New to Yoga? Here’s 5 Things You Want to Know.
When you’re new to Yoga, you can have a lot of questions. Here are some great tips to help you feel more prepared for your practice.
- What should I wear?
One of the most popular questions new students ask me is what they should wear to practice in. Looking at all the yoga related ads, you might think that a fancy outfit is necessary. But, guess what? It’s not! All you really need is clothing that will keep you comfortable. For a typical posture based yoga practice you can find suitable attire that is already in your closet, in most clothing stores, or online. Moisture wicking leggings, capris, or athletic bottoms are great options since they are comfortable to move around in and will pull dampness away from your skin. As for tops, opt for ones that stay fairly close to your body. This way, you won’t have to worry about your shirt falling down over your face when you perform certain postures. Moisture wicking fabrics are great here as well. Additionally, yoga is typically practiced with bare feet; so no special shoes are required. If you’re headed to the studio or gym, you will also want to ensure that your private parts will remain fully covered for the duration of your class. Remember, if in doubt, you can always check in with the staff ahead of time to answer any clothing related questions you may have.
- What do I need?
If you are practicing at home, you’ll want to have a space that is free from distractions, a bottle of water, and a yoga mat. Other props that can be very helpful are a set of yoga blocks, a yoga strap, a hand towel, and a blanket. A yoga bolster can be a wonderful addition to a home practice as well. If you are following along with a sequence or a video, it will typically note which props will be needed. However, even when props are not called for, it is nice to have them around. Props can help poses feel better in your body and give you greater access to a postures’ expression. These props can be found in stores that sell athletic goods, online, and in many local studios.
If you’re headed to a gym or studio, many of the props like blocks, straps, blankets, and bolsters will be provided. At some locations you can even rent a mat for a small fee. This is a great option if you are just getting started or if you forget your mat but, still want to get your practice in. If you already have your own mat, bring it with you along with your water bottle. Again, if you forget, most places will offer water at a minimal cost or have a place where you can top off your travel bottle.
You’ll also need an empty stomach. It’s best to avoid heavy meals for at least two hours before your practice. You will likely be breathing deeply, twisting, and spending some time upside down so a full stomach would be quite uncomfortable. It’s best to have a small snack a few hours beforehand and save larger meals for after practice.
- What do I do?
If you are headed outside of your home to practice, there are a few things you should do to make your experience more enjoyable. Arriving 15 minutes early is standard. You’ll want that time to get yourself settled in before class begins. If you are new, you’ll also need to fill out some information forms. Once you’re there, you’ll take off your socks and shoes. Yep. Shoes come off pretty much first thing. You will often find cubbies for them and your other belongings near the front door or in the lobby area. Your teacher will let you know what props you need for the upcoming class. When unrolling your mat in the studio be mindful of other students and their space. Mats are typically lined up in rows rather than scattered haphazardly. This keeps the environment distraction free and gives the teacher and other students space to maneuver around the room. If the room begins to fill up, be willing to shift your mat or row in order to make a space for your fellow practitioners. Place your props, water bottle, and towel neatly near the top of your mat for easy access.
Although you may hear people chattering in the lobby, the studio should remain a quiet space. As you sit or lie on your mat; begin to turn inward, take deep long breaths, relax, and mentally prepare for your practice. When class begins, your teacher will guide you through breath and movement.
If you plan to practice at home, you will also want to settle into a peaceful space with minimal distractions. You can practice with videos, printed sequences, create your own flow, or simply settle into a few postures that you need or love. Stay mindful of your breath and find your bliss.
Regardless of where you are practicing, be mindful of your physical state and avoid anything that causes you pain or poential harm. You can always skip or modify a posture or technique that doesn’t work for your body. It’s your practice so always honor what you need.
- What should I leave behind?
When starting a yoga practice it is easy to focus on the things that you want to gather up for your new endeavor. But one of the most important things to consider is what you don’t need! As you carve out a set amount of time to spend turning inward, you should turn off all distractions.
If you are practicing at home, be sure to turn off your phone or smart watch and find a place free of distractions. If you’re headed to a gym or studio you will want to leave your phone and smart watch behind with your other belongings. Your phone should not come with you into the studio or be placed beside your mat. Allow yourself the time to unplug and be present with your practice. If you absolutely have to have your phone nearby (perhaps you are on call or are a care taker); let your teacher know before class, place your phone on silent or vibrate, and set your mat near a door where you can quickly and quietly slip out of the room without distracting others. Not only will leaving your technology behind allow you to focus on your practice, but it is also more respectful to your fellow classmates and teachers.
Another thing you’ll want to leave at the door are expectations. Every class is different so there is no need to create an expectation anyway. Be open to trying something new and trust the process. There is something to learn every step of the way. Letting go of expectations allows you to get curious about your body and mind in present time. You’ll also want to let go of the comparison game. Yoga is a deeply personal practice and everyone’s practice will look different depending on what is needed from day to day. Some days you may want to take it easy due to injury or soreness, other days you may want to push yourself a bit. Yoga is about much more than touching your toes. It includes creating peace in your body, mind, and spirit. Remember, it is your practice; so always take care to give yourself what you need. Thoughts about comparing yourself with others are not conducive to this kind of care; so it’s best to let them go from the start. You are perfect as you are. It can be incredibly freeing to consciously eliminate the thoughts and actions that do not serve you well. Some things are better left behind; for your yoga practice and beyond.
- How do I finish my practice?
If you are practicing at home, you can finish by lying down with silent meditation or mindfulness before going about the rest of your day. If you are in a group environment, class will often end with a final pose called savasana. This is a huge part of the practice. It is not generally considered appropriate to leave during this portion of your class. In this posture you will be guided into a comfortable position on your back. Your teacher may even guide you in deepening your comfort, ease, or focus. This stillness can be held for quite a while so just enjoy the relaxation that comes. When your teacher has you sit back upright, it is also customary to bring your hands together at your heart center and say “Namaste”. This word means “I bow to you” and signifies reverence. It also represents an energetic connection that is free from ego; uniting one another and one’s self in truth. What a beautiful thing to take part in!
The best way to start a yoga practice is to take that first step onto your mat. I hope you enjoy and learn from your practice for years to come! Will you take that step and roll out your mat today?