Beginners: How To Namaslay Your First Yoga Class

Beautiful woman practicing Yoga by the lake - Sun salutation series - Upward facing dog - Toned image

Key Points

  • Yoga is an individual or partner activity that offers many benefits.

  • Instructors should only encourage you to pursue what feels comfortable.

  • You can prepare for a beginner class by studying terminology and honoring proper etiquette.

  • It’s possible to teach yourself how to do yoga from the comfort of your own home.

  • Professionals recommend starting with two to three sessions per week at 30 minutes per session.

Are you desperately seeking relief from the loudness of your thoughts? Do you want to detach from the stress and busyness of life? If so, yoga might just be the solution you’ve been searching for!

Yoga has won many hearts in the modern fitness industry — and for good reason. It quiets the over-analytical brain, invites you to rejuvenate, and functions as pure medicine for the soul. In short, yoga is life-changing. When practiced correctly, yoga can mentally, physically, and spiritually heal you from the inside out. 

What Is Yoga?

Recognized as a deeply immersive experience, yoga is a solitary activity bonding together mind, body, and spirit. With a stimulating blend of poses, breathing techniques, and meditation, it actively pushes your physical and mental capabilities to the next level. 

This might sound intimidating to some and enticing to others for obvious reasons. However, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of athleticism or flexibility, yoga truly is designed for everyone

Not only can this kind of workout be tailored to your individual needs and health ambitions, it also provides you with plenty of movement variations and modification opportunities. No matter your age, fitness level, or style preference, yoga instructors will create a safe and welcoming atmosphere for you to enjoy.

Woman sits cross-legged while meditating

Benefits Of Yoga

Ranging from physiological to mental to relational, yoga provides a substantial amount of benefits that are sure to keep you coming back for more.

Check out the following “yoga gains”:

  • Relief from chronic neck, shoulder, and back pain

  • Reduced inflammation, which combats your risk of serious illness

  • Improved cardiovascular health

  • Higher immunity from colds, flu, and infections

  • Boosts your mood and keeps your mind sharp

  • Better focus in all aspects of life (what you learn in the yoga studio can be applied outside of the yoga studio)

  • Encourages you to choose gratitude and joy daily

  • Promotes deeper sleep (hallelujah–no more waking up in the middle of the night to ponder life's mysteries for hours on end)

  • Calms and soothes your digestive system

  • Lowers your blood pressure and cortisol levels

  • Allows you to feel more relaxed and at peace 

  • Enhances your relationships 

What Is The Best Style Of Yoga For Beginners?

With the rise of social media, you’ve probably seen it all in the yoga world by now: from acro yoga poses that look like they belong at the circus — or even the Olympics — to goats casually chilling on top of someone’s back while they’re holding the cat/cow pose

Yes, goats. Yoga really is for everyone!

Finding the right style of yoga can feel pretty overwhelming though, especially when there’s a whole world of options out there. How do you know which type is best for you? 

There are three factors to consider in your search: 

  1. Which yoga style best suits what you need right now?

  2. Which yoga style will allow you to have the most fun?

  3. Which yoga style will get you the most excited to show up for class?

Since you’re just starting, the collective answer to all of these questions is Hatha yoga. Famously adopted in Western culture, Hatha yoga is a foundational yoga style that is much lighter and gentler than other forms of yoga. 

Hatha yoga is also the best choice for beginners because it moves at a slower pace and encourages participants to focus on perfecting each pose before transitioning to the next one. In addition, it simultaneously activates both breath and body in a way that promotes gradual strength and increased flexibility.

As opposed to the “no pain, no gain” mentality pushed in other realms of the fitness industry, yoga welcomes a completely different philosophy: You should never ignore pain. As soon as you sense discomfort, stop and readjust your body to a position that feels more comfortable and achievable.  

While having a competitive edge is beneficial in other workout settings like running or lifting weights, keep that temperament off the yoga mat. 

Hands and feet of a yogi while in plank

How Can I Get Started?

As a beginner, it’s important to know what you’re getting into before strutting into the yoga studio. Read on for advice on how to choose your first class, what to bring, and general yoga etiquette.

How To Prepare For Yoga Class

Attending yoga class for the first time doesn’t have to be intimidating. Although other attendees might seem to be a little more “in the know” and seasoned than you are, you can still arrive with a good amount of yoga knowledge (which is all you need). 

Study basic yoga terminology and get familiar with beginner poses. More specifically, learn their names, what they look like, and how they’re achieved.

