Yoga: What You Need to Know Before You Practice [GUEST POST]

I’m so excited to have Christine from Love, Life, Surf here today, to share her wisdom on the yoga basics – what you need to know before you pick a class and start reaching and twisting and breathing. I love Christine’s blog – her style of writing is smart, yet conversational; effortless, yet thought-provoking. We met in person just over a year ago at the Fitness Magazine FitBlogNYC event. Turns out we live pretty close to each other, so we’ve gotten together quite a few times since then for coffee – and I had the pleasure of taking one of her yoga classes, ONCE. (I keep telling her she really needs to schedule her teaching around my free time!) 😉 Here is some of Christine’s yogic wisdom for you guys today:

Yoga What You Need to Know Before You Practice - Guest Post by Christine Yu

Yoga: What You Need to Know Before You Practice

I know. I know. Everyone is talking about how great yoga is, from improving your athletic performance to miraculously curing whatever is ailing you, and how you really need to try yoga.

Well, yes, you should but I’m not going to try to convince you. I know that yoga can look and seem intimidating – crazy poses, foreign words, and unfamiliar etiquette. Anytime you try something new, it can be scary and confusing.

Here are some tips to help prepare you for your first (or second or third or 50th) yoga class. Hopefully, armed with some information, you can feel a bit more at ease stepping on to your mat.

I will preface this by saying that these are general observations. Obviously, each individual studio, yoga class, and yoga teacher will be different but hopefully this will offer you some guidelines.

Choosing a Class

This might be the hardest part! How do you choose a yoga class? Should you take a class at a yoga studio or at the gym? What are all these different classes?

The first place to start is asking a friend who practices yoga for advice and recommendations on studios and classes that would be suitable for someone new to yoga. You could also reach out through social media and ask for suggestions.

There are a few different places to take a yoga class but the two main categories are yoga studios and gyms/fitness centers. While classes offered at both can be really great, the main difference, I find, is that classes offered at the gym tend to be more focused on the physical aspects of yoga and “getting a good workout.” This isn’t a bad thing and definitely makes sense given the clientele but just something to be aware of. If you’re already a member at a gym that offers yoga classes, it might be a good, cost-effective way to try yoga.

You can also get a good “workout” from a yoga class at a yoga studio, but teachers will often talk about the other aspects of the practice as well. Most yoga studios will offer new students a discount on the first class or a series of 3 classes to encourage you to come back (see below for more on that point).

Lastly, there are a number of different yoga styles to choose from. If you’re new(er) to yoga, I would suggest taking a beginners workshop. I know that no one likes to admit that they are a beginner, but this is a great chance to spend time and to learn the fundamentals of the yoga practice so that you can practice safely. It prepares you to go into an open-level class.

Otherwise, look for “Basics” classes on the schedule. Hatha classes are also a good option. They are often slower paced and you hold the poses longer so that you can really understand the alignment of a pose. I would not suggest taking an open-level vinyasa class as your first yoga classes. These classes move quickly and, if you aren’t familiar with how to practice the poses safely, you might not enjoy the class. And you could hurt yourself.

Yoga: What You Need to Know Before You Practice - Guest Post by Christine Yu

What Happens in Class

Once you’ve picked a class, arrive at the studio at least 10 minutes early to get yourself situated in the room and to have time to get props, go to the bathroom, etc. Plus, it’s respectful of the teacher and your fellow students. Don’t be that person that breezes into class 5 minutes late and forces the whole class to rearrange their mats so that you can have a space.

While you will move in and out of a number of yoga poses during class, here are some other things that will likely happen during class:

  • Chant of Om: Most classes start and end by chanting Om (one time or multiple times). It serves to define your time on the mat – the beginning and end of your practice and to distinguish it from other parts of your day.
  • Hands-on Adjustments: Depending on the teacher, he or she may offer physical adjustments. I know that it may seem weird and awkward to have someone come around and adjust your pose while you practice but they often give students a better sense of alignment and muscle engagement and how the pose should feel. Adjustments help to create muscle memory that you can draw on in the future.
  • It will be hard. Yoga is much more than just stretching. While it doesn’t necessarily look strenuous, it can be challenging to move your body in a new way. It’s likely that you’ll discover muscles that you never knew existed!
  • Stay for Savasana. At the end of class, your teacher will have you lie on your back for a final rest and relaxation pose – savasana. It can feel difficult to lie still for 5 minutes and feel like a waste of time. But it’s not. In my opinion, these last few minutes are what the yoga practice is all about. It allows you to decompress before walking out of class and back to your daily grind. It lets your body fully relax, which we don’t do enough of. Stay until the end of class.

