We all start at the same place: Square 1.
Every time I roll out my mat, I feel as if I’m coming to yoga for the first time. That’s the beauty of the practice: it presents a new learning curve each and every time, no matter our level. If the postures and breathing feel strained to you at first, that’s OK. That will change.
These tips will help you prepare for your first yoga session:
Research the class/teaching style in advance: You know better than anyone on the planet what your body and mind need. Some types of yoga are physically demanding, while others follow a relaxed pace. There are plenty of flavors out there. Choose one that serves your needs now—your practice will gradually evolve, and another style may serve you better later. If you’re not sure where to start, you’ll likely find a Level 1 studio and/or online class refreshing.
Arrive 10–15 mins early for studio classes: You’ll avoid rushing (we’re slowing down to smell the roses!). Being on time and 100% ready shows respect for the other participants and your own practice. Some studios might ask you to reserve your mat space in advance, so it’s a good idea to check the pricing and schedule pages of their websites. If you’re doing online classes on your own time, this point of course won’t matter.
Skip eating beforehand if possible: You’ll want at least 3 hours from a full meal and 1.5 from a light one. Otherwise, you’ll move sluggishly.
Remove watches/jewelry: It’s better to practice without distractions like noticing the time or hair getting caught in earrings.
Wear comfortable clothes and use a yoga mat: Gym-like clothes that won’t interfere with movement are all you need—don’t feel pressured into buying “official” yoga clothing. We practice in bare feet most of the time (in Yin classes, we don’t move so much, so it’s perfectly fine to wear socks for those). As for a yoga mat: definitely use one, because it’ll provide you with cushion and prevent slipping when you move. Some studios have mats you can borrow or rent. If you’re practicing at home and don’t have access to a mat, you could carefully experiment with a large throw rug or a stack of 2–3 towels on a non-slippery surface.
Listen to your body: If you have an injury or a physical issue, ask your doctor if it’s fine to practice yoga. If it is, and if you’re taking an in-person class, let the teacher know before class starts so that s/he can provide you with any alternatives. If something feels off during your practice, simply pause what you’re doing or adjust the pose. Never push your body—you’ll prevent injury by respecting your natural limits.
Consider the purpose of yoga: Many yoga classes focus heavily on poses, but the physical postures are just one aspect of the practice. While it can keep the body running smoothly, yoga is about having good relationships—with ourselves and others, with all of life. It is also about developing the courage to be our truest, most compassionate selves.
Have a yoga question that isn’t answered here? Email me, and I’ll do my absolute best to answer it.