Here’s a big one: Don’t stress about how in — or out of — shape you are. Don’t worry about not being “flexible enough,” either.

Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not merely reserved for people who can “show off” their flexibility. Instead, it’s offered as a way for people of all levels to develop and enhance their flexibility. 

Whether you’re starting from zero or already have some poses under your belt, try embracing this mindset during your first yoga class to ease any nervous energy: You don’t have to be perfect — especially on your first try. Release the pressure of unrealistic expectations and focus on simply doing your best, whatever that might look and feel like. 

Plus, the majority of yoga practitioners are so focused on themselves during asanas (poses) that they won’t even notice whether or not you’re hitting all the moves just right. Even if they do, they’ll have loads of grace for you. Why? Because at some point in time, they were exactly what you are now: a beginner. 

When your anxiety starts to take hold, draw a breath, hold it for a few moments, then exhale the tension from your body. You’ve got this, and your yoga peeps got you

Class of yoga students look over shoulder

Class Structure

Beginner yoga classes typically range from 45 minutes to 90 minutes long. Expect to move through four consecutive phases: breathwork, warmup, yoga poses, and meditation. The general flow of class often looks like this:

  1. Breathwork (5 to 10 minutes): Yoga participants are welcomed and begin Pranayamas, or meditative breathwork, to shift to a yoga state of mind.

  2. Warmup (10 to 20 minutes): The instructor cues movements such as neck rolls, cat/cow, and sun salutations. These help to eradicate stiffness and prepare the body for more advanced postures later in class. 

  3. Yoga poses (20 to 45 minutes): Students are led through a series of asanas (yoga poses) that involve lying down, standing up, or sitting. The instructor models positions like boat pose, tree pose, and happy baby, and allows participants to explore more challenging poses. This phase is also where the teacher gets the most creative — depending on their preference and intentions for the class.

  4. Meditation/cool down (10 to 15 minutes): Attendees are invited to lay on their mats and get into savasana, or corpse pose. This position calms the central nervous system, helping students to achieve a state of “zen” as they silently drift away from reality. Many even fall asleep during this stage! 

To help you detach from the outside world even further, the room will have soft or dim lighting and the instructor will play relaxing instrumental music throughout the class.

Woman stretches to the side during beginner yoga

Class Etiquette

Out of respect for the yoga instructor and other students, class etiquette should be taken very seriously. Silencing notifications from your phone, arriving to class early, and going to the bathroom right before class are all simple ways you can contribute to a positive yoga environment. 

If awkward silences make you cringe, then you don’t want to be that person whose cell phone starts blaring a Justin Bieber song in the middle of savasana. Also, if you absolutely must use the restroom before the session ends, try to quietly leave the room during resting poses such as child’s pose or downward dog

It’s also courteous to show up a few minutes before class. This will give you ample time to check in, get acquainted with your teacher, meet other attendees, find a spot in the room, and get situated before giving all of your attention to the instructor’s cues. 

If you’re ever running late to class, check the studio’s website for info on their late policies before heading inside. Most places won’t let people in after the first 10 minutes. At that point, you’ll either have to wait for the next class on the schedule or simply return the following day.

Always give your instructor a heads-up if you have to leave class early as this causes a slight disruption to the flow and focus of the room. Most teachers are understanding about this, as long as you don’t make a habit of it. 

Lastly, avoid stepping on other people’s mats. This feels like an invasion of personal space. You should also be prepared to make room for students who arrive later by adjusting your mat on the floor to fit theirs.

Displaying politeness and respect in these ways will help you create good relationships with your yoga mates and, ultimately, a tight-knit community. 

What To Wear To Yoga Class

You might be feeling tempted to go online and splurge on a bunch of fancy yoga attire. Who doesn’t love a good shopping spree? However, you don’t have to go this route, especially if you’d rather save money.

All you need for yoga is comfortable, form-fitting, and sweat-wicking workout clothes. If you already have yoga pants, wear them! If not, simply opt for leggings or drawstring sweatpants that hug your waist. 

For the top, choose something that’s fitted, supportive (preferably sleeveless), and gives you good coverage. For your feet, most yogis go barefoot. If feet gross you out, feel free to wear no-slip socks during class. You can find these online or at many local retail shops. 

A group yoga class sitting on mats

What To Bring To Yoga Class

Thankfully, you don’t need much more than a body for yoga. A joyful attitude and an open mind are great to have. Consider bringing a mat, water bottle, sweat towel, and a light snack to munch on after class.

