This article is not going to tell you all about how great yoga is; about how it’s going to improve every aspect of your physical and emotional well-being; how it’s going to change the way you see and live life. I hope by now you have heard all this before, and chances are at least one person has told you that you should be doing yoga.
You know you are in for something special – once you overcome the initial hurdles of the mystery of yoga, the fear of commitment to a regular practice, and self-judgment of your complete lack of flexibility.
So I am going to give it you straight.
You told your annoying yoga friend you were coming to a class and you can’t get out of it this time. Shimmy into those stretchy pants, grab that cobwebby old mat from your aerobics days and let’s go.
Here’s what you’re in for when you finally make it to your first yoga class.
1. A whole new world
Walking through the door you may or may not experience strange sitar-like sounds, clouds of incense smoke, maybe even some statues of Buddha or other deities that you may not be too sure about. Rest assured, no one is going to try to convert you to Buddhism or Hinduism or suck you into a cult.
Yoga is a practice that is open to all, with a deep respect to each person and their views, yoga is about acceptance and unity. Once you believe in love and compassion you have nothing to fear. Any statues or foreign looking artifacts are there for the representation of love and to pay tribute to the ancient roots of the practice in the Eastern world.
People are going to be nice, like really nice. This may seem strange and you will wonder what’s their angle. Truth is, they actually are that nice! Yoga makes people happy and happy people are nice. It’s refreshing.
Roll out your mat and get comfortable. Some classes start with a few moments of seated intention. This is to help you get calm and in the zone.
There will be some talk about breath. Yeah, breath. Basically yoga is just a really elaborate method of helping you learn to breathe. You know how to breathe already, you say? You are in for a surprise. Maintaining a controlled and calm breath while moving through the yoga poses is the biggest challenge of them all! Go on, inhale, nice and slow. Exhale, ahh. Repeat…
5. You have no idea what you are supposed to be doing, and that’s OK
As the instructor starts guiding you through a series of different poses it is suddenly going to occur to you that you do not know which one is your left leg, how to raise your sternum and what engaging your core really even means. Don’t worry. Focus on one thing at a time. Yoga helps you get to know your body, which basically means you are going to discover muscles you didn’t even know you had.
Do what you can do, and don’t do what you can’t do. Rest when you need to.
6. Foreign words and flowery language
Wait – was that English? No, it wasn’t. Yoga comes from India. A teacher who is trying to stay true to the tradition may use some Sanskrit words sprinkled around their instruction. You don’t need to know these, just focus on the words you do understand.
AKA hot girl ass. No matter your sexual preference, it is easy to get distracted or to feel a little intimidated by that hot, scantily clad yoga minx in the front row, but just remember – you’re not there to perv or compare so just look away, and focus on figuring this crazy yoga shit out. See point 11 for more about not comparing.
8. A workout
You are going to sweat, probably like you’ve never sweat before. Slippery hands and feet are just extra obstacles to overcome in this game of Twister-like scenario.
9. A release
You might fart. Yeah. Act normal and they may not know it’s you. Yoga does wonders at not only toning the outer body, but also all the internal organs, and hey, they need love too.
An awareness that your mind just doesn’t shut up! The teacher is telling you to focus and all you can think about it what’s for dinner, tomorrow’s to-do list and that French bulldogs are really playful and cute. When you catch yourself riding the stream of mental chatter, it’s OK, come back, gently.
11. The urge to compare
Somebody is always going to be ‘better’ than you, and you are always going to be ‘better’ than someone else. It’s natural your first time to look around, are you doing this right? Whoa, is that what its supposed to look like?! I could say, ‘Don’t compare,’ but that’s like the hardest thing ever. So just remember – everybody was a beginner once. Everybody!
Yoga classes always end with a cool-down pose called Savasana, or corpse pose. Yes, corpse, as in, yuh dead. You just lie there for 5—15 minutes and hope you don’t start snoring. This is not nap time, this is deep relaxation time; let your body soak up that whole experience and integrate it into muscle memory. This is the true beauty of the practice. For every tension, there should be a release; this is how we maintain balance in life.
Expect to feel like you have been transported to magical care bear land as you slowly get up after your Savasana. You are going to walk on rainbows and make friends with unicorns. It’s like a top class relaxation drug, you feel high, so high, in the clearest and most present way. You know peace, you know love, you know purpose. You like this yoga thing; you think you’ll be back.
14. A new you
You get in your car, get a bad drive on the way home, and you don’t react with quite as much vicious rage, you control your anger! Perfection!