Yoga for Beginners- By Katie Quinsey
I remember how nervous I was about going to a yoga class for the first time, not knowing what to expect or what it was all about. I wondered, “Will everyone be super flexible except for me? Will I feel silly for not knowing the poses or not being flexible enough to do them? Will I be able to keep up? What do I need to bring? What do I wear? What is the etiquette at a yoga studio?”
Wait a minute, I thought that yoga was supposed to reduce stress, not cause it!
Fortunately, when I arrived at the studio, I found out that there was nothing to be worried about. Everyone was friendly and helpful and I was able to relax and enjoy myself. Now, as a yoga teacher, I wish the same type of enjoyable first yoga experience for all of my students. That’s why I’ve put together this list of the top 10 questions that I hear from new yoga students, so that you’ll know exactly what to expect and your first yoga experience can be a relaxing one.
- Do I need to be flexible? Will I be the only one who can’t touch their toes?
No! One of my yoga teachers once said that not doing yoga because you are not flexible is like not taking a bath because you are dirty. Most people start yoga, at least in part, because they would like to improve their flexibility. You can expect a range of different body types and levels of flexibility in a drop in yoga class. However, keep in mind that those students who look very flexible now were once beginners too and will remember what it feels like to not be able to touch their toes. The most important thing is that you listen to your body, let go of any internal pressure to go deeply into the poses and instead, do the poses in a way that feels good for you!
- What if I don’t know the poses? Will I be able to keep up?
The teacher is there to guide you through the poses. You do not need to know them in advance. He or she will explain exactly how to position your body in each pose and how to move in and out of the poses safely. Sometimes, the teacher will demonstrate the pose and at other times he or she will describe the pose and walk around the class to offer adjustments. If you have questions, just ask!
- I have injuries. Can I still do yoga?
Yes, as long as your doctor or healthcare provider has given you the go ahead, you can do yoga. Yoga can be a helpful part of the healing process by helping to stretch, strengthen and align your body as well as offering a chance to relax and reduce stress. We have classes that are specially designed for students who are healing from injuries or dealing with chronic conditions. Please contact us or stop by the Studio to discuss your individual needs and we will help you to find the class that is right for you. Also, please be sure to let the teacher know about any injuries or health conditions prior to class.
- What about all of that weird chanting and stuff?
Yogis (yoga practitioners) are known to do some strange stuff at times. However, once you know what it is all about it probably won’t seem so weird anymore. In fact, you might even find that you would like to join in! Of course, you are always welcome just to observe and listen if that feels more comfortable for you.
Most classes begin with chanting the sound “Om”. In yoga philosophy, the sound of Om represents the vibration of Universal Consciousness. When we chant this sound together, it is a way to bring us all together as a community and to remember that we are, in essence, all One.
We end our yoga classes by saying, “Namaste”. Namaste is a Sanskrit word which means, “The Light within me honours the Light within you.” Again, this is a way of honouring the Universal Consciousness, the goodness and the light within ourselves and within each other.
What’s all this talk about Universal Consciousness? Well, that could mean a lot of different things to different people. You might think of this as Nature, the Divine, God, Energy, the Source, Oneness or simply a Connection between all things.
- Is yoga a religious practice? Will it conflict my religion and personal beliefs?
Yoga is not a religious practice. However, it is a spiritual practice in that it asks you to connect with your physical body, your mind, your heart and your spirit. You are encouraged to cultivate this connection in a way that feels natural for you, with complete respect for any personal beliefs that you hold. If you ever feel uncomfortable with a particular practice (such as chanting, for example) you are welcome to pass on that part of class. I have also had students who have sung “Amen” instead of “Om” and said “Thank You” instead of “Namaste”. Be true to your own heart!
- What do I wear?
The main thing is that you feel comfortable and that you can move freely. Tight spandex tops and expensive yoga clothes are not necessary! Just wear the type of clothing that you might normally wear for working out. Fabrics with a little bit of stretchiness will give you more freedom of movement. Layers are great as you will warm up and cool down throughout the course of the class. In some poses, like downward facing dog, your head will be down so you will want a shirt that tucks in or that is tight around the waist so that it will not fall down into your face.
- What do I need to bring?
Just bring yourself, a bottle of water to drink and a yoga mat, if you have one. If not, don’t worry, you are welcome to borrow one of our mats. We also have mats for sale in the Wellbeing Shop.
- What can I expect when I arrive? What is the etiquette before, during and after class?
When you arrive, one of our friendly teachers will greet you and show you around the studio. You will be asked to complete a waiver and either pay a drop in fee to attend the class or purchase one of our discounted passes or memberships.
Yoga is done in bare feet. There is a shelf where you can leave your shoes and hooks for hanging jackets in the reception area. Bring any valuables into the studio with you, where you can store them in a cubby within sight while you are taking your class.
The teacher will show you where to set up your mat and where to get any props that you will need for class. The other students are always really helpful in making you feel comfortable and showing new students around as well!
At the end of class, we will serve tea so that you will have a chance to relax and chat with the teacher and other students. This is a great time to ask questions! If you borrowed a mat from the Studio or if you would like to give you own mat a cleaning, we have spray bottles and sponges for that purpose.
- What’s the proper way to breathe in yoga?
In yoga, we generally breathe in and out through our noses, making a soft “haaaa” sound with the breath, kind of like the sound of ocean waves rolling in to shore and back out again. As you inhale, you should feel a gentle expansion in your belly, sides, back and chest. However, your chest and shoulders should stay relaxed. This is often called “belly breath” or “diaphragmatic breath”. Don’t worry if this feels unnatural at first. Stick with it, but remain relaxed and don’t worry too much about it. It will come! Other types of breathing exercises are sometimes done, in which case the teacher will give specific instructions and guide you through it.
10. What are all of these different classes? Which class should I start with?
There are many different styles of yoga ranging from relaxing and meditative to an energetic workout. I highly recommend starting with a Beginners class. In our 8 week Beginners series you will learn breathing techniques, the basic poses and how to do them with good alignment, and you will also receive an introduction to the different styles of yoga that we offer at the studio.
If you would prefer the flexibility and variety of drop in classes rather than a series, just contact us or pop by the studio and we will explain the different styles and help you to find the one that is right for you!
If you have been thinking about starting yoga, come on out and try it! Once you do, the only question you’ll be asking yourself is, “Why did I wait so long?”