Today, I am giving you the beginner's guide to yoga! This is for you if you have never tried a yoga class, if you have never stepped foot into a yoga studio, taken a yoga class at your local gym or tried out one of our live online yoga classes! In today’s blog, I am giving you tips to help make your first experience as wonderful as possible!
I remember the first time I walked into a yoga class at the local YMCA in Norfolk, Virginia. I was a first-year medical student and I was nervous. I didn't really know exactly what to expect. Luckily, I had a great experience and I want to make sure that you have the same sort of wonderful first experience!
In this blog, I am going to answer three most commonly asked questions about yoga:
Do I need to be flexible to practice yoga?
What sort of gear do I need to practice yoga? I don't even have a yoga mat, so what do I need and what should I wear?
Is there anything I need to know about yoga etiquette?
So, let’s get started! “Do I need to be flexible to practice yoga?” The quick answer - No. The flexibility will come with practice. I could not even touch my toes when I started practicing yoga; the flexibility came with time and consistent practice. So, the quick answer is “no.” It is totally okay if you cannot touch your toes before you go to your first yoga class; in fact, it is totally okay if you've been practicing yoga for years and you still cannot touch your toes! There is this thing we say in yoga that, no matter how long we've been practicing, we are always still a beginner. It is important to keep a beginner's mind as we move through our practice. I created an entire separate blog on answering just this question, so you can continue reading here “What sort of gear do I need to get started? What should I wear? Wear anything that is comfortable to move around in. There are lots of fancy yoga clothes and stores out there these days and if you want to get those, that's great! But, you certainly do not need it. Just wear something comfortable that you can move around in.
What else do you need to get started? For those of you who are starting out and don't have a yoga mat, most studios and gyms have yoga mats that you can borrow. If you want to get your own starter mats, I usually recommend just going to a store like TJ Maxx or Marshalls to pick out a starter yoga mat. I got my very first yoga mat from Barnes and Noble. If you want to know my favorite yoga mat, the yoga mat that I use now is the Jade yoga mat. I absolutely love it! It is a bit more of an investment compared to some other mats out there, so if you're not quite ready to make that investment, then just go to TJ Maxx or Marshalls. They have everything you need to get started! So, that's the basic kind of bare minimum, the yoga mat.
There are also other props that can be helpful. Again, if you go to a yoga studio or gym, they usually have all those props for you to borrow. Most commonly, there are blocks, cushions, blankets, straps, and bolsters. Again, you don't need to go out and get all of these props if you are just getting started.
And, if you are joining classes with us, it's even easier! Our classes at Shakti Vidya Yoga are all live, online classes that you practice at home. So, even if you don’t have a yoga mat, you can just practice on the carpet in your living room. The yoga mat helps a bit in the sense that, because of its material, it can prevent your hands or feet from slipping and sliding too much, but it is not a necessity. I practice barefoot on my carpet often and I also have a favorite yoga mat. So, it's completely up to you! Also, if you're practicing at home with us, in terms of some of those other props that I mentioned like blocks and bolsters, just grab a couple of cushions and maybe a folded blanket. These work great as props!
“Is there anything I need to know about yoga etiquette?” Yes, particularly if you are taking classes at a studio or a gym. Most all studios request that shoes not be worn in the practices space. Studio and gyms will often have a designated space where you can remove your shoes before entering the practice room. Many yogi's, myself included, practice barefoot. Some people prefer wearing socks. If you would rather wear socks, I recommend getting Yoga socks that have grips on the soles, so that you don’t slip and slide too much on your mat.
Also, most yoga classes end with a final resting pose called Savasana. In this pose, you lay on your back and rest in silence for a few minutes. If you are not able to stay for the duration of this pose and have to leave class early, most studios will request that you leave before the class gets into resting pose; that way you don't disturb the other students by moving around and making noise during Savasana. However, if you are able to stay for the whole class, I definitely recommend staying for Savasana! That pose is where the magic happens! At least, that is where the magic happened for me when I first started taking yoga classes, of where I really was able to experience peace, bliss, and spaciousness.
Now, if you are practicing at home with our live, online classes, then you really don’t have to worry about these tips on etiquette. Since you are practicing in the comfort of your own home, you don’t have to worry about where to put your shoes, coming in a few minutes late, or leaving a few minutes early. The platform we use for our classes is called Zoom and it is set to mute all participants as they join the class. So, if you’re running a few minutes late, no worries! Just log in and join us! Also, when you join class, your video is automatically on so that the teacher can interact with you and help guide you through the poses. But, if you want more privacy (hey, we know you're practicing from home and that is the beauty of these live online classes!), you can just turn your video off, so you can have complete privacy and still join us for classes!
So there you have it! Congratulations on completing your beginner’s guide to yoga! You are now all set for your first class! Whether you take your first class at a studio, gym, or with us from the comfort of your home, you now know all the basics to get started! We have a new schedule of classes starting August 1st and I look forward to seeing you in class soon!