Attempting any new form of exercise can be intimidating. Yoga is no exception. Most people assume you must already possess some innate flexibility and balance; however, that’s not true. Yoga meets you exactly where you, the individual, are.
What to expect for your first yoga class? Your first yoga class, you can expect to wear athletic clothing, bring or borrow a yoga mat, and anticipate feeling a little awkward at first. Don’t be surprised if you aren’t able to do all the moves fully, and if you are surprisingly sore the next day!
To better prepare you for your first yoga class, below is a list of all the myriad of things you can expect to experience or encounter, from the types of yoga studios and classes that exist, from the types of sights, sounds, and even smells you’ll be confronted with!
Here’s What to Expect When Attending Yoga in Person
When attending your first in-person yoga class, it will most likely be in a workout studio of some sort. It may be a smaller yoga studio, it may be a chain-like Core Power who have locations all over the U.S., or it might be in a room within a regular gym (like a 24hr Fitness).
Different Studios Have Different Vibes
Every yoga studio will have a different ‘vibe.’ Some studios might feel more tranquil and serene. Others might feel more serious. Even still, some might feel more casual and like there’s room to laugh, play, and fail.
Yoga Classrooms Located inside of Gyms
These workout spaces are merely classrooms located inside a large gym facility and will feel more casual. Because there will be many workout classes each hour, these studios are not exclusively used for yoga. For this reason, the flooring might differ from that of a proper yoga studio, the lighting might be brighter, and at least one wall is likely to be made of glass.
These yoga classes are a great way to start your yoga practice because the pressure of attending a yoga studio where people attend regularly and are explicitly working on their yoga practice is somewhat non-existent. Those who attend yoga through their gym are there more for the general purpose of getting exercise and trying something new.
The plus side of these kinds of classes is that they are also usually free and included in a normal gym membership. So, if yoga ends up not being your thing, you don’t have to worry about having paid for an expensive membership you won’t use.
Chain Yoga Franchises
Places that have franchised and have yoga studios all over the country will have a relatively similar vibe since they are meant to feel and appear uniform. However, from experience, even different CorePower Yoga locations differ from one another. Some studios only have two rooms. Other locations might have 3-4 rooms. These types of yoga studios are a happy medium between the gym environment vibe and the private, small yoga studio vibe.
Chain studios like CorePower Yoga offer multiple types of classes for all different levels, and many of them are quite strenuous. For example, they offer a yoga sculpt class that is done in high-heat, is high-intensity, and ends with lots of folks surrendering to a child’s pose in exhaustion.
Chain studios usually offer memberships that can be anywhere between affordable to outrageously priced. However, many also offer a trade for pay, where you come and clean the yoga studio in exchange for yoga credits. Not a bad deal!
Private Yoga Studios
Private yoga studios offer a more intimate experience and typically produce a far more tranquil vibe that is focused on not just physical wellness but mental and emotional wellness. Most private yoga studios only have one classroom space, usually have low-lighting and Zen music. Their memberships are somewhat affordable since they are smaller businesses, and they also help to foster community since it isn’t a chain or a regular gym.
Sometimes private studios can feel more intimidating since many of the yoga members know each other from attending classes regularly and because they might be further along in their yoga journeys. However, don’t be deterred! These types of studios also offer the most hands-on support and understanding when taking your first yoga classes.
When Attending Yoga Online: Here’s What to Expect
In the world post-Covid, it is not unusual to take exercise classes online, whether by paying for a subscription for pre-recorded workout videos or by attending live classes via Zoom, I.G. Live, F.B. Live, or YouTube.
These types of yoga classes vary considerably, especially since a teacher may be well-versed in one type of yoga but not others. However, there are so many beginning yoga classes that you can start in the comfort of your own home that there’s almost no need to attend in person (almost.)
The pros of attending in person are that you can better see and understand proper form to avoid injury or over-extending. You don’t need to balance on your head to do yoga, but you do need to take the correct postures seriously so that you are reaping the benefits of yoga and not injuring yourself in the process.
If you’re looking for an outstanding beginner yoga class to begin online, try Simple & Basic Yoga Poses for Beginners. She walks you through every posture, pose and flow in a way that is comforting, accessible and easy to grasp.
