We’ve all seen those incredible yoga poses showcased on Instagram that would have any beginner intimidated to start.
In reality, past those flashy yoga poses—yoga is one of the most fulfilling and empowering hobbies that you can have.
Unlike your standard group fitness class, yoga brings in cultural and spiritual aspects that will improve your life drastically both physically and mentally. You will melt away stress, improve your concentration, and you will start to feel more centered within your body.
That doesn’t mean it’s not still a little scary to get started. So if you’re gearing up for your first yoga class, you’ve come to the right place! (And congratulations on taking the plunge.)
To help you have an awesome first yoga class, I interviewed professional yoga teachers and compiled a list of some of the best tips that you can use to get the most out of your first class. Here’s what they said:
- Tell the instructor it’s your first time
- Avoid eating too much before class
- Choose a beginner-friendly yoga style
- Follow basic yoga studio etiquette
- Be mindful of your breathing
- Grab the right props before class starts
- Don’t compete with others in the class
- Get familiar with yoga at home first
- Inform the instructor of any injuries or limitations
- Check if the studio supplies mats
- Choose a spot in the middle of the studio
- Go barefoot!
- Expect some soreness the next day
- Keep an open mind
Let’s take a closer look at each beginner yoga tip — read the whole post, there’s a ton of great nuggets from real yoga teachers with combined decades of experience!
1. Tell the Instructor It’s Your First Time
To have an excellent first yoga class, Emma Sothern of OmWithEmYoga.com said:
“Usually, teachers will ask at the start, “is anyone new to yoga?” or “does anyone have any injuries?” Don’t be afraid to speak up here–the more the teacher is aware of this, the more he/she can help you during your first practice.”
While you may feel nervous at your first yoga class and the last thing you want to do is be vocal in front of everyone, you must let the teacher know it’s your first time attending.
Letting your teacher know it is your first time taking a yoga class will encourage them to help you feel more comfortable during the class. They will use terminology that is easy to understand and instruct you on how to perform each movement throughout the class.
Now that the teacher knows you are a beginner, they can give you helpful tips throughout the class to improve your form or help you get set up correctly.
The teacher will also stress safety throughout the class and help guide you through the poses in the correct way to avoid any potential injuries.
(P.S. Check out Emma Sothern’s new Yoga for Alopecia course.)
Having highly qualified yoga teachers that can give individual attention is one good reason to take yoga at a studio vs the gym — click to read more about that comparison.
2. Avoid Eating 1-Hour Before Class Starts
With a lot of movement, a stomach full of food will be very uncomfortable and potentially even nauseating during a yoga class.
That’s why you should have a meal at least 1-hour before your class starts to give the food plenty of time to settle.
Eat a small meal that is enough to give you energy for the yoga class, but not enough where you feel lethargic and sluggish.
Some good food choices to eat before class would be:
- Yogurt and Berries
- Apples with Almond Butter
- Healthy Granola Bar
With these small snacks before your class, you will have the energy to keep up with the class—without the sluggish feeling of eating a large meal.
3. Choose a Beginner-Friendly Style of Yoga
To help you choose the best style of yoga class for your first, Sothern says:
“Find out what style of yoga the class is going to be. Things like Ashtanga might be a little bit advanced, so it might be good to look for a gentle Hatha, even a slow flow class. Yin is also nice, though it’s a different style of yoga.”
As you can see, not all yoga classes will be alike—so you must choose one geared more towards a beginner.
If you are up for the challenge and you think you can take on an intense workout, Ashtanga-style yoga will definitely have you breaking a sweat.
However, it is a good idea to start with a slower-style of yoga for your first class in most cases.
Check your local yoga studio’s schedule to see which styles they are teaching so you can better prepare and study a little beforehand on what you can expect.
4. Follow the Basic Class Etiquette Rules
There are a few untold rules of the yoga studio seen as common courtesy among your fellow peers and teacher. Follow these rules, and you will blend in with the experienced students in no time!
