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What to Expect from Your First Yoga Class


This article has been syndicated from Ampersand, an InfluenceHer Collective Member. Read the full post here.

When I first stepped onto a yoga mat about four years ago, I never anticipated how much it would change my life. That sounds dramatic, but consistently practicing yoga has not only affected me physically, but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually. If I don’t go to yoga for a few days, I actually feel off balance (true story). It’s completely a part of my life.

That said, I realize that not a lot of people have been exposed to yoga or have even tried it before. And I think sometimes it can be intimidating when all you see on Instagram are the crazy yogis in contorted postures. So I decided to dedicate a post to all the things to expect from your first yoga class. Hopefully it’ll put some of your worries at ease & encourage you to try it. Remember, the hardest part is showing up to your mat. Read on to learn how to become a yogi!

tree pose

Types of Yoga

Before you attend your first yoga class, it’s important to know what style of class you’re signing up for! This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the different types of yoga, but the ones I’ve personally tried. Also, if you’re ever considering trying out a class and not sure why style it is, give the studio a call. Most studios teach a specific style of yoga so they can tell you what to expect.

  • Vinyasa: My personal favorite type of yoga. In Vinyasa classes, you flow from one pose to the next relatively quickly. It’s very similar to dancing & every movement is coordinated with your breath. There’s a certain “flow” and rhythm of a vinyasa class, and the sequence of poses can vary by class/teacher. “Vinyasa” also refers to a specific sequence of poses (Chaturanga to Upward-Facing Dog to Downward-Facing Dog​)​ which you’ll do a number of times throughout the class. Vinyasa classes can be room temperature, warm or hot. 
  • Ashtanga (Primary Series/Mysore): Similar to Vinyasa classes, Ashtanga also coordinates breath with movement in a moving meditation, yet there is a specific sequence of poses you go through each class (i.e. every Ashtanga class you attend, you’ll be mastering the same poses). There are different series, but most Ashtanga classes will focus on the Primary Series. If you’re interested in deepening your Ashtanga practice, you can also sign up for a Mysore series (learn more by clicking here). Most astanga classes are room temp or warm.
  • Bikram: Not going to lie, Bikram is not my personal favorite, but some people absolutely love it. First off, all Bikram classes are taught hot & last for 90 minutes. There is a 26-pose sequence that every Bikram class offers, so no matter what studio you go to, you can know what to expect. It goes pretty fast–it may take a couple classes to get used to the sequence. Also it’s a little strenuous so take it easy if it’s your very first time. All Bikram classes are hot.
  • Yin: Whereas all the types listed above you move through a “flow,” Yin slows it waaaaay down. In Yin, you hold poses for several minutes to get into the deep tissue which is super good for you & a nice compliment to other types of yoga. You’ll often use props to help your body sink deeper into each posture. I find Yin particularly challenging because it’s really mind over body so it takes a lot of practice to slow down your thoughts. I’ve had Yin classes that are room temperature or warm. 

Before Your Class

Yay, you signed up for your first class! First step to becoming a yogi. Here’s what to know as you prep before you get there. I’ve also made some extra notes specific to hot yoga.

  • Pack your bag: I always bring a water bottle and obviously my mat. No shoes or socks required, you do every type of yoga barefoot. Don’t have your own personal mat? Most studios allow you to rent them there.
    • *Hot Yoga: Bring a towel and/or old tshirt. You will sweat A LOT so you need something to wipe it off with. Also consider getting a towel for your mat to help you from slipping.
  • What to wear: I personally like long or cropped leggings & a tank top. Occasionally, I’ll just practice in a sports bra and leggings depending on how hot it is.
    • *Hot Yoga: Some people like to wear short spandex to hot yoga classes, but I think it makes it harder to do arm balances that way.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Doesn’t matter what temperature your class is, drink lots of water beforehand.
    • *Hot Yoga: Hydrate a normal amount and then double it. The worst thing is feeling light-headed in a 90 degree room in downward facing dog.
  • Grab your props: You can either buy your own personal props (Target has a great selection), but most studios have them for you to borrow. There are a number of different kinds but the most common ones are blocks & straps.

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