With regard to more yoga-specific props and materials, the studio should have blocks, bolsters, and straps for use once you arrive. 

What To Look For In A Beginner Yoga Class

When searching for a beginner-friendly yoga class, use keywords like “beginner,” “restorative,” “gentle,” or “basic.” These are the types of classes you want to sign up for! They’ll help you to master yoga fundamentals, get plenty of quality practice doing beginner yoga poses, and develop the confidence to eventually switch to more advanced classes.

Can I Teach Myself Yoga?

While studio yoga classes are the recommended learning option for beginners, it is possible to teach yourself yoga. For the best results, you should possess self-discipline, dedication, and access to a secluded, distraction-free space in your home. 

To begin, complete the aforementioned steps required to prepare for a regular yoga class. Once you feel mentally grounded, search the web for beginner yoga tutorial videos and on-demand classes. 

Since you’re brand new to yoga culture, you’ll need more than a visual aid of beginner poses to replicate at home. You'll also require an aural guide that will direct your breathing, mental awareness, and muscle engagement. Because of this, qualified online instructors are crucial.

There is more to yoga than meets the eye. To understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, yogis recommend you study the yoga poses you perform in private. Every pose has a purpose, and it’s beneficial to understand how yoga impacts your health and adds value to your life. 

Studio Yoga vs. At-Home Yoga

Are you debating between hitting the yoga studio or pursuing more of a self-guided practice at home? It’s a tough decision that depends on your situation.

At the studio, you’re guaranteed proper guidance, necessary corrections, valuable insight, motivation, a supportive community, and a lower risk of injury. On the flip side, you’re restricted to their class schedule and classes are often crowded (good luck jamming your mat in the back corner of the room if you’re late). Plus, the pressure in a group setting can be overwhelming, studio sessions are costly, and the commute can be a hassle. 

Meanwhile at home, you gain control, freedom, and the ability to make mistakes without fear of judgment from your yoga peers. You set the pace, you choose the poses, and you decide how long to hold them.

Since at-home yoga classes can be found online, they’re also available to you at any time. You’d never have to worry about barely squeezing a yoga sesh into your busy schedule! The best part? Between the cost of a membership and gas money needed for commutes to the studio, you’ll save some serious money in the long haul by going this route.

However, structure and improvement are very important elements of yoga. These are a lot harder to accomplish alone. Without an instructor present to assist you, you’re at risk of developing and reinforcing bad habits that you might not even be aware of. 

Both options offer a fair amount of pros and cons, but the truth still stands: You can do yoga at home and still reap all of its amazing benefits.

Woman performs a yoga move in her house

Additional Resources

Thanks to the gift of ever-growing modern technology, you have a galaxy of resources at your fingertips. With just a few clicks, you can follow along to yoga apps like “Glo” or “Pocket Yoga,” DVDs, on-demand classes, or beginner videos on YouTube. 

Yoga Tips

For a rewarding yoga experience, practice in a quiet environment, establish a routine that you can honor and fall in love with (you know yourself better than anyone), don’t be too self-critical, and minimize your risk for injury by starting small and slow.

Videoing yourself while doing yoga at home is another useful way to evaluate your form and technique as well as make personal corrections. This also helps you visually catch errors you might not feel in the moment.

How Often Should I Do Yoga As A Beginner?

Regardless of where you decide to “yoga-cise,” your body will need time to adjust and acclimate to the physical demands of yoga. Professionals advise starting at two or three sessions per week. This will prevent you from overstretching your muscles and help you recover faster. 

How Many Minutes of Yoga Should A Beginner Do?

A beginner should do 30 to 45 minutes of yoga per session. Depending on your goals, strengths, limits, and potential injuries, you can progressively increase your time on the mat every few weeks. Experts suggest that you aim for frequent shorter sessions instead of longer ones, especially if you intend to make yoga a part of your daily routine. 

Final Thoughts on Yoga for Beginners

Yoga is a “harmonious, peaceful, content, and still state of mind,” says Indu Arora, a yoga teacher, therapist, and author. It improves concentration, helps you defeat anxiety, aids in weight loss, and promotes a healthy relationship with yourself and others. 

Now that you have a better idea of the endless benefits that yoga can offer, it’s time to put yourself on your to-do list by signing up for a beginner yoga class! Whether you decide to go in person or practice virtually, one thing is for certain: You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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