How to not look like the new kid at yoga

We want the peace and tranquility of yoga. We want to rise above those long-ago days of feeling like the new kid at school. Unfortunately, most of us haven’t quite made it to that coveted level of serenity. Yet.

Yoga will definitely help you find serenity. In the mean time, you may be hesitant to try yoga because you have no idea what to expect.

Three and a half years ago, I was directed by my personal trainer to try yoga. All I knew of yoga was what I’d seen on TV, so I had a vague idea that only wealthy people and hippies practiced yoga.

Before my first visit, I did a Google search for “what to take to yoga class” and found that I needed the following:

  • High quality yoga mat
  • Fitted yoga clothing with stretch (but not too revealing)
  • Two yoga blocks
  • A yoga strap
  • A yoga bolster
  • A yoga blanket
  • A lavender-scented eye pillow
  • A yoga mat carrier
  • Optional yoga gloves and yoga socks

I went to Amazon’s website and found that the total cost for giving yoga a try — to take one FREE yoga class — was going to be around $400. Maybe yoga really was just for rich people…

Then I allowed my common sense to kick in, and I went back and read a few more articles. The following is a more realistic list of what to bring to your first yoga class:

  • Yourself (preferably clad in clothing that can stretch and that won’t gap or become see-through when you’re bending forward)
  • A yoga mat (though, if you’re trying it only once, your yoga studio probably has one you can borrow)
  • A water bottle (save the planet – don’t use those throw-away bottles)
  • Pretty toes (this was something I didn’t think about my first time — but you’ll be in bare feet, and you’ll be looking at your toes a lot!)
  • Something to keep your hair off your neck and out of your eyes
  • An open mind
  • The ability to forgive yourself and allow yourself to take the modifications offered and not push too hard

The yoga studio provides all the props you may need (bolsters, blocks, straps, blankets). Nobody uses the socks or gloves, so don’t waste your money (of course, if you want to try them, no one’s judging.)

How to walk in like you’ve been there before:

  • If the studio allows you to sign up online, do that first. It’s a great way to let the teacher know you’re coming, and it saves time when you arrive. Either way, plan to arrive about 15 minutes before class is scheduled to begin. You’ll be asked to sign a waiver. Be sure to introduce yourself and let them know you’re trying yoga for the first time. Yoga teachers LOVE new people!
  • Leave your purse and phone in your car, and remove your shoes as soon as you walk in (flip-flops or slip-on shoes/boots work great). If you have to take your phone in, double and triple check that it’s on silent and leave it with your shoes, resting on something soft so vibrating ringtones won’t make you squirm during class.
  • Whisper! There could be a class going on just beyond the door. If the person checking you in speaks in a normal tone of voice, you can follow her or his lead. (Hint: If you get to a studio where everyone is hanging out outside, ask if there’s a class going on inside. It could be that the studio doesn’t have a vestibule and the door opens directly onto a class. This is a perfectly acceptable thing to ask and won’t make you seem as if you don’t know what you’re talking about.)
  • After you’ve checked in and put your things away (shoes and keys generally go into individual cubbies or baskets), find the correct classroom and lay your mat out (follow the lead of other students), and set your water bottle beside it. If you’ve told someone you’re new, they’re likely helping you through the process of setting up.
  • Check the teacher’s mat to see if she/he has set up any props on her/his mat. Go ahead and grab what your teacher has — or, if nothing is set up, go with two blocks and a strap (usually kept in a corner of the room), unless your helper tells you otherwise. These are the most commonly used props in yoga, and if you’re new, there’s a good chance you may need them. If not, no harm done. If the teacher wants you to have any additional props, he/she will let you know.
  • Have a seat on your mat and get comfortable. Just sit in an easy, cross-legged position and hang out there. You can look around at the decorations, close your eyes and think of what you want to accomplish, or just start noticing your breath and how it flows through your body. The teacher is going to be talking about your breath a lot, so you might as well get an early start. Plus, you’ll look like you belong. You don’t have to try to do any stretching or poses to “get ready” to practice.
  • Smile. Remember that you’re doing yourself a favor.

After you’ve attended a few yoga classes, you’ll start to notice that the other students barely notice you during class. They’re focusing on drishti (basically a single point of focus, maybe on the wall or the tips of their fingers) and they’re focusing on their own practice.

Once you realize everyone isn’t looking at you, you’re officially no longer the “new kid in class.” Congratulations! Now you can go help a friend get started with her/his practice!