I first stumbled into a yoga studio four years ago with a print out from Groupon for a block of classes. Since then I have practiced 2-4 times a week. Its a great way of conditioning the mind and the body. I’ve seen and tried a few things out over the years and these are my top tips for those new to yoga

(I’m not a yoga teacher and so always ask for professional advice if you are not sure about anything)

  1. Try a few studios out before signing up to anything long term. You don’t even have to find a studio. Many teachers teach in public spaces and community centres. Google “yoga classes + your city” and start at the top of the list. Most studios offer an introductory course (usually unlimited classes for up to a month). This is great way to try out different styles of yoga and get a feel for the different teaching styles out there. Stick with somewhere you feel comfortable. We are all different and I personally like to try different styles so that I challenge and learn more about myself. This isn’t for everyone and some people like to stick with what they know. It’s all okay.
  2. Arrive early to class if possible. This allows you to pick your preferred space and get yourself comfortable before the class. It’s best to sit near the front if you are new so that you get a better view of what the teacher is demonstrating. Some classes use props which are usually foam bricks and belts. These help you to get into the yoga poses more easily. It’s helpful to grab a set of props before you start so that you have them to hand. If you are not sure if you need them, then ask the teacher beforehand.
  3. Let the teacher know about any pre-existing injuries or medical conditions that could affect your practice. Most studios will ask you to fill in a medical form beforehand. The good news is that most poses can be modified to accommodate for any medical issues.
  4. Don’t try and copy the person next to you on the mat. There will be some people in every class who are blessed with an awesome ability to twist their bodies into astonishing contortions. This is very cool and it’s tempting to push yourself to do more than your body is able to do. In simple terms Yoga is about movement with breath and in the beginning learning to breathe and move is the most important thing. If you get into a pose and you can’t breath properly, then you have pushed too far and you should come out of the pose until you can breathe fully and comfortably.
  5. Try not to eat for a few hours before the class. Take water with you and sip it throughout the class. Some of the poses, particularly the twisting ones, compress the stomach and intestines and can be uncomfortable on a full stomach. It’s helpful to drink plenty of water after the class to hydrate.
  6. If you feel pain during a pose then stop and come out of it. This ties in with point 4 above about copying other people. Ask your teacher for advice.
  7. Some teachers will perform hands-on assists during the class. This is where they adjust you with their hands to help you to get a better alignment in the poses. This is always optional and if you don’t want to be touched, this is okay. Let the teacher know beforehand and they will leave you to practice in peace.
  8. A little note about what to wear. This varies. There are some really nice branded yoga clothes out there and some people wear these but you don’t have to. Essentially a comfortable pair of leggings or thin tracksuit bottoms with a top will do nicely. In the heated classes, it’s best to wear clothes made of thinner material otherwise you may bake. You don’t have to wear lycra. I personally tend to avoid baggy teeshirts as they can fall over your head in the inverted postures like Downward Dog. In the hot classes some men like to take their shirts off. Not all studios permit this so gents please check before stripping off!
  9. Interestingly some poses – I’m told by teachers that these are usually the hip or heart opening poses, may release emotions held in the body. It doesn’t always happen but it can and is a normal phenomenon. Some people may feel angry or tearful in certain poses. If this happens, it’s okay. If the emotions seem overwhelming for any reason, then stop and rest. Child’s pose with some deep breathing helps the body to integrate the emotion.
  10. Get to know the teachers. Most teachers will stay around after class to chat to the students and answer any questions. You can ask them about any aspects of the practice and they will give you tips to help you progress. It also adds to the social element as they then recognise you at the next class. Its also good to chat to fellow students. Find out what brought them to yoga and what they enjoy. It’s a excellent way to make new friends.

Enjoy your practice!