Many people begin practicing yoga in their homes, with DVDs or YouTube videos. This is how I began my yoga journey, and it’s a good way to start if you’re new to yoga classes.
However, as you advance in the practice, you may discover that DVD or internet workouts are limiting.
It’s beneficial to take yoga classes with a teacher who can safely guide you more deeply into the poses and further explore where your yoga journey can take you.
Having a community of other yogis around you is also helpful to sustain your energy and maintain your interest in the practice. When you are ready to make the transition from home to studio, there are a few tips that will make the move easier.
What Should I Bring?
If you have a yoga mat, bring it. If you do not, most studios have mats to borrow or rent for a small fee. I prefer to use a yoga mat towel, which is a microfiber cloth I place on top of the yoga mat. I like that the towel soaks up the sweat and makes a more non-slip surface, but other practitioners I know say the towel bunches up and distracts them. It’s a personal preference.
A hand towel is good to have nearby to blot sweat from the face and eyes. Most studios provide towels, or bring your own – call the studio to check on towels.
It is usually acceptable to have a bottle of water nearby, but it’s never a good idea to guzzle lots of water during your practice. Small sips will suffice.
If you like to use props such as straps or blocks, you can purchase your own or borrow from the studio. Most studios have a supply of props for students to use. Again, call ahead and ask what they have available for use.
What Should I Wear?
This is a big question for most people. The answer depends on the type of class you are taking.
A hot yoga class dictates that less is more, so shorts or cropped yoga pants and a tank top are best.
Long pants and a loose, long-sleeved shirt are perfect for yin or restorative yoga because it’s a still practice.
Generally any sweat-wicking stretch pants are great choices. I prefer ankle-length yoga leggings, as boot-cut legs can get in the way and running pants may have a zipper that digs in during floor poses.
Loose T-shirts also work, but many men take their shirts off during practice. For women, a form-fitting top is more comfortable as it will stay down around the hips during forward folds and inversions. I like to wear a light to medium support sports bra and tank top or a yoga tank with a built-in shelf bra.
Wear what is affordable and comfortable for you in your practice. Please leave the socks at home. Yoga is done in bare feet and helps with stability and grounding in the poses.
What’s Up With the Chanting?
It is common at the end of class for the teacher to lead the class in a chant of Om (pronounced “Aum”). This is usually a single chant or a series of three in a row. Om is the sound of creation and symbolizes the infinite.
Om is commonly chanted at the beginning and end of many Sanskrit mantras. Chanting Om in yoga classes unites the group and aligns the mind, body and spirit. It is not acknowledging any religious connotations.
Namaste (pronounced “Nah-mah-STAY”) generally means “The Spirit in me recognizes and honors the Spirit in you.” Traditionally, the teacher says “Namaste” to the students and bows to them. Students respond by saying “Namaste” and bowing in return to the teacher. This is a simple way to honor and acknowledge the student/teacher relationship with respect and gratitude. It’s pretty cool that all that is conveyed with a single word.
If you don’t feel comfortable participating in these traditions, no worries. It is acceptable to simply sit quietly in a cross-legged seat, relax and breathe. As your practice progresses, you may find that you wish to partake into these traditions.
Basic Rules of Etiquette for Yoga Classes
Plan to arrive for class at least 10 minutes early. This allows plenty of time to get set and grab props. It also gives you time to introduce yourself to the teacher and let them know it’s your first class. If you are running in at the last minute, it’s disruptive to the other class members and more difficult for you to drop into the right state of mind.
Most teachers are conscious of honoring the allotted time for class, but occasionally a class will run slightly over. Unless it’s urgent, stay until the end of class. Never leave class during Savasana, when everyone lies on their backs at the end of class. This is rude and disturbs the other class members. Savasana is an essential posture to revive the body after your practice.
Stow Your Gear
Shoes come off outside the studio. There may be cubbies where you can leave your belongings. Or simply leave your shoes on the floor outside the door.
Leave cell phones in the car or a locker if possible. If you need to bring the phone in, either turn on the do not disturb feature or turn the phone completely off. Turning the phone to vibrate is not sufficient to keep it from becoming a distraction.
Come to your mat clean and fresh, but avoid wearing heavy perfumes. Many people are allergic to fragrances. The main focus of yoga practice is deep, rhythmic breathing in and out of the nose. This is difficult for people with allergies.
Keeping these tips in mind helps prepare you for a strong and sustaining practice.