Physical Shape & Body Awareness
When you take your first yoga class, one of the things you might experience is the discovery of how flexible you are or in many people’s cases, how not flexible you are. This is super normal! Even very fit, active people often discover that they can’t do certain stretches and poses to their fullest potential because flexibility is not easily, immediately achieved.
Using Different Muscle Groups
Runners, weightlifters, and the like might find that their fitness garners no reflection on their flexibility. This is because sometimes the muscles that are developed for other activities can prevent ultimate flexibility. A runner’s calves might be tight from chronic running, therefor doing certain poses like downward dog and one-legged splits might be challenging.
Another thing you might discover upon your first yoga class is how many parts of your body you never ever acknowledged before. Certain muscles like your forearm and your obliques might have never been given proper exercise and love from other activities, but you better believe they will with yoga. As soon as you do your first chaturanga (yoga pushup), you’ll understand.
Since you’ll be utilizing muscles in a different way than you likely ever have, don’t be surprised if you wake up rather sore the next two days. Even if you exercise regularly, holding the poses in yoga is different than weightlifting or cardio. The strain on your muscles will be real.
Don’t let this hinder you from going back to your next yoga class. In fact, when you’re sore from yoga or any exercise regime for that matter, you should attend a restorative yoga class. Restorative yoga is amazing. It’s literally just deep stretching for the purpose of helping you move the lactic acid out of your body, or helping injured folks to rehabilitate themselves. This type of yoga might also be referred to as ‘gentle yoga.’ They’re usually one of the same.
It is very important you wear the right kind of clothing to your first yoga class to not be uncomfortable while moving through the postures. Breathable, flexible items of clothing are best. Many people will wear tighter fitting yoga pants so they can view the shape of their body more accurately when in their poses, to ensure they’re holding proper form.
For women, it is recommended to wear a sports bra or form-fitting top to provide support since you will be moving your body in all sorts of ways. Additionally, you might consider bringing a sweater for after the class. Sometimes when people leave class sweaty and enter a cool environment outside, the moisture left on their bodies can cause a chill!
Here’s your complete apparel checklist:
- Sports bra
- Form fitting top or breathable loose top
- Form fitting yoga pants or shorts
- Deodorant (you’ll be sweating)
- Sweater for after class
- Flip flops or any shoe easy to slip on and off
Remember, bring shoes you can easily slip on and off, as yoga classes are performed barefoot! Unless you’d like to invest in some yoga socks with grip on the souls, then yoga socks are permitted. They are not necessary, however.
There are key pieces of equipment you can expect to find in most yoga studios. However, not all the equipment will be used for every type of yoga class. Here are some of the things present in most yoga studios:
- Yoga mats
- Foam blocks
- Soft compression bounce-balls
- Disinfectant wipes or spray
- Durable hardwood floor or similar flooring
- Mirrored walls to view your posturing
- Light dimmers (to adjust the mood and vibes via light)
- Adequate sound system
- Appropriate playlists (Zen music for slower flows, upbeat for more athletic classes)
Some things you should plan to bring with you, that the studio may or may not provide:
- Your own sanitized, yoga mat
- Water bottle
- Sweat towel
- Foam blocks
- Towel to lay down over your yoga mat (for dripping sweat)
- Sweat headband
- Ponytail holder (to keep hair out of your face)
Different Types of Yoga Classes
All yoga is not made the same. If you are looking for a beginner type of yoga, you might do best with something like vinyasa yoga, gentle yoga, or hatha yoga. Below are all the differing types of yoga available!
- Vinyasa Yoga
- Bikram Yoga
- Kundalini Yoga
- Yogalates (Yoga Pilates)
- Restorative Yoga
- Gentle Yoga
- Acro Yoga
- Power Yoga
- Aerial Yoga
- Yin Yoga
- Iyengar Yoga
- Hatha Yoga
- Ashtanga Yoga
- Sivananda Yoga
- Prenatal Yoga
- Novelty Yoga (Goat Yoga and Cat Yoga)
So yeah, doing yoga for the first time feels slightly embarrassing, a bit awkward, and makes you feel very vulnerable. When you practice in the comfort of your own home you can be free of these feelings as you practice without the eyes of others upon you. However, when you take your first yoga class in a studio with other yoga students you are likely to feel any of the following emotions:
- Not flexible enough
- Like you’ll never master it
While you may feel these things, remember not to write a whole story around these feelings. Feelings are normal and they pass. You are trying something new for the first time that you likely won’t be great at the first go-around. That’s okay! That is super normal! Embrace the feeling of awkwardness.
