So you’ve been hearing about how good yoga is and have finally decided to take the plunge and go to a class to find out for yourself.
But what should you expect? Will you be the only one in the class unable to touch your toes? It’s always daunting trying something new, but yoga really has something to offer every body – no matter how fit, flexible, strong – or not – you are.
Where You Are Right Now Is The Perfect Place to Be
Yoga encourages us to accept ourselves where we are right now, so if you last saw your toes back in 1982, don’t worry. You’ll definitely know where they are at the end of your class, even if you still can’t see them!
The most important thing is not to compare yourself to others around you – every body is different and everyone comes with their own particular strengths and weaknesses.
When you’re new it will seem like everyone else knows what they are doing – particularly before the class starts. Mostly, people use the time just before class to relax and leave their day behind, so grab a mat and pick a spot in the room, preferably near the front so you can easily see the teacher.
You can simply lie down on your back and close your eyes, waiting for instructions from the teacher, or sit up with your legs crossed – you’ll come to know this as sukhasana or easy cross-legged pose. Close your eyes and breathe. Easy!
You might notice that many people have grabbed “props” (though some studios don’t go in for them much – astanga for example). Just wait for instructions from the teacher. Once you’ve been to a class or two you might prefer to take a bolster and lie in supta baddha konasana before the start. Here you place the short edge of the bolster at your sacrum, take the soles of the feet together and knees wide, and lie back over the bolster. This is a nice way to start to open the hips and chest gently before you start and is supremely relaxing. You might like to place blocks or blankets under your thighs though, as you’ll really start to feel the stretch in the inner thighs and perhaps some muscles getting a bit jittery around your hips.
If you have enrolled in a course for beginners, the teacher will talk you through every pose and breath.
If not, just let the teacher know it’s your first class and he or she will give you extra guidance.
What Happens Next?
You’ll focus on your breathing – in fact this is an integral part yoga – if you are not focused on your breath in every pose and movement, you’re not really doing yoga, just a series of movements. The breath connects us to the body and to what’s happening in the mind.
For example, if you are in, say, Virabhadrasana – the warrior pose – and your thighs start to burn and shake, your mind starts to want out. You might notice your breath starts to reflect this, perhaps becoming shorter, shallower, less smooth. If you pay attention to your breath and focus on regaining a calmer, smoother breath, you can gain control of your body and mind too. They each affect the other. After a while, you will be able to take the skills you’ve learned in the yoga class out into everyday life.
Savasana – The Class Comes to an End
Classes run for one to one and a half hours and at the end of the class you will lie on your back in savasana, also known as the corpse pose. Don’t be mistaken in thinking this is the easiest pose and don’t rush out of the class before you have had this time to unwind.
It’s in savasana that the body and mind really let go of any tension and you can take in what you have learned in the class. It may also be the pose you most look forward to, as it feels fantastic to lie and rest after moving and stretching your body and challenging your mind and breath.
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