Arrive Early: Especially important as a first-time student, arriving early gives you a chance to pick a good spot for your mat and get yourself settled before class begins. Aim to arrive at least 10-minutes early to the class starting time.
Leave Your Phone Outside the Room: The yoga studio should be a sacred place free of cellphones and other devices that can be distracting. If you want to make an excellent first impression, ditch the cellphone and leave it in your car or locker room.
Try Not to Leave Early: If you need to leave, try to do so before the class’s savasana portion towards the end. This class segment is very meditative, and if you leave, it can distract the other students.
Avoid Wearing Strong Perfumes: Keep it light on the perfumes in a group environment like a yoga class. Some people are very sensitive to fragrances and can find it distracting if you are wearing a strong scent.
Mind Your Step: One of the largest pet peeves for many yoga students is having their mat stepped on during class. Some classes can get very crammed depending on the yoga studio, so always be careful where you step.
These are just a few of the most common rules of the yoga studio, and all of them boil down to being respectful towards those around you.
5. Be Mindful of Your Breathing
When it comes to one of the most crucial parts of yoga, Sothern advises: Don’t Forget to Breathe!
“My most important tip, because it’s one we often forget about–even though our breath comes automatically! The thing is, the respiratory system is the only system we can control. Simply by slowing down the breath, we can slow down the central nervous system (activating the parasympathetic response or “rest and digest” state,) slowing down the heart rate and the mind, too!”
One of the core practices of yoga is learning to control your breathing and breathe with your diaphragm.
For those without any yoga background, you will likely start by taking shallow breaths during the class and not pay attention to how you are breathing.
However, to get a better experience during your first class, pay attention to your breathing and focus on taking deep breaths throughout each movement.
By breathing deeply with your diaphragm, you will improve your performance during class and stay relaxed.
6. Grab All of the Props
To prevent yourself from aggravating any injuries, Michelle Houston of Her Healthy Habits recommends:
“Stay within your limitations or boundaries of your body, especially if you’re managing any sort of injury or physical limitation. It’s important that you stay within your range of motion, your skill level.”
To help you stay within your body’s limits, yoga props offer an effective way to perform yoga poses at any skill or flexibility level.
Available in most yoga studios, the props used in yoga will help you perform various poses with a little extra help. These props will be tools that you can use to achieve proper alignment in your poses and deepen your stretches.
Some of the most common props you will find in your local yoga studio are:
- Pillows & Bolsters
As a beginner, your teacher will most likely recommend utilizing these props to help you achieve the poses with less strain.
As you continue with your yoga journey, you may decide that you no longer need to use props during class.
7. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
When you attend a yoga class for the first time, you may feel inadequate comparing yourself to the other more experienced students.
You will see people in the class with perfect form on their poses that you can only wish to do.
However, you need to realize that everyone was a beginner at some point in their life, and with enough effort, you can be in the same position in the future.
Even in as little as one month is enough to notice some significant improvements in your yoga practice.
Your yoga practice should be focused on improving yourself, not what someone else is doing in the class.
Once you focus on yourself and notice the steady improvements you are making, yoga will be a more fulfilling experience.
8. Get Familiar with Yoga at Home
When I asked yoga teacher Nathalia Basso, founder of Nathalia Fit, what a beginner can do to feel more comfortable about joining their first yoga class, she said:
“If you’re intimidated by going to a yoga studio, you can find so many great free classes on websites like YouTube. This can be a really great entry point for someone because there’s no pressure, there’s no one around you.”
If you aren’t quite ready to dive in headfirst into learning yoga at a studio with other members around, learning at home is a great alternative. You can make beginner mistakes, learn all of the basic yoga poses, and do so in the comfort of your own home.
With such an abundance of YouTube videos with different yoga routines, you can start from the very basics and work your way up until you are ready for a class setting.
The only downside to learning at home is that there is no instructor to help perfect your form on the different yoga poses. Yoga has pros and cons, and you should know that yoga can potentially cause musculoskeletal injuries if you aren’t careful with your form.
