How to survive your first yoga class

All the health benefits are crystal clear – but starting yoga as a total beginner can be intimidating, to say the least.

Yoga has long been linked to healthy body, healthy mind, and healthy life. Once considered more of an alternative exercise practice, for the free spirited and bohemian among us – it’s more recently entered into many mainstream fitness regimes.

Your gym probably hosts a number of classes, and there are plenty of modern variations to suit any speed, taste, or schedule (yoga for kidsbeer yoga, hip hop yoga, and yoga set to the reverberating frequency of the earth, for example).

Statistics compiled this year by Sydney studio BodyMindLife have affirmed the effects of introducing yoga to your week. In a study of 47 participants, who took 5 yoga classes a week and completed 10 minutes of meditation per day, feelings of stress and axiety were reduced by 40%. Energy increased by 35%, and participants' overall sense of wellbeing improved by 30%.

All of this aside – trying something new, that requires you to bend, stretch, and huff and puff (breath) in a manner that may seem unnatural at first – yoga as a total novice can really be a little daunting.

To help you on your way, we spoke to yogi and BodyMindLife instructor Kat Clayton about why you should take the yoga plunge, and how best to go about it.

Why do you think everyone should practice yoga? 

Yoga allows you to experience some pretty amazing physical, emotional, and mental benefits.While we mostly think of yoga as poses and exercises that move the body, yoga also incorporates more mindful breath which helps maximise oxygenation & increases blood flow to vital organs such as your heart and brain, making you feel more focused and relaxed.

But the truth is, it's not about what you can do. Rather who and what you have to become or break through to get the results you desire.

Sure, you may get more flexible (who doesn't want to be able to touch their toes or do a handstand like a gymnast?!) but to get there, you will also see an increase in your self-discipline and self-awareness. You'll eat better, sleep better, and regulate your lifestyle which creates a positive upward spiral in all aspects of your life. 

Can anyone do yoga?

Yes! I taught yoga to adults with disabilities for four years and have had clients from six years old up to their mid-80s! Anyone can do yoga!

What would be your advice for anyone considering yoga?

  1. Check out a few different teachers and styles. Find a teacher or studio that suits your needs and wants. Consider your current physical conditions, limitations, levels of stress, age, and preference for relaxation or action. There are many different styles and forms, some more relaxing and gentle, others more physically demanding. In today's world you won't have to look (or Google) very far to find a yoga studio, teacher or online class that will teach you at a level that's right for your current condition and needs.
  2. Don't fret if you're super inflexible! Speaking as a yoga teacher, I can assure you there will always be someone less flexible, less coordinated, or cluey than you! Don't let your nerves about that get in the way of you trying yoga.
  3. A lot of first time students are fearful of looking like a complete and total idiot. Acknowledge your fear but don't let that put you off. That's the fun part – feeling accomplishment as you make progress, learn and get better!
  4. Consider starting out with a private or one on one lesson. Many students come to me privately in order to ensure they are practicing with safe, correct & optimal alignment. What could take you months or even years to learn by yourself on the mat, can be quickly identified and understood in an hour if you are willing to work with a qualified and experienced teacher.

Ok, so what are your top 4 tips for a first yoga class – what to wear, what to expect, maybe some do’s and don’ts?

  1. Wear comfortable exercise clothing. Depending on the style of yoga, and whether the room is heated or not.
  2. Keep it simple. You don't need any fancy equipment. All you need is yourself and a yoga mat (although at most studios you can hire or borrow one). Leave your jewellery and personal belongings at home or in lockers (if provided). Most studios will also ask you to remove your shoes before stepping for into the studio for both hygienic reasons and out of respect.
  3. Quiet the inner critic. As I said before, it's normal to experience a few nerves walking into your first yoga class.
  4. Enjoy the process and go in with an open mind. A technical skill or new language takes time to learn. You're perfectly perfect wherever you're currently at. Anyone can improve their flexibility, calm, and focus. 

Check out BodyMindLife and Kat's class schedule, here

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