It takes a little bit of nerve and extra mojo to get yourself to a new fitness class, doesn’t it? I’ve been there. You’re starting at the very bottom with zero clue about what’s going to happen and class etiquette. While I can’t help you with the former, I can provide some general ideas on how to prepare for your first or 50th yoga class.
Also, if the idea of attending a new class gives you sweaty palms, I’d bet an online version exists somewhere. You can get more familiar with the lay of the land before you head out the door to interact with the humans.
• If you’re new to the studio, show up at least 15 minutes before class. Even if you’re not new to yoga, you still need time to fill out any forms and sign a waiver. And it’s nice to slowly acclimate to a new space and figure out the bathroom and cubbyhole or locker situation.
• Saucha is a Sanskrit word for purity and cleanliness. In this case, it can mean please wash stinky parts of your body before participating in a class with other humans. It can be disheartening to flow through your first upward facing dog and realize the yogi directly in front of you might not have washed their feet for a couple of days. You only have 60 more minutes of fumes to endure. Silver lining? This gives you the opportunity to work on being present to what is, a handy tool for living.
Also, please refrain from dousing yourself in strong cologne or flowery perfumes before class, no matter how much you’d like to attract the attention of the beautiful and handsome yogis around you. Wow them instead with your inner glow and nonjudgmental aura.
• Forego your phone. Unless it’s a true emergency, such as the hospital needs its one and only doctor (you) to race in and do a transplant, turn off the phone and leave it in your bag, locker, car, or heck, maybe even at home. Consider it a double dog dare.
• Don’t chit or chat. Silence is usually golden during class, though I’ve been in studios where it’s not verboten and students chime in while the teacher’s doing her thing. But generally, it’s better to not have conversations in your street-volume voice before, during or right after class, when some students might still be in savasana, known as the final relaxation pose. Simply read the room. You can usually tell how to proceed.
• Be sure your clothing covers everything and doesn’t suddenly become see-through when you bend over or sweat through it. Hey, an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction can happen to any of us. But please choose pants or shorts that don’t gape open when you lift a leg in downward facing dog, and tops that don’t threaten to expose areas generally frowned upon in public. Distractions are already rampant. Your fellow yogis don’t need a few more.
• Avoid the mat drop. Different than a mic drop. Perhaps you showed up to class early so you could chill in savasana for a few extra minutes. The dreamy music is lulling you into a delicious state of drowsiness, when suddenly, there’s a piercing crack next to you. You sit up like a corpse rising from its grave on All Hallows Eve to see it’s only another student, who decided to drop their mat on the studio floor versus setting it down to unroll it. Please practice the gentle art of mat placement.
• Thou shalt not step on another yogi’s mat. Sure, in a tight class, your neighbor’s extremities could creep onto your mat, depending on the teacher’s sequencing. Other than that, though, please treat other mats as sacred ground. It feels incredibly unsettling to be sitting on your mat waiting for class to start and somebody strolls right over it. Perhaps it’s the same feeling you get when someone walks across your grave.
• Practice with the class. Sometimes yogis like to branch off on their own, and before you know it, there’s a whole other one-person class going on in part of the room. The other students can’t help but watch and wonder. That’s called an unnecessary and disrespectful distraction. It’s wonderful you know enough to practice on your own, but perhaps it’d be best to stay home and do so. This is not to say you don’t have the option to modify your practice in a way that is best aligned with your body, especially if you’re dealing with an injury.
You also have the freedom to rest when you need to. Take an extra child’s pose or two or an early savasana. But doing handstands while the rest of the room works on dancer pose is not ideal.
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