Yoga classes are often intimidating for beginners. The strange poses, new terms and unique rules are enough to make most newcomers want to immediately head for the door.
For a beginner’s guide to yoga, we turned to STACK yogi Rebecca Pacheco. Here's Yoga 101: everything you need to know before assuming Downward Dog.
Before you pick a class, find out what you’re getting into. Questions you should ask up front include, “What style of yoga will we perform?” “How long is the class?” and “Can I rent a mat or do I need to bring my own?”
Choose a Style
There are many different styles of yoga, including:
- Power yoga: Work harder with a more intense style of yoga that has constant movement from one pose to the next
- Bikram (hot) yoga: The studio temperature is set at 95 to 100 degrees to loosen tight muscles and cleanse the body through sweat.
- Hatha yoga: Perfect for beginners, this is traditional yoga with introductory poses and a slow pace.
- Vinyasa yoga: This type of yoga features more aggressive stretches and puts emphasis on sun salutations and the connection between mind and breath.
Learn more about the different types of yoga and find the right one for you through Four Types of Yoga For Athletes.
Just because you're not running suicides on the gym floor doesn't mean you can neglect hydration. Drink plenty of water and watch what you eat before your yoga session, especially if you’re venturing into a heated class.
Get to your class early to give yourself enough time to get situated before the rush of regulars starts streaming into the class, throwing their clogs into cubbies and whacking you with their mats as they scurry to their favorite spots.
Back Row Is Best
Your coaches, parents and teachers probably hounded you to always sit in the front of every class. Yoga is different. The back row lets you watch those around you and figure out what’s going on.
Dress the Part
Yoga poses will twist you in knots and turn you upside down, so make sure your clothes are suitable for the demands.
Learn the Poses
Although you’ll learn many poses during your class, you can get ahead of the game by familiarizing yourself with several of the most common poses before you leave home.
- Downward Dog: Start on all fours with hands directly under shoulders and knees under hips. Walk hands a few inches forward, keeping fingers spread wide with palms pressed into mat. Curl toes under and slowly press hips toward ceiling, bringing your body into an inverted “V.” Keep feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent.
- Upward Dog: Place hands in same position as Downward Dog. Inhale and slowly lower hips toward floor. Straighten your arms and lift your chest.
- Bridge Pose: Lie on your back, knees bent, feet hip-distance apart and flat on the floor. Press your weight into your feet to lift your hips toward the ceiling. Keep your thighs parallel and clasp your hands together behind your low back.
- Plank: At top push-up position with your arms straight, bend your elbows and lower your body until your forearms are on the ground.
- Child’s Pose: Lean back and sit on your heels, knees hip-distance apart. Extend arms and torso forward, resting forehead on the floor while stretching arms out in front of you and pressing your palms into floor and butt into heels.
- Chair: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides and bend your knees. Move your butt back as if you are about to sit down. Keep your knees behind your toes while sweeping your arms overhead. Keep your chest lifted at a comfortable angle.
Yoga is designed to help you reconnect with yourself, so it’s best done in silence. If you want to catch up with a pal, hit Starbucks after your class.
You’ll want to glance around the room from time to time to make sure you’re doing your poses correctly, but don’t look around for interesting outfits or dating prospects. The energy of your eyes is called “drishti,” and yoga teaches that drishti has a lot of power, so use it to your advantage by anchoring your eyes and staying focused.
Don’t worry about mastering everything on your first day. Instead of fretting if you fumble with poses, be grateful that you have a healthy body that allows you to try new things and unwind. It's the yogi way.
Check out more from our STACK Yoga Series: STACK's Yoga for Athletes: The Perfect Warm-Up/Cool-Down