Are you new to yoga? Never tried it before? Dive on in, let’s talk about it!Yoga is something that totally and unexpectedly changed my life for the better – it had a massive impact on my physical and mental state. What started out as a casual and inconsequential choice – a “hey, what if we took a yoga class at this new place” – turned into one of my most cherished weekly (if not daily) activities.
However, when I try to invite friends or family to join me for a beginner vinyasa class, I can feel the intimidation emanating from their being.
And I get it – like with any kind of fitness, yoga can definitely seem intimidating. “I’m not flexible,” or “I’m not strong,” or “I’m way too ADD,” have been some pretty common responses. My typical reply? “Same.”
I couldn’t touch my toes, no… worse. I couldn’t even come CLOSE to touching my toes prior to my first yoga class. I wish I didn’t delete the one piece of photographic evidence of this (out of sheer humiliation, naturally) so you could see what I’m talking about. So the “I’m not flexible” bit? Check. I also had ZERO upper body strength prior to all of this, complete with a consciousness that emulates a Google Chrome window with approximately 7649854722298406945872 windows open, all of which are showing GIFs, YouTubes, or in-depth research articles about the underbelly of the manicure industry in New York, via the Times. If that sentence alone didn’t convince you I have a hard time concentrating, let me just say that here is a video of a baby sea otter. I am weeping.
Back to fitness. If you’re looking to invest in a studio, I’d really recommend choosing yoga. My studio in particular offers a variety of classes, from deep relaxation to high intensity sculpt. There are opportunities to increase flexibility, restore, strengthen, and tone. There’s enough variety to work different muscle groups at different paces, and achieve different goals. Let’s get into the benefits of yoga, shall we?
Reasons why I love yoga
- Yoga forces me to concentrate so much on my postures and breathing, I rarely have a second to let my mind wander to the BS of whatever is going on in my life.
- Should my mind wander, yoga forces me let it go.
- You can go at your own pace, and tailor your experience to your needs.
- There is no background experience or skill needed – just show up and get better. It’s that simple.
- Yoga has given me a better, stronger lung capacity and ability to breathe better while running, so what I’ve developed in class has certainly transcended off the mat and into my everyday.
- Variety in the classes means you don’t get bored, and you work different muscle groups.
- Cold lavender hand towels on your eyes during savasana at my studio.
- Yoga is simple, welcoming, warm, and positive. I have had such an uplifting experience, and coming in as a total beginner, have had the opportunity to build strength and flexibility in a safe and comfortable place that is free of judgement.
What to expect
For your first class, I recommend you specifically seek out a beginner level. Here are some things that will happen:
- You’ll find a spot in the room, roll out your mat, and occasionally be instructed to grab a block for support. I like being close to the mirror to check my postures, but you can totally opt out of that.
- The class will be quiet, don’t be alarmed by the silence. Everyone is gettin real zen. There might be some gentle asian zen meditation music (I didn’t make that genre up, it’s on Spotify. seriously look it up) playing lightly over the speakers, incense burning, or oils diffusing. This depends on your studio’s vibe.
- Everyone in the class will be on a different page – and in their own world. Don’t try to keep up or compete with anyone but yourself. Listen to your body. Everyone has different injuries or issues, and they all have different physical backgrounds.
- You’ll probably start with a seated meditation, and maybe some cat-cow stretches to get your spine moving. Super easy, feels awesome.
- The instructor will guide you step by step through the postures – don’t feel like you have to be an expert! Go as far as you can to feel sensation, but not burning or pain. No one wants that.
- After some flows through sun salutations, your instructor may guide you into some balancing postures or core exercise, depending on what their style is.
- You’ll end in Savasana, which is probably not intended to be a glorified naptime, but I like to pretend it is.
- Then you’re done! You’ve survived your first yoga class, you’re probably thinking, “wow, that went a lot better than I thought it would,” and feeling really great.
Classes to try
Once you’ve gotten the hang of the beginner class, here are some options you can try at Mantra Yoga & Juice Bar (you can see their full offering on their site).
- Heated Flow – the next step beyond beginner, at a warmer temperature
- Hot Fusion – combines flow and strength building, at a higher temperature than the heated flow class
- Sculpt – a mix of flow, cardio, and strength training with light and heavy weights
- Deep Relaxation – again, something that is probably not intended to be naptime, but come on… the props are PILLOWS AND BLANKETS. Super deep stretches, feels amazing.
Bring with you
My list from the self care day covers most of it. Here’s a quick review:
- Mat (doesn’t need to be a fancy one; I got mine from lululemon on a clearance)
- Water bottle (I love the fitfuser)
- Small towel (especially important for heated classes)
- Lavenade (lavender + vanilla = liquid chill pill)
- Comfy clothes (form fitting & breathable)
- Gym bag (spray deodorant, dry shampoo, face wipes, change of clothes, etc)
As we head into the holidays and Christmas season, yoga is a fantastic way to take time for yourself so you can de-stress and find peace (which is what the holidays should be about!). We cannot truly give to others until we take care of ourselves, so in the spirit of giving, make sure you’re covering your bases! I hope you have fun trying yoga out this week!
photos © Arielle Vey photography