Yoga: What You Need to Know Before You Practice - Guest Post by Christine Yu

Stick With It

Here’s the thing. The practice of yoga is just that – a practice. It means that the first class might be hard and you might not like it all that much (or you might love it!). But it also means that yoga is a continual work in progress.

I would encourage you to try another few classes and notice if and how your experience changes. Maybe try another teacher or another style of yoga or another studio. It’s important to find a style of yoga that feels good to you and teacher(s) that you enjoy practicing with. There are so many different styles of yoga and every teacher teaches differently.

If you have trouble making it to a regular class at the gym or a yoga studio, there are a number of online yoga videos (yogaglo, Gaiam TV, YouTube) and you can bring your practice into your home. However, if you are a beginner, I would encourage you to take a few classes at a studio with a teacher so that you can learn the proper alignment in poses with in-person guidance.

What questions do you have about starting a yoga practice? For you yogis, what other tips would you offer?

Yoga: What You Need to Know Before You Practice - Guest Post by Christine YuChristine Yu is a yoga instructor, runner, fitness enthusiast, wannabe surfer and mom to two boys. She is the author of the blog Love, Life, Surf, where she shares her love of fitness and stories about her experiences as a mom of two young boys trying to balance, work, family, fitness and healthy living. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.

Comments

  1. I know I should practice yoga more to help improve my running. However, the class that I took was very slow and I didn’t feel like I was getting a good enough workout. I want to try one of those hot yoga classes.
    lacey@fairytaledandfitness recently posted…Food and Drink for Runners: An Honest ReviewMy Profile

  2. Thanks Carly for having me over here today!! And yes, you need to come to another one of my classes!
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…PR = Personal RecordMy Profile

  3. I found an excellent prenatal yoga video that’s helping me get through the last few weeks of pregnancy. I’d love to practice in a class, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. At least I’ll have great tips for when that time does come.
    Jaclyn @ Bumpsweat recently posted…{MIMM #6} Making the Most of The WaitMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      One of my friends had just been certified as a prenatal yoga instructor when I was preggo and she practiced with me. It was amazing for the last couple of weeks!!

  4. Love seeing Christine here! Carly, I agree that Christine should schedule her classes around our free time! Lol. I still haven’t made it to one of her classes yet, but I want to!

    In addition to studios and gyms, online classes can be a great resource especially for those short on time! YogaGlo and My Yoga Works are my two favorites!
    Britt@MyOwnBalance recently posted…Second Trimester RecapMy Profile

  5. Great advice for a runner like me who’s always “meaning to get into yoga” but feels intimidated and puts it off!
    Michele @ paleorunningmomma recently posted…Jogging Stroller Memories and Ghost PainMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Every time I do yoga after a run, I think, “Why don’t I do this ALL the time?” Even though I’m usually one if the least flexible in the class, I find it really helps my running form.

  6. Oh, this was awesome to read!!! Christine has some of the most beautiful pictures of her in various yoga poses!!! This post has some great info for anyone looking for a yoga class.
    So cool that y’all have been able to get together in person!
    Kim recently posted…Chris is 46!My Profile

  7. Christine is so right about yoga as a practice! It took me many attempts and looking into different styles for me to realize I can like yoga. I was doing hot yoga for a while (not Bikram, but Hatha and Power Vinyasa in a super hot room), and right now I’m kind of enjoying quick flows in my office when I need a 10-15 minute pick-me-up!
    Jessica @ Absurd, She Wrote recently posted…The Mystery of the DiapersMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Yes, I think a lot of people don’t realize there’s such a difference between the different styles, classes and even instructors. I’m a big fan of just doing a few poses in my living room when I’ve been sitting too long.

  8. It is definitely a stick with thing for sure. I do more yoga in the winter when some of my outdoor activities aren’t possible. I am looking forward to picking it back up next month.
    Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner recently posted…Do you Metronome? Should you?My Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      It’s so easy to fall out of the habit, for sure. And when it’s been a while for me, I get intimidated all over again!

  9. Great idea to talk about what to expect in class. It is always so intimidating to go for the first time or two. Or even going to a new studio.
    Tara Newman recently posted…Meal Plan Inspiration|August 24, 2014My Profile

  10. Thanks for this article. I would also like to state that it can be hard when you’re in school and simply starting out to create a long credit ranking. There are many students who are just simply trying to make it through and have a good or good credit history can sometimes be a difficult thing to have.

  11. Great tips – especially that of sticking with it. It’s so much more than just the asana, and you can only experience that once you hold up a consistent practice. It’s where the magic exists.

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