How to Make It Through Your First Yoga Class Without Looking Like an Idiot
Unless you live in a cave devoid of Wi-Fi and cold-pressed juice bars, you've heard of yoga and how it has soooo many the health benefits. So if you still haven't tried it (and you've bothered to start this article), you're probably on the fence. On the one hand, it would be nice to get a workout and relax, but on the other, does going to yoga mean you're basically joining a soft cult that will make you start anointing your crown chakra with frankincense daily?
I've been practicing for seven years, and my friends have all given me lame excuses for not wanting to come to a class with me. Everything from "yoga is so weird" to "I'm not flexible enough" to "I'm afraid I'm going to fart in class." Here's one more attempt to get everyone to realize you virtually can't make a fool of yourself in a yoga class, unless you try really hard. Namaste, bitches.
It sounds obvious, but check out the studio/gym's website. It should have the information you need about schedules, payment, house rules and etiquette, etc. Just remember: after you read the directions, follow them! If it says classes are closed after the first five minutes, don't show up 10 minutes late and expect to be let in. Oh, and in general...
Don't be late
In fact, be early -- at least 15 minutes early -- so you can get registered with the studio and relax a little before class starts. Don't think the yogic practices of patience and forgiveness give you license to interrupt a class in progress.
Bring these things: a towel, a bottle of water, a change of clothes
Almost every yoga studio will provide mats and towels, sometimes at a cost. If it's your first class it might let you use them for free. I say bring your own towel because sometimes they're not free or the studio runs out, and you really don't want to be without one.
A water bottle is necessary, and I've never been to a studio that gives them away. I strongly recommend you bring a change of clothes, especially if you're going to a hot yoga class, unless you're down with going home in wet, heavy, smelly clothes. You might be able to get away with just a shirt change if it's not a heated class, but that depends on how easily you sweat.
Silence your phone
Not every studio is big enough to have a separate room for your belongings. Even if there's a locker room, obnoxious ringtones can often be heard through the walls since classes are either quiet or have relaxing music playing.
Take off your shoes
It's a barefoot space. If that gives you the willies, well, what, you never take your shoes off?
Don't judge the "yoga people"
I know yoga people seem weird, and maybe they are a little. They chant. They ohm. They wear stretchy pants. They speak Sanskrit during class, preach about the endless love of the universe, and some of them talk about the healing benefits of sweat lodges. One thing they’re not doing is judging you for coming out to practice with them for the first time. Return the favor, because of karma or whatever.
Don't eat two hours before
If it's your first class, you're probably not going to be standing on your head, but you'll be a lot more comfortable in general if you do yoga on an empty stomach. When lying on your back with your legs stretched out, the instructor may ask you to bring one leg (or both) into your chest. They don't call this the "wind-relieving pose" for nothing.
There's no such thing as indecency, so get over it
There's farting, crying, vomiting, wedgies, nip-slips, pools of sweat forming around people's mats, and some overachievers who go for the headstand during their first class and loudly flop right on their backs. Just keep practicing. I've seen it ALL, and it's happened to the best of us. Don't feel stupid if it happens to you, because no one else in the class will bat an eye at it -- unless you fall, then the teacher will quietly come check to make sure you're not concussed or something.
Don't walk out during savasana
This is the yogic equivalent of leaving church after communion. What, you're soooooo busy you can't be bothered to partake in the easiest part of the class? Just lie down and relax. You earned this time, and so did everyone else in class, so don't do it just for yourself, do it to not disturb others while you're making your exit. Trust me, you are NOT stealthy enough to leave without bothering people. If you're getting antsy, use this time to practice patience. Just like the rest of the class, savasana will be over before you know it.
Obviously this doesn't apply to any serious emergencies, medical or otherwise. You're an adult, you know what can wait.
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Mara Montalbano is a contributor to Thrillist and has much more respect for people who fall asleep and snore during savasana than people who walk out before it’s over. Follow her: @MaraMontalbano.