Everyone feels a little unsure when doing their first yoga class, and anyone who is attending a class who is more advanced has been where you’ve been. They are empathetic and there to provide moral support if you feel unsure.
If you feel especially nervous, tell the front desk or your teacher that it is your first class and you’re feeling a little unconfident. When you do this, it takes a bit of the steam out of your feelings and it lets the teacher know to take extra care of you.
Where to Store your Personal Belongings
Depending on the type of yoga studio you’re attending, there are likely going to be cubbies or lockers for you to safely store your personal belongings while in your yoga class. You can place your purse, shoes, car keys, phone and any other item you aren’t allowed to bring in to the class in one of these.
If you are concerned about leaving your items in an open-faced cubby, then be sure to bring a lock to utilize the studio’s lockers if they have them. Simply place the key by your water bottle near your mat during your class.
Checking in For Class
If you know in advance that you’ll be attending a specific class at a specific time, be sure to call in advance or go online to reserve your spot if it’s possible to do so. In fact, you can even sign in as a new student over the phone so that you don’t have to do it in person. You can sign up and sign in at the front desk in person, sometimes there can just be a bit of congestion with other students signing in and asking questions. So, calling ahead or going online can save you some time and hassle.
Additionally, be sure to let them know it is your first class. Most yoga studios offer a free initial class, or in some cases, even an entire week of classes for free. Don’t miss out on that deal, especially when just trying it out, that way you can figure out if you like it or not.
If you are signing up for the first time, be sure to give yourself at least ten minutes before the class begins. Not only to check in with the front desk and ask any questions you might have, but to have time to use the restroom, put your things away and snag a spot in the yoga room.
At places like CorePower, some students arrive even fifteen minutes early when there is no class beforehand. Some of these classes, especially the evening classes right after people have gotten off work, can fill up fast! Making sure you get a spot you’re comfortable with your first class is a great idea.
You might consider snagging a spot toward the back, that way you don’t feel all eyes are on you, and so you can not only watch the teacher, but watch the other students as well. Additionally, if you take a hot yoga class you might like to place your mat nearest the door in the event you need to take leave of the room.
Being Social Vs. Not Being Social
Every yogi is different about how they approach class. Some attend alone, some attend with friends. However, often people are quiet and keep to themselves during a yoga class. Unlike a hip-hop or cycling class that is high energy and encourages vocal feedback, most yoga classes ask the individual practitioners to focus on themselves, their body, and their own practice.
Do not be alarmed if those around you don’t want to interact. For some people, this space is where they come to shut out the rest of the world and find some much-needed Zen.
A Different Style of Breathing
In yoga you’ll be taught to use a specific style of breathing called Ujjayi Pranayama. This style of breathing requires you to breathe in deeply though your nose, and exhale through your mouth while making the sound of the ocean (an audible whizz.)
Throughout your flow, which is a set of positions you’ll repeat in a fluid type of motion, you’ll be told when to inhale deeply and when to exhale deeply during certain postures. This very intentional way of breathing helps to connect you to your body so that you remain focused only on your yoga practice and not on anything not occurring in the present moment.
When learning yoga breathing you will find it is useful not only while practicing yoga, but when needing to slow down and center yourself in your daily life. One thing you might even notice is how shallow you breathe normally, and perhaps how much tension your shallow breathing is preventing you from releasing.
Between the intentional deep breathes and the strenuous, difficult maintenance of postures, yoga can be physically exhausting. At the end of every yoga practice, however, you will be gifted with a five-minute cool down called shavasana. Shavasana is like a mini-meditation. You lay on your back, palms face up, legs splayed out, jaw lax, and simply lay with your eyes closed.
Your teacher will walk around and speak hopeful, celebratory words into you and your classmates alongside calming music. While some people may think they do not know how to meditate, shavasana at the end of yoga can make a believer out of most. The release from the hard work of yoga allows your mind to settle into this lazy pose easily.
