Do you worry that yoga isn’t ‘for you’ because you’re not flexible? Are you intimidated by people decked out in Lululemon with long, lean yoga bodies? Well, you shouldn’t be, and taking a beginner’s course is a great way to get over this. Leave your intimidation at the door and read on!
I’ve been doing yoga for almost a year now and instead of starting off in a beginner’s course, I kind of threw myself into a Level 1 class. While I did okay there, I felt like I was lacking the foundation I required to get the most out of my practice, so last summer I took a six week beginner’s course at my studio. This course was made up of one seventy-five minute class each week.
Even if you aren’t a total beginner, I would really recommend trying out a course that will start your practice from scratch. Beginner’s classes are a great way to learn more about the yoga style of breathing (this is one of my weaknesses – I tend to hold my breath without realizing it!) and proper alignment even if you are already familiar with the basics.
If you have been practicing yoga for a little while, however, you may find a beginner’s course too slow for you. Poses are taught stage by stage, and then the stages are combined into sequences such as Sun Salutation A. Sequences are sometimes repeated multiple times so that the students can ‘get’ it while focusing on correct breathing and position.
Poses you might encounter in your first class are cow or dog pose and cat pose (above), downward dog, Warrior I & II, tree pose, mountain pose, forward fold, and corpse pose.
Hopefully your class will be small enough that the instructor will be able to provide one-on-one support to each student. This means a fun, personalized and supportive atmosphere for new yogis. Beginner’s courses are also great for getting back into yoga after a long break.
You may also be introduced to meditation or breath awareness in your first few yoga classes. I, personally, am not the ‘om’-ing type and too much of it can put me off a bit. Don’t expect to just sit around making funny noises, though! The meditation and breath awareness sections of classes I’ve attended include thinking of an intention for the class (for example, being present in your practice) or if you are having a really great day, you can dedicate your practice to someone who might need the positive energy. You’ll probably be asked to take some deep breaths and target the breath to different areas, like the stomach, ribs, and collarbones.
Being aware of your body, your breathing, and creating a goal for your practice can really keep you focused. Like any experience, you get what you put in. A few moments of meditation at the start of your practice can really help ease the day’s stresses so you can concentrate on getting the most out of your class.
Yoga classes are nothing to be intimidated by. You may be surrounded by bendy people, but in a beginner’s class, they are as new to yoga as you are. Chances are it’s not going to be a total Lululemon fest and filled with size zeros either. I’ve taken a lot of different classes and I have never, ever been in one where I felt like I didn’t belong because I wasn’t flexible enough, skinny enough, or wearing expensive pants. This is also partly due to the teacher. A good teacher should make everyone feel welcome, especially in a beginner’s class.
Case in point, the amazing woman next to me in my first class was 70 years old and had never tried yoga before in her life. If she can do it, we certainly can! She was a real trooper and truly shows that you can start practicing yoga at any age and for any reason.
Each class will likely conclude with savasana, also known as corpse pose. The class itself may be a bit fragmented as everyone picks things up at their own speed and the instructor comes around to assist individuals, but everyone comes together at the end for a bit of relaxation prior to leaving the studio.
Savasana is not for chilling out, but it is relaxing. You’d be surprised how difficult it can be to just let everything go and really indulge in a hard-earned savasana! Some teachers might play music, others might lead you through more breathing exercises, and some will leave you in silence. I have one teacher that recites an inspiring quote, anecdote, or passage from a book that sends us on our way on a really positive note.
All courses are different, as are all instructors, so you may find your experience is not quite the same as mine. If you have been considering yoga, a beginner’s course is a great place to start. You don’t want to accidentally pick up any bad habits! They are also extremely helpful if you decide to practice at home between classes.
Please share your first yoga experiences in the comments. I’d love to hear how other studios operate beginner’s courses or how they help out new students.