification in a particular pose or a set of poses.
One rule of thumb is to feel neither pain nor discomfort in your joints, especially your knees, shoulders, or back.
Leave your ego at the door
Our ego can be our best of friends but it can also be our worst of friends. In yoga we slowly and gradually learn to let go of the ego. This means being kind to ourselves and accepting our limitations and weaknesses. And letting go of the ego is something hard for many people to accept.
And so if the yoga teachers offers you a modification or a prop, try not to get insulted or hurt. Simply accept that the teacher is trying to help you. Additionally, if someone in the class appears to be able to do more advanced poses that you, again, feel happy for them and do the best you can do, for yourself, not for others.
Talk before and after the class
The yoga class is a quiet space and so try to speak to your yoga teacher before or after the class. Try to avoid speaking during the class, both to your teacher and to your fellow students. Respect the quiet space and give everyone the chance to relax. If you have any questions, ask after the class.
And so the proper yoga etiquette is to remain quiet and listen. If you are in pain or need to speak to the teacher, simple remain quiet and raise your hand.
Make yoga a routine
Depending on the type of yoga, you will experience certain results. A class that focuses on stretching may increase our flexibility, while a more physically demanding class may also increase our strength. Not being consistent may lead to us feel like we are starting from the beginning at each class.
And so it is important to start a consistent practice and make yoga a routine, a part of our lifestyle.
Trust the teacher
Your yoga teacher is there to guide you and help you. Learn to trust the teacher and follow their cues and advice. Of course, if something doesn’t feel right to you feel free to speak to your teacher about it, as at the end of the day you know your body more than anyone else.
As a rule of thumb, try to find a teacher with many years of experience or one who has committed practice and has learned from a lineage of well-experienced teachers.
You may find yoga hard at first
Many beginners to yoga find it quite hard. They may have had a different image in their head about what yoga is or perhaps for the first time they came across their limited strength and flexibility. And when we do something for the first time, especially when that thing challenges us, well then it is no wonder that many beginners find yoga difficult! Or at least more difficult than they thought it would be.
For more information on what yoga is hard and advice on how to help, read this: Why Do Beginners think Yoga Is Hard: Is it really?
How long are yoga classes?
Yoga classes tend to be 60 minutes, though some can even be 75 minutes or 90. Make sure to check with your yoga studio.
How do I join a yoga studio?
Either search for yoga studios near you online or ask a friend. Once you have found the yoga studio, check their website and either phone them or email them. Tell them you are a beginner and they will tell you all there is to know about what class to try, if they have any special offers for beginners and whether they offer yoga mats or if you have to bring your won.
What should a beginner wear to yoga?
Most people, tend to wear leggings or shorts to yoga. And then a T-shirt is a good option or a tank top. Just make sure to tuck your T-shirt into your leggings if it is too baggy.