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Yoga for beginners: 9 things to know before you go

For yoga beginners, walking into a studio class filled with lithe yoga bodies can be intimidating. In fact, it can be intimidating enough to turn off a newbie entirely. New students are typically nervous because they fear the judgment of their fellow students or teacher. It can be scary to put yourself out there and move your body in new ways. But in reality, stepping into a yoga class for the first time isn't about anyone but you and your well-being. That being said, a little preparation goes a long way. Read on for tips to prepare for your first yoga class.

>>Dress comfortably. While there are dozens of brands out there pitching their yoga-oriented clothing, there's no need to invest hundreds of dollars in the perfect outfit to practice yoga. The key is to wear clothing that makes you feel comfortable and allows you to move without restriction. Stay away from shirts that limit the range of your shoulders and pants that restrict leg motion. If you're taking a hot yoga class, be sure to choose clothing made from sweat-wicking fabric.

>>Watch videos. Sometimes nerves come from fear of the unknown, so take a look at a few videos to become familiar with what a yoga class is like. Check out sites like, or just do a search for "yoga for beginners." Watching video will give you an idea of the postures, language, and flow of a class.

>>Do your research. Yoga classes can be found at any of the studios listed below, and most gyms will offer classes as well. Wherever you choose to go, it's important to do a little bit of research before you visit for the first time. Often, gyms and studios will have classes labeled as "Beginner 1" or "Introduction to Yoga" for people who haven't tried it before. And don't restrict your research to websites; ask around. If you have friends who practice yoga, they'll likely have insight into their favorite (or least favorite) studios. Be sure to ask them why they chose their studio, what they like about it, and what a beginner should know.

>>Bring only what's necessary. In general, you'll want to consider bringing a small towel, a water bottle, and a mat. If you don't want to invest in a mat right away, most studios have mats for students to borrow. Avoid eating a big meal before class; practicing on a full stomach can make it hard to take deep full breaths, and with some poses you may feel nauseous. Skip the lotions and fragrances if possible. Leave your phone in the car or your locker; it's highly distracting for you and the people around you. Don't forget to bring an open mind and a good attitude, too!

>>Introduce yourself. After you've selected your class, be sure to arrive early so you can introduce yourself to the teacher. Let them know you're trying yoga for the first time, and clue them into any injuries or range-of-motion issues you may have. This allows them to keep an eye out for you; if they see that you're out of alignment in a pose, they'll be able to provide more specific cues or assist with the pose.

>>Listen to your body. Above all, listen to your body in class. This cannot be repeated enough: you are ultimately in charge of what your body does, not the teacher. If you find yourself experiencing pain in a pose, ask for modifications or switch to child's pose (ask the teacher to demonstrate child's pose before class starts). This is your practice, and you have the right to move in a way that feels good to your body.

>>Listen to your breath. Yoga is not just about movement; it's about breath. In fact, practicing yoga without intentional breath is like trying to grow a plant without watering it. As you practice, focus on matching your breath with your movement. Although some of the poses can be challenging, don't restrict your breath. Breathing fully will help you hold the pose longer, and your body will get the full benefits of a yoga practice.

>>Have fun! Don't take yourself too seriously when you step onto the mat for the first time. Have fun with it, and even if you find it's not for you, you'll likely learn something about the way your body moves.

>>Go for a one-on-one session. If going to a class is too much to take on the first time around, consider finding a yoga teacher who will structure a one-on-one class with you to show you the ropes. Typically, a session will cover basic breathing techniques, alignment, and teach you how to safely carry out the most common poses used in class.