What to Expect at Your First Yoga Class

first yoga class

Maybe you heard about the amazing benefits of regular yoga classes. Or you joined a new gym and want to check out all the class offerings. Someone invited you to a class, a yoga influencer popped up in your Insta, there are a million ways in which it could happen. But you’re ready to take your first yoga class. And have no idea what to expect.

I’ve been in your shoes. The first yoga class I went to was a hot, Bikram-style class and I wore cotton. It was a bad choice. That’s why I’m here to help you make the best possible choices, and hopefully not wringing out your shirt after class. True story!

First Yoga Class: Common Questions

What should I wear?

The best rule of thumb is to choose breathable fabric that will stretch and move with you. So no to jeans, yes to leggings or gym shorts. Ladies, you don’t have to have matching sports bras and $XXX leggings, so don’t feel that pressure walking in. Make sure that you’re comfortable, and if it’s a more active class, do some quick stretches to make sure that your clothes won’t distract you from the class. Like, pull your hands over your head see how high your shirt goes up. Touch your toes and make sure your shirt isn’t in your face as you stretch into downward dog, and that your pants feel flexible.

If you’re doing a class that has “restorative” or “yin” or something like that in the title, you may want to wear longer sleeves as you’ll probably be holding poses longer. If you take anything that’s described as “vinyasa,” “flow,” “Bikram,” “hot,” get ready to sweat. Tank tops less will be the most comfortable.

Wait, there’s different types of yoga?

Hoo boy. Yes, there are different types. MindBodyGreen has a great primer on the most common modalities in the USA, and here’s how I would group them:

Fast paced styles

  • Vinyasa yoga
  • Kundalini yoga
  • Ashtanga yoga

Slower paced styles

  • Hatha (technically encompasses many modalities, but is typically used to indicate no chaturangas or vinyasa-style elements)
  • Iyengar yoga
  • Bikram or Hot (slower paced, but HOT and HUMID)
  • Yin yoga
  • Restorative yoga

Some studios utilize different naming conventions unique to their studio or region. All studios should have class descriptions listed on their websites, along with room temperature (heated/unheated) and practitioner experience level.

What will my first yoga class be like?

Classes vary a lot from instructor to instructor, even within the same modality. Here are some things that might pop up:

Teaching style: cueing vs demoing

Some teachers will stand in front of the room and instruct the class as they demonstrate every posture. Other instructors might walk around the room as they cue postures, offering assists and adjustments to individual students. While I personally am of the second variety, there’s value and preferences for both styles.

Using Sanskrit/multiple names for postures

Some teachers will teach their entire classes in English, some will use Sanskrit. Most commonly, instructors will use the English posture name, and follow it up with Sanskrit from time to time. However, many teachers will use the word “namaste” in their classes.

Namaste or namaskar is a traditional Indian greeting or gesture of respect, usually made by bringing the palms together before the face or chest and bowing. In Western yoga classes, it usually takes on more spiritual connotations than most Indians ascribe to it. For some instructors, it takes on elements of cultural appropriation, so they’ll end class with a more neutral sign off.

What’s up with the end of class in Savasana/Corpse pose? Should I leave?

It’s traditional to end a yoga class in corpse pose, or some restorative posture. You might be tempted to pack up and leave, but class isn’t quite over yet. And it’s considered rude to interrupt this time of peace and relaxation for other students. The instructor will either guide you out of savasana, or give students a heads up that they can hang out until they’re ready to leave.

Enjoy Your First Yoga Class!

This is definitely the biggest takeaway from your first class: enjoy it! Let it be a period of time devoted to you and yourself, where nothing else exists beyond the corners of the room and your mat. If you have more questions about yoga, reach out or comment!

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