We have all been there, walking into a studio with no idea what it’s going to be like. If you’re like me, you roped someone into going with you so you have the comfort of a familiar face around. The sign up process is nerve racking, as the front desk attendant passes you the information sheet waiting for you to fill it out. I hate having to fill anything out, filling forms out for sure means you will be getting an email; maybe even several million of them.
Then you need to walk into the studio room itself, find a spot. It feels as though everyone is staring at you as you try to pick the best, most unnoticeable spot that you possible can for a first timer. I had an advantage as I had been home practicing for a while, so at least I knew what the poses were when they were called out. And it was a beginner class with a set flow every time so I could come for several classes and start to get the hang of it.
There are some things that I wish I had known when I first came to a class. Some things that I learned in teacher training, or learned from observing classes and just things I realized on my own after going to a studio for a while.
1. Pick a spot in the middle row, in the very middle of the room:
No one ever told me this when I first went, probably because I said this wasn’t my first time doing yoga just my first time at a studio. But when I began to observe classes for teacher training, I noticed that teachers would encourage students to find a spot in the very middle if they said it was their very first time or if they asked for any tips. This is because if you have never done yoga before like ever, you are going to be very lost in your first class. It takes some time to get the poses down and really know what the teacher is trying to guide you to do. So if you’re in the very middle then you have a person to follow or use as a visual guide no matter where you turn. It’s not perfect and you shouldn’t solely rely on copying someone else in yoga, but it can be very helpful to a first timer if they have a visual as to what the pose looks like, especially in a studio that focuses more on one on one time with students vs staying up in the front.
2. Do not go into yoga thinking you need to be perfect:
This was something that I learned in training, as well as saw for myself. So many times when I told people I was training in yoga or asking them to do a class they would tell me that there is no way they can do that. You do not have too look like a yoga model, or do a pose perfectly to do a yoga class. Yoga looks different on everyone. Truly it does, I have never seen two downward facing dogs that look the exact same. There are modifications you can do, a different pose entirely and props that allow you to reach a pose better. Straps help someone complete binds they cant fully reach. In my case I use a strap no matter what because even if I can reach a bind it’s just more comfortable to have the extra space. So don’t think that because you don’t look like your neighbor that you are doing it wrong. Yoga is what feels good in your body and if it doesn’t feel good to have your heels to the floor in down dog don’t do it. For me I find a generous bend in my knees for my first down dog, along with some pedaling, really gets me started and loosened up for later on. I bend my knees in forward bends as well. Along with a little bend in my knee in poses like half moon or warrior III because it eases the pressure of trying to reach for something. My hamstrings can be pretty tight so I usually NEVER look like the model yogi for a pose.
3.You do not have to listen to the instructor:
Wait? What? Why even go to a class then? Well I find the community and set flow really nice, I always keep in mind that the instructor is a guide and I do not HAVE to follow along. Never have I ever, nor anyone else for that matter, been called out for doing something different. Again, you need to do yoga for YOUR body, so if the instructor calls you to Flamingo and you just can’t do that at this point, do a mod or a different pose that works the same muscles. You know you better than anyone, if it feels good do it. If it hurts don’t, and remember that being uncomfortable is only temporary but if it’s pain you’re feeling then adjust. A lot of the time your instructor will appreciate you doing a mod that is right in your body. I have lower back issues so I hate doing seated forward bend. I ignore the call to that and just butterfly my legs and bend that way instead. I still get a stretch and my lower back feels less strain that way. Don’t feel like you have to do it just because it was suggested in class. Just do what your body needs for the day.
4. Talk to someone:
I know this one is the worst. Take it from me, being social is not my first thought when taking a class. And a lot of the time there are already friend groups talking when you come in. But don’t be afraid to get to know your neighbor a little. I found that my best classes were the ones where I came out of it chatting with the other ladies (or gentlemen) and it certainly makes the locker room a little less awkward if you smile and say hello to someone. Sure you don’t have to be social in yoga, but it really adds to the class.
5. Keep meals light right before a class:
I was one to think that eating a little before a class would give me a boost. But I soon learned that you should eat light before, if you eat at all. Or if you do eat make sure it is an hour before class. A lot of the time I found I performed my best when I took a morning class and just ate after. You feel light and airy, and then you aren’t weighted down by the heavy breakfast you just had. Then I would go and pig out after I was done. Often times eating seems like a good idea because yoga can be a form of exercise and take a lot out of you, but just like you wouldn’t eat a big meal before running a race you wouldn’t do so with yoga. So light snacks if you must and save the pigging out for after you’re done. Plus you can get all your yogi friends to go out for food when you’re done and it makes it so much better!
These are just some beginner tips that I found would have been helpful to know when I first started my studio adventures. They aren’t going to make or break your experience but they definitely help, and I would have loved to know the middle spot tip when I first started. You would have died laughing if you saw me shoved in a corner my first time trying to see what everyone else was doing cause I was new to the flow.
I encourage everyone to give studio yoga a try, there is always a studio for everyone. Yoga is a great addition to life and can benefit everyone in some way.