Learning to lay silently and let your mind come to a quiet and peaceful place is as equally important in yoga as is all the physical labor. Yoga is a mind-body-spirit connecting activity and you are rewarding with this brief meditation at the end. Don’t be surprised if you are so relaxed you even fall asleep. It’s happened!
The Bodily Fluids
Alright, real chat. One thing you may not be expecting upon taking your first yoga class is the number of bodily fluids and smells you will inevitably encounter. People perspire at different rates and there are always a select few, even in yoga classes that are not heated, who are sweating out every mineral in their body.
Not only this, but you can expect there to be a plethora of smells. It will be like your olfactory senses are on hyperdrive. One second it smells like tangerines because the yoga studio might use essential oils or room fresheners to dampen the ‘old sweat smell.’ The next moment, the tangerine smell takes a back seat to your neighbor next to you who ate Tikka Masala for lunch and is expressing it through the pores in their skin.
It’s honestly a wild ride. Embrace it. Part of yoga is being able to stick with your breathing, focus on your body, despite external distractions. One of those distractions might be that your neighbor, or you, are smelly-mc-smelly-pants!
Why Does Yoga Make People So Sweaty?
Everyone perspires at a different rate of course, so yoga won’t make everyone sweat profusely, but it certainly does render a fair amount from most people. One reason is somewhat obvious… some yoga classes are performed in high heat.
It is hard to keep yourself from sweating in a room that is set at 100 degrees while your body is in constant motion and holding poses that strain your muscles. If you aren’t drenched from head to toe in this type of class, please tell the rest of us what your magic secret is.
The other reason yoga produces so much sweat is that yoga is a difficult discipline. Those who have never taken yoga might assume it’s just glorified stretching. That might be true of some types of yoga, like restorative yoga, which is deep stretching.
However, most yoga classes really engage all your muscles and sometimes even use muscles you didn’t know you had! What does this mean? It means heat or no heat, you’re sweating friend!
The Myth About Detoxing Through Yoga
Some yoga teachers might say things like ‘twisting your spine helps to flush the toxins in your liver.’ While twisting postures can aid some detoxing and cleansing of your internal organs, it doesn’t just suddenly flush all the gunk in your liver.
Your liver is… your liver. It has it’s own unique and highly efficient way of getting rid of all the long island ice teas you enjoyed over the weekend. So no, doing a spinal twist is not going to just magically clean your liver. It certainly isn’t going to hurt anything either.
Likewise, people seem to think that sweating profusely helps you to detox as well. This is true and not true all at the same time. It helps to understand the different kinds of sweat the human body engages in. So, let’s revisit some 9th-grade biology, shall we?
- Apocrine Gland Sweating – this type of sweating occurs in localized parts of the body (armpits and groin). It typically occurs when you are nervous or embarrassed. When this type of sweat is excreted it is a mixture of water and fat. When this type of sweat contacts the bacteria on your skin, it gives off an unfortunate odor. Hello B.O. When you are doing yoga, unless you are extremely nervous for your first class, the type of sweating you’ll be doing is not likely to be localized in your apocrine glands.
- Eccrine Gland Sweating – this type of sweating is not localized, but rather occurs all throughout the body. Eccrine glands become engaged, producing sweat, when body temperatures rise. In the case of yoga, this is due to the classroom temperature and/or the strenuous exercise. When you sweat from your eccrine glands, you are pushing out water and salt. That’s about it. The purpose of this type of sweating is too cool the body down… not to push out toxins.
As you can see, neither of those type of glands exclusively ‘pushes out toxins.’ While its possible some toxins might make their way out of your skin through your sweat, it’s not very likely. You are more likely to remove toxins from your body purely by doing exercise, of any kind, as it stimulates your muscles and organs.
The Key Take Away
Yoga doesn’t have to be intimidating. Remember, it’s just an exercise that is meant to help you grow physically and mentally from exactly where you’re at currently. Everyone had to do their first yoga class at some point, so try as best you can not to compare yourself to others in the class.
By wearing the right clothing, bringing a yoga mat, and embracing any awkwardness you might feel, you are already on your way to enjoying your first yoga class! Remember to give yourself enough time before the class to get checked in, get your bearings, and reserve a spot! The rest will unfold before you easily. Embrace this new, exciting challenge! If you let it, it just might change your life!