By: Morgan Zollars, BA, CPT and Yoga Instructor at IF!
If you are curious about trying a yoga class, but aren’t sure what yoga entails, don’t worry! There are LOTS of different kinds of yoga under the “yoga” umbrella; it’s just a case of figuring out what you want to get out of your yoga experience, and then finding a class that will meet your goals! At the core, all forms of yoga involve stretching and breathing deeply. Some classes are more active, moving from pose to pose and building up a sweat like a cardio class, while others emphasize slower movement and more time in each stretch to address deeply held tension. If you are looking to try yoga but aren’t sure where to start, take a look at the following tips:
How to Select your First Class: If you are new to yoga, restorative yoga, gentle/slow flow yoga, or Hatha style classes will be the best way to ease into yoga. Beginner’s, restorative, slow flow, and Hatha yoga classes all offer a slower, more gentle practice than a power yoga class and will make use of props like bolsters, blocks, and straps to help make you comfortable in each pose. Yin yoga is another great style of yoga for those who do not want to move quickly or work up a sweat. Yin yoga focuses on holding poses for longer periods of time (usually between 3-10 minutes) in order to address tightness and strain in the connective tissues around joints like your hips and shoulders.
What to Expect During Class: Once you have your mat placed and have spoken to the instructor about any injuries you may have, ask the instructor if you need any props like yoga blocks (blocks usually made of high density foam or cork), yoga straps (usually woven straps about 6 feet long), blankets, and/or bolsters (large, dense pillows). For your first time, it is usually good to grab a strap to help you stretch, and a foam block to use for balance. Most yoga classes start off gently so you have time to settle in on your mat, let go of your day, and focus on your breath and moving your body.
Instructors will give lots of cues and instruction on how to set up each pose, and how to modify or intensify each pose so that you are able to do what feels best for your body. Throughout class, instructors usually offer hands-on assists. If you prefer not to be touched while you practice, let the instructor know ahead of time. If you are comfortable with being assisted, know that if the instructor gives you an assist, it does not always mean you are doing something wrong. Very frequently, instructors will give deepening assists, to help you get even more out of the pose.
Toward the end of class, the pace will start to slow, until you end in Savasana (pronounced “shah-vah-sah-nah” where you rest on your back and just breathe. Instructors will frequently offer Savasana assists, where they massage your neck with essential oils or a muscle rub. If you would prefer not to be touched during your resting period, just let the instructor know as they come around the room.
Common Yoga Terminology:
Chaturanga: Low plank, looks like a tricep pushup.
Vinyasa: The transition from high plank, to chaturanga or low plank, to upward facing dog, and finally to downward facing dog.
Flow: In Vinyasa style yoga, your “flow” or “flow through” refers to your vinyasa. Can also generally refer to flowing or moving from one pose to the next.
Prana: Breath, energy, life force
Sanskrit: The ancient language in which most Hindu Scriptures are written. Yoga poses all have Sanskrit names, and many instructors refer to the poses in Sanskrit.
Asana: The Sanskrit name for “pose.”
Drishti: A point in front of you on which you can fix your gaze to help balance
One of the biggest reasons why people don’t try yoga is that they don’t think they are flexible enough for yoga, and they are afraid of looking silly. Let go of those fears! In yoga, nobody will be looking at you, they are all focused on what they are doing, and one of the best things about yoga is that it can be adjusted to meet every person where they are, regardless of how tight or how bendy they are. Ultimately, it is about making each pose feel good for you.