Now that we understand the important fundamentals of yoga, let’s get practical. Here are some things to know when heading to your first class.
Drinking and eating
It is not advisable to eat or drink right before a yoga practice (especially if you are practicing inversions). Eat no less than 1-3 hours before and drink only small amounts of water before practice, and do not drink during your practice if possible.
Loose, comfortable trousers or stretchy items such as leggings work best. It is important to wear something that will not restrict your movement. A more fitted top is wise as your head comes below your hips for many asanas and a loose fitting top may slide up.
Yoga is usually done with bare feet so no special shoes are required.
While you probably won’t need to own any of these things when you first start attending a class, it is useful to know what they are used for.
The mat helps define your personal space, but more importantly, it creates traction for your hands and feet so you don’t slip, especially as you get a little sweaty. The mat also provides some cushioning on a hard floor.
The most basic function is to raise the floor to meet your hands so that you can do more poses with better alignment. This will increase the benefits you feel, help establish good alignments habits, and reduce the risk of injury. Beginners may only need to use the block until their body becomes open enough to do a pose without it, but advanced practitioners also continue to find blocks useful and supportive in many ways.
Particularly useful for bound poses if your hands do not reach each other, or for poses where you need to hold onto your feet but cannot reach them.
In a typical yoga class, the students place their mats facing the front of the room in a loose grid. It’s best not to line up your mat exactly with the one next to it because you and your neighbor will need some space in certain poses.
The students often sit in a cross-legged position waiting for class to start or do some gentle stretching.
Class structure will ofter follow a pattern similar to this:
- At the start of the class, depending on the teacher they may lead the class in chanting ‘om’ three times, there may be some breathing exercises, or a short meditation.
- This is followed by warm-up poses, more vigorous poses, then stretches. At any time, go into child’s pose if you need some rest.
- The class will usually end with a final relaxation. Most teachers also end class with a round of ‘om’s.
You may be a little sore the day after your first class. This is to be expected.