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Overview of Yoga StylesBasic Yoga EquipmentYoga Etiquette

How to Start Doing Yoga

From Ann Pizer,
Your Guide to Yoga.
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Practical Advice on How to Start Doing Yoga

Deciding that you want to start doing yoga is the first step. It’s easy to get stuck here though. Don’t be intimidated! Here is the information you will need to take that next step and start enjoying the pleasures and benefits of yoga.

1. Pick a Yoga Type

A little research will be required on your part. There are many different types of yoga classes out there, and if you pick one that does not suit your personality and state of physical fitness, you may be turned off.

Take a few minutes to read my overview of yoga styles. For most beginners, a Hatha or Vinyasa class will be most appropriate. These are basic styles and you can always try something fancy later.

2. Find a Class

These resources will help you find a yoga class in your area.

You can also check local alternative newspapers or wellness magazines for listings or do a search on the Internet for “yoga” and “your town.”

Pick a studio that is convenient to your home or work so getting to class will be easy. Make sure you start with a basic level class. Many gyms also offer yoga classes with excellent teachers. This is a good place to start if you already belong to a gym.

3. What to Bring

On the first day, you will not need to bring much except yourself and some comfortable, breathable clothing. Read up on the basic yoga equipment you will encounter. Most studios have yoga mats that can be rented.

4. What to Expect

In a typical yoga class, the students place their mats facing the front of the room (often identifiable by a small altar or by the teacher’s mat) 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.

The teacher may start class by leading the class in chanting om three times. Depending on the teacher, there may be a breathing exercise or short meditation at the start of class.

This is followed by warm-up poses, then more vigorous poses, then stretches and final relaxation. At any time, take Child’s Pose if you need some rest.

Sometimes the teacher will go around to each student during final relaxation and give them a little massage. Most teachers end class with another round of oms.

Congratulate yourself! You just took your first yoga class! You may be a little sore tomorrow.

5. What if I Have No Access to Yoga Classes?

While there are many great yoga books and videos available, there is no substitute from learning directly from a good teacher in a yoga class. That said, if you cannot get to a yoga class, I recommend starting with any beginner’s video, as this will give you more visuals to follow than a book.

6. Dos and Don’ts

DON'T have a big meal right before class. Try eating lightly a few hours before class starts.

DON'T drink water during class, but have some before and after.

DON'T wear shoes or socks during class.

DO review Yoga Etiquette so you feel very comfortable entering an unfamiliar situation.

DO tell the teacher it’s your first class (you probably won’t be the only one).

DO ask the teacher for help if you need it.

DO look around and follow what other student are doing, especially if the teacher does not demonstrate every pose. However, keep in mind that you may be looking at more advanced students so do not compare yourself to them.

DO familiarize yourself with some beginner’s yoga poses before you take your first class.

DO come back in a few days for your next class!

Updated: June 9, 2006
Ann Pizer, R.Y.T., is a Yoga-Alliance-certified yoga instructor. Ann teaches and practices vinyasa yoga in New York City.
More Resources on How to Start Doing Yoga

Overview of Yoga StylesBasic Yoga EquipmentYoga Etiquette

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