Since I’ve become that weirdo who never stops babbling about how “yoga is changing my life” and “how I can feel a shift in my true self” since I started going to yoga regularly, I’ve been trying to force my friends into going with me. The style of yoga I currently practice is Vinyasa Flow, but in my early 20′s, I was a Bikram fanatic, so I have experienced all manner of hot yoga.
When I finally convince a friend to drink the Kool Aid and come to class with me, the two questions I get most often are: “Am I going to die?” and the second is ”What is it like?” and/or “What do I need to do?” To the first, I say that I doubt it, and for the second question(s), I have these tips:
- It’s gonna be hot. It’s hot in there. That’s why it’s called “hot yoga.” My current studio practices at about 86 degrees; other studios will be hotter. But trust me, you will adjust. The first best thing you can do is to drink a TON of water. I feel part camel since I started going to yoga. I cannot drink enough water. Secondly, stay in the room. You won’t want to. But if you start feeling super hot, the best thing you can do is lay down, breathe deeply and just rest. Sometimes, the first few weeks simply consist of learning to stay in the room.
- Don’t eat a lot beforehand. I usually stop eating about 90 minutes before my class. I definitely eat something, but I don’t eat anything I fear will make me feel sluggish or gross. An apple and peanut butter is my favorite thing to have pre-yoga. Not eating helps you feel better in the heat, and also keeps you from being That Guy, who pierces silence and/or teaching with the dreaded yoga fart (gross, I know, but I promised Real Talk, and trust me, yoga farts are real life. For other people).
- Clean yo self. If you go to yoga after work, and you don’t at the very least wash your feet, I don’t want to know you. One of the ickiest parts of yoga is all the sweating. Also, sometimes, your sweaty body gets really close to other people’s sweaty bodies. I have had to get real comfortable with other people’s feet and hands and bodies being near me during class, and vice versa. Do EVERYONE a favor and smell good going in. DO NOT DROWN YOURSELF IN FRAGRANCE. The smell is multiplied. But also make sure you wash off the funk of the day before you go in. Pro tip: I carry WetOnes with me if I don’t have a chance to go home. It gives me a chance to quickly wipe off my feet and pits, before reapplying deodorant.
- Calm down. The whole point of yoga is not just to get Jennifer Aniston’s arms, but also to teach you to mellow out. Your first class can definitely be overwhelming and weird. But seriously? Relax. Do your best. But mostly, just observe, and go with it.
- Worry about yourself — but not too much. This one is hard! I get down on myself when I can’t do something. Part of yoga is learning to embrace what is, and most of the time, that isn’t a “perfect” class where I do everything right. This is embarrassing/mean/awful, but I totally cop to being annoyed with people who take every possible chance to go into handstand or arm balances because I’m jealous of their skills. Instead of being all zen and like, “Wow, something to aspire to!” I think, “SCREW YOU, SHOW OFF.” Clearly, I’m still really needing these classes. It is totally and completely MY PROBLEM. I have also had many, many moments where I have prayed that no one saw what I just did. Again, my problem. Bottom line: your practice is between you and your mat. Don’t worry about what others can or can’t do. Just do you. No judgment, for yourself or others. This is probably advisable outside of yoga, too.
- Act like you’ve been there. If you pay attention, it’s kind of easy to see what etiquette is acceptable in class. Most studios don’t encourage the loud grunting you’d find in a weight room. Chatting with a friend in between poses is usually a no-no. And final rest is always silent. Watch what everyone else is doing, follow suit and you’ll fit right in.
- Have fun. It’s gonna be awesome. Enjoy it! It’s okay to fall out of poses, or not be able to get into poses, or to just rest. It’s also okay to laugh. Enjoy the resting poses, the sweating, the time to really be away. Don’t let your first class, or even your first month of classes, determine your impression. Keep at it. It’s worth it. I promise.
Fellow yogis — what tips would you give someone going to their first class? Yoga newbies — what other questions do you have?