I have a confession to make: when I first started taking yoga classes, I was a bit lost. I wasn’t quite sure how to set up or which items I should bring to class. Therefore, I thought I would write up a few tips for beginners, since everyone will be a first-time yoga practitioner at some point.
First of all, silence really is golden during yoga class, since many participants like to relax before the class begins. Personally, I like to arrive at least 10 minutes early, although this varies by studio; some classes run consecutively, which makes this impossible. I then take some time to relax in savasana (or cadaver) pose while I wait for the class to start. This allows me to centre myself before my practice.
When you first enter the room, the material needed for the class is usually located at the front, near the instructor’s mat. Take exactly the same items for yourself. Next, place your mat with the short side facing the instructor. (If you ever take a Pilates class, the long side of the mat would then face the instructor).
When the instructor arrives, you will be invited to take an initial pose to begin the session. Throughout the class, you can always return to this initial pose if you don’t feel you can hold a certain pose. Personally, I always try, because it’s so gratifying to accomplish something I felt was impossible for me. And if I fail, I always have the satisfaction of knowing that I tried!
The session ends with a relaxation period, after which the instructor will invite you to sit down if you wish. Wait until the instructor tells you the class is over before leaving the room, or you risk disrupting the atmosphere. There are always some participants who like to take a few extra minutes to reconnect with reality. If you must leave right after class, be respectful; discreetly put away your materials and clean your carpet (if it belongs to the studio). A spray bottle and disposable cloths are usually available for this purpose.
Here are a few habits I’ve picked up from visiting numerous studios for this column:
• Always give yourself plenty of time. Yoga classes rarely end on time; if you’re in a rush, you risk losing the benefits of your practice as soon as you leave the studio.
• I always carry a lock, a water bottle, and a face towel in my bag. Some studios will provide these items, while others expect you to bring your own. In some studios, the changing room is equipped with lockers, while others only provide hooks. When in doubt, it’s best to call the studio in advance and ask.
• Most studios have their own protocols and policies, and offer guidelines on issues such as shower time or locker use. You should read up on these before your first visit. In some cases, specific details will be noted, as was the case at one of my former studios which had banned the use of perfumes.
I hope I could enlighten you and clear up any lingering misconceptions about yoga classes.
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