So, if you want to elevate your yoga practice and have flawless form, joining your local yoga studio is your best bet.
9. Inform the Instructor of Any Injuries
Before class starts and while you are introducing yourself to the instructor, be sure to let them know if you are dealing with any injuries. Learning about your injuries helps the instructor provide modifications during the class to work around it easier.
In some cases, the instructor may modify their entire sequence during class to make you feel comfortable.
Yoga should be a good workout, but it should not put you at risk of reinjuring yourself.
Some of the most useful tools for working around injuries are the props provided in the studio. These props can make up for the inflexibility or injuries you face and not cause any excess strain.
10. Check if the Studio Provides a Yoga Mat
Before attending your first yoga class, check to see if your local yoga studio will provide yoga mats for you to use during class.
In most cases, the yoga studio will have mats that you can use if you don’t have your own.
However, it’s always a good idea to check beforehand to avoid showing up empty-handed and unable to attend the class.
If you are using a yoga mat provided by the studio, be sure to clean it with a yoga mat cleaner before using it.
These yoga mats are available for all members in the studio, so there is a high chance someone was sweating on it previously.
11. Choose a Spot in the Middle of the Group
When you first enter the yoga studio, your first reaction is to pick a spot in the back of the class where you will be least noticed.
While this may seem more comfortable to you, you will be facing the back of the room for some poses, such as the downward dog during the class.
Without someone behind you, you might not have a visual reference to follow along if you get confused about a particular instruction during class!
While this may seem frightening, the best location to place your yoga mat is close to the middle of the group. You can feed off the energy of the other members around you and follow along with their movements if you need help.
If you feel very ambitious, the front of the class can also be a great spot free from any distractions. You can set yourself up close to the instructor and get personalized instruction if you need it.
12. Go Barefoot During Class
To give yourself the most grip on your yoga mat, it is a good idea to remove your socks if you feel comfortable with it.
Wearing socks will cause you to slip and do not provide sufficient grip on the mat, affecting your performance in class.
While being barefoot is the healthiest option to take during the class, you can choose to keep your shoes on if you don’t feel quite comfortable enough yet.
Shoes provide the most stability and grip on your mat compared to wearing only socks.
Being barefoot during the class is strongly recommended, but because yoga is different for each individual—there is no problem if you prefer to keep your shoes on.
13. Expect Some Soreness the Next Day
If you are practicing yoga for the first time, you should expect to feel some soreness the next day as your body adapts to the new workout regime.
Especially intense yoga styles like Ashtanga that will test your upper body strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health.
Soreness shouldn’t be as large of a problem if you are taking a beginner-friendly class with an emphasis on relaxation and stretching.
To recover quicker, stay properly hydrated and maybe take a warm Epsom salt bath to soothe your aching muscles and get you ready to take on another yoga class.
14. Keep an Open Mind
As someone new to yoga, some cultural aspects will seem foreign to you, such as the names of yoga poses spoken in the traditional Indian language Sanskrit and the chanting at the beginning or end of some yoga classes.
You may also experience some class segments that will seem embarrassing, such as the lion’s breathing exercise.
It is okay to see this as odd at first, and you don’t need to perform any of these exercises if you feel uncomfortable at any point during the class.
You can silently listen and observe the rest of the class until that portion of the yoga practice is over.
Once you have started to familiarize yourself and become comfortable with these parts of the class, you can begin to join as well.
Yoga makes for an all-around great workout that increases your flexibility, strength, and endurance.
Yoga is also a driving force in experiencing personal development and will have lasting impacts that reach further than just improving your physical health.
Being prepared for your first yoga class is more than what supplies you bring with you. Your mindset and expectations play a huge role as well. Be sure to focus on your own improvements and not get caught up in others’ skill levels.
The beauty of yoga is that it is about your personal journey, and someone can start from any point and continue transforming themselves during each class.
For more, check out:
- Do I need a yoga mat?
- How to choose the right style of yoga for your goals & personality
- Staying motivated in your yoga practice
Hope this helps!