Yoga 101: Breaking Down Yoga Classes


Hypothetical situation: You are a new student. You walk into a new studio, and you have a vision of what you think yoga is going to be like. Same setting - there are mirrors, hard wood floors, mood lighting. Same teacher - talks softly, very kind, probably toting an overused yoga mat. Same style - you know, it flows, there's probably some downward dogs and child poses thrown in there. Chances are, your yoga class isn't like this. Why? Because each teacher is different and each class is different.

Show up 10 to 15 minutes early to class. Fifteen if you have never been to this studio before. It helps you get acquainted with the studio's specific procedures. This gives you time to talk to other students, introduce yourself to the teacher, get your props, and prep for the class. One of my biggest pet peeve is going to class that has already started and having a few stragglers come in. Be respectful to your fellow yogis and the teacher and show up early.

Checking in
Figure out how you check in. I used to go to a gym where they knew who I was and I just walked right upstairs to the fitness room. I have also seen hotel style where you walk up to the front desk and sign in. At university, there was just a clipboard on the bench and you just signed in. Where I go to now, everyone had a key card they sign in with but if you are new, you signed yourself in on a computer. Every place is different.

Introduce Yourself
This is also a good time to introduce yourself to the teacher. Often times, I tell people who have never gone to yoga to introduce themselves and let the teacher know that it is your first time or you are a beginner. This is especially important so they can keep an eye on your alignment and your practice. The last thing you want to do is walk out of the studio with an injury! Speaking of injuries, if you are a beginner or not, it is always important to let the teacher know about them. They will give you modifications.

My story: I crashed my bike and hit my my hand on a desk corner in the same week which caused pain in my left wrist. I have been naturally treating it so I knew I could go to yoga class. Even with this, I let the teachers know I have a mild injury - I could not bear any weight on my left side. They gave me modifications like going into dolphin pose instead of downward dog.

Also, if you don't like being touched, you should tell your teacher. Half of the classes I have been to, the teachers will adjust your body to correct your form or even do body work while you are laying in savasana, corpse pose. If this is something you cannot handle, let them know. They can talk you through the correct adjustments rather than physically help you.

What's the best place in the room?
There is no "perfect spot". It also depends on your needs. Most places have mirrors. I have seen all sides with mirrors, I have seen one wall with a mirror. Are you easily distracted? You probably don't want to be close to a mirror if you think you will check yourself or others out all the time. Also, the back is also a pretty distracting place because you can see others. If you can easily focus, you can go there too. Everyone has their own preferred space. Just pick a spot and move if you must!

Do I need props?
Many places provide yoga props. Talk to a fellow yogi or the teacher on what props you will need for class. Some teachers do not believe in props. Others love it. I have been to a variety of classes that need blocks and a strap, this is the most common. One time I went to a class we needed two blocks, a strap, two sandbags, an eye pillow, a bolster, AND a chair. Whew! Needless to say, it was an amazing class.

Be attentive. Listen to what the teacher is saying and watch what they are doing. I have had teachers the strictly told us the poses in Sanskrit with no English translation. Look around if you are lost. Ask questions! If something doesn't feel right in your body, don't do it. Yoga should not be painful. Most importantly, breathe. Relax and breathe.

Each teacher ends class differently. Go with the flow. Never ever ever leave during savasana, corpse pose. I strongly believe that it is one of the most important poses in yoga as it relaxes your body and you are able to reflect and meditate on your practice. Be respectful to the teacher and your friends and don't start packing up until the teacher has closed the class. Be polite and say thank you to the teacher.

Congratulations! You finished a yoga class!
I hope this is especially helpful for those of you who have never been to a class before. Overall, going to class is all about being respectful and listening - to your body and the teacher.


Courtesy of Tumblr (yoga mat image). Picture is floating around on Tumblr, the original poster has deactivated their account so I cannot credit them properly. If this is your image, please let me know so I can credit you.

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