First of all, you’re awesome for even thinking about it, so give yourself a pat on the back and look forward to a lifetime of improved strength, awareness, flexibility and mindfulness.
Now, what next?
Get some comfortable clothes on. For yoga at home, you can wear whatever you want, but the more you’re able to move around in it, the better. For an actual yoga class, shorts and t-shirt are absolutely fine. You can wear leggings or tracksuit trousers too. Guys – if you’re concerned about wearing leggings, don’t be. Lots of guys in yoga classes wear them, and you could wear shorts over the top of them if you want to. You can get “proper” yoga gear from brands such as Omnitom or www.ohmme.com, which if you practice regularly, you’ll probably notice a benefit from in terms of range of movement, temperature control (not too hot, not too cold), and style, but frankly, you can (and should) wear whatever you feel good in.
If you’re unsure about attending a class, try some online videos first. I recommend www.ekhartyoga.com if you want a true range of classes to choose from, but there are loads on YouTube, including some fantastic Forrest yoga stuff from Tom Barber. Try these videos at home, and begin to learn the basic yoga poses such as Downward Facing Dog, and Warrior poses. Remember that yoga is all about your practice, and just because someone else can get their leg behind their head, doesn’t mean you need to. We all have our strengths. If practising at home, you’ll need a mat of some kind. Personally, I love my yoloha cork mat, because it actually gets grippier as I drip sweat onto it, but your taste and requirements will be different. For your first mat, just get a basic one from your local sports shop until you know what kind of mat you really need (and want) – you might decide you need more cushioning, more grip, more portability, less weight, or a longer or shorter length.
You should also consider the space you practice in. Try to clear clutter away, as it will help clear your mind and help you move around without fear of knocking over an expensive lamp or TV. See if you can practice on a harder floor – a thick carpet can actually make some balance poses more difficult, and be harsh on the wrists; also mats creep around on carpet, and you can find yourself on the other side of the room after an hour’s class. If doing self-directed practice, get a good playlist going. It doesn’t need to be mellow, hippy, yoga folk – some of my favourite yoga practice playlists include Black Flag and Fugazi.
Ok, now go to a class. Just go. Now.
Enjoyed your first class? Maybe you loved it, in which case, keep going. If not, recognise this important fact: All yoga teachers are different, and there are thousands of different styles of yoga. If you enjoy stretching, slowing your breath, your heart rate, and getting mindful, try Yin yoga. If you enjoy constant movement, flow, and energy, try Vinyasa. If you like a good workout and physical challenge, Forrest yoga could be your thing. Ashtanga can be enjoyable if you enjoy repeatability and continuous progress (the sequences in Ashtanga are fixed, so you’ll do the same poses in each class). If you like it hot, you’ll be thrilled to see the popularity of hot yoga at the moment (personally, I can’t stand it, but different strokes…). Basically, search for yoga teachers in your area, get some recommendations, and try a few out.
When you go to a class, these are the things you should take:
- Water to drink.
- A small towel, if you’re likely to sweat.
- Appropriate clothing, as above.
You might also bring, if you desire:
- Your own mat.
- Your own blocks and straps if you want to. Most classes will provide them, but it’s sometimes nice to have your own.
- A post-yoga snack. Most yoga blogs would suggest a plant-based, organic, free-range protein and quinoa bar or something. I suggest whatever you like, from jelly babies to beef jerky. Just wait until the class is finished though.
- You don’t need to do all the poses. Some won’t suit you, some might be above your pay grade right now, but you can give everything a go (note point 2 below though).
- Sensation is good. Pain is bad. If something hurts, stop it.
- Tell the teacher if you have an injury or condition that may affect your practice. For example, I have metalwork in my arms from mountain bike crashes, which means some poses are not accessible to me. It’s easier for the teacher to assess and assist if they know what you’re dealing with.
- Rest. Feel free to take time in child’s pose or just sit or lie down if you think you need to.
- Breathe. Yoga is about flowing with your breath.
Don’t compete or compare. Feel free to look at the person near you if you’re not sure what the pose is supposed to look like, but don’t compare yourself to them, or compete with people in the class. This is your practice, and their practice is their’s.
Have fun. This is playtime, not race day.
When you’ve been to a few classes, practiced at home, and got your favourite yoga shorts, you could look into attending your first yoga retreat, or a workshop, or even consider becoming a yoga teacher yourself. Whatever direction you take your yoga practice in, you’ll find it rewarding, challenging, enjoyable, and beneficial in so many ways.
See you on the mat.