Updated: Mar 28, 2020
Great! I'm glad you've decided to give yoga a try, or at least learn more about it! Below I've compiled many of the questions I've been asked by new students.
Who can do yoga?
YOU! Yoga can be practiced by children, teens, expecting moms, new moms, and all adults. There are no flexibility or strength requirements. All poses can be adapted to you from beginner to advanced, building strength, flexibility, balance and confidence!
What are the benefits?
Physical benefits include greater flexibility, strength, and balance, along with leaner and more toned muscles. It can also reduce stress, increase concentration, boost energy, confidence, self awareness and alleviate chronic pain and help insomnia.
Do I need any special equipment?
No. Yoga can be done on any flat surface. You'll need enough space so you can lay on your back with your hands extended above your head or out to the sides without touching anything. Yoga mats are suggested to prevent you from sliding while practicing and provide some cushioning between your body and the floor, but are not mandatory (a carpet or area rug will work fine).
What do I wear?
Wear comfortable clothing that allows you to move freely. Wicking fabric rather than cotton is a great choice as you may get sweaty during the session. During the winter months, having a sweater or socks on hand for final relaxation may be useful if your practice space is chilly.
How does class start?
If taking a class at a local studio, plan to arrive about 10 minutes before class. Introduce yourself to the instructor and let them know you’re new to yoga. Once you’ve unrolled your mat, take a few minutes to lay back and relax, allowing you to forget the stresses of the day, and focus on yourself. Try not to eat less than an hour before class, as it is best for the stomach to be empty during the practice. Learning something new or entering a new studio for the first time can make many of us feel a little intimidated. However, do yourself a favor, and don't set up your mat as far away from the instructor as you can manage. Aim for the middle of the room where you have a clear line of sight to the instructor, and with some other students around you. Your instructor will want you to enjoy class and successfully follow along and learn the postures. If you're too far away, this becomes difficult as they can't see you at all times.
What is class like?
Depending on the tradition or style of the class you visit ( Hatha, Vinyasa, Sivanada, hot, Iyengar, etc.) the flow (series of postures) and the speed at which they’re cued may vary.
Most classes will consist of sun salutations to warm up the body, followed by some strengthening exercises, and postures (asanas) to work the body from head to toe. Beginners will start with fewer postures, or will be led through them at a slower pace so your instructor can ensure your form and understanding of the position is attained. As you progress variations will be introduced, as well as more advanced postures.
How often should I practice?
The more you practice the easier the postures and breathing will become. If you are short on time, just reminding yourself to align your body (sit or stand up tall and roll your shoulders back) and take some deep abdominal breaths will help calm and refocus you.
Keep in Mind:
Feel free to ask your instructor after class about any postures or transitions that were unclear. It will give you a better understanding and it will become more intuitive in your next class. This is also helpful for the instructor, as it signals to them that their cuing or demonstration was hard to understand. Hopefully they will spend some additional time on it the next time they guide it in class, or they may offer alternative cuing that will help all participants in class. Chances are very good you weren't the only one in the room who was confused!
One of the greatest and most challenging lessons yoga teaches us is that it is not a competition. If you're taking a class, try to focus on your own practice, rather than checking on the form of others around you. As you begin warming up the body, pay attention to how you're feeling in the moment. It's not about the final pose, but the intention, effort and presence you put into it.
If you encounter any pain during class, ease back out of the posture until the pain subsides. You should feel a stretch, sometimes a burning sensation if strengthening a muscle group, but if there is pain in your joints or cramping of the muscles, adjustments need to be made. You know your body better than anyone. While we do want to challenge the body, we don't want cause any injuries. Our bodies can feel very different from practice to practice due to other circumstances in our daily lives, so listen to your body, and don't push it into a posture that doesn't feel right. We don't want to compete against ourselves by trying to accomplish something that we used to be able to do, or that we think we should be able to do. Treat your body with the respect it deserves.
Questions? Comment below!