What to expect at your first yoga class

About 10 years ago, I went to my very first yoga class, totally unsure what to expect. Was I the yoga type? What did that even mean? Did I have to start drinking green tea and meditating? Would I be able to do the poses without pulling a muscle?


That was a long time ago when yoga stereotypes were more abundant. Now, you can find a yoga studio within two miles of you and practically every gym offers some kind of yoga class. And, no, you don't have to start drinking green tea – although it's delicious, and you don't have to meditate – although it's great for mindfulness.


I've been regularly practicing yoga since attending that first class, and I'm not a professional yogi by any means. But I do know what it's like to go into a yoga class for the first time and not know what to expect. So if you're looking to take up yoga, here's what you can expect for your first class.


You won't nail all of the poses

And no one expects you to! You can only push your body so far, and yoga works muscles you didn't even know you had – especially during your first class. You're going to feel the burn and twist your body into positions that feel foreign to you. That's normal. If you're unsure about how to do a pose, pay attention to your instructor or neighbor.

It's important to talk to your instructor

Your instructor's purpose is to guide and help you. They're the experts. They aren't going to make fun of you for not knowing how to do something. And if they do, they shouldn't be an instructor because that's rude. If you have questions, ask them! Don't be worried about looking silly or feeling badly for not knowing what to do.

Your instructor will adjust you if you're comfortable with it

Your instructor will likely ask the class at the beginning if anyone has reservations about being adjusted into positions. If they don't ask, let them know before class starts that you aren't okay with them touching you. If you don't mind being touched, let them adjust you so they can physically move you into the correct pose. It makes a huge difference.

Breathing is crucial

One of the key elements of yoga and why it's so great is the breathing. Sure, we breathe all day, every day. But yoga requires a very methodic and mindful way of breathing called pranayama. Often, you'll hold your breath for several seconds or do a long exhale. This all serves a purpose. Generally in yoga, you want to inhale when you open your chest, exhale on bends, and exhale on twists to detoxify your lungs and body.

Not all classes are created equal

Do not start off with a Hot Power Yoga session as a beginner. Hot yoga classes involve a fast-paced and intense flow in a 90-degree room. When you're just starting off, hit a basic flow class or a relaxation class. Once you have a few of those classes under your belt, you can move up to a more intense class. Or not! Try out a few types of classes to figure out what you like best.

Get used to "Namaste"

You'll hear "Namaste" a lot in yoga, usually before and after a class. It's a major yoga tradition, but what does it mean? Namaste means "I bow to you" and is seen as a gesture of respect and gratitude. It creates a bond between you, your instructor, your classmates, and fellow yogis. Typically, Namaste is accompanied by putting your palms together at your heart and bowing. You can even do Namaste to yourself after meditation or when you want to give gratitude to yourself.

Wear something comfortable and stretchy

You don't need to go out and get a brand new expensive outfit from Lululemon. But you do need to wear something comfy and stretchy for yoga. I've done yoga in shorts, but since there is a lot of movement on a mat, leggings are preferred. You don't want to get mat burn during your first class. Some people like wearing loose, flowy tops. Others prefer tight workout tanks. It's up to you, just make sure you can comfortably move in whatever you're wearing.

You don't have to bring your own mat

If you intend to become a regularly practicing yogi, go ahead and get your own mat. But if you're just trying yoga out, you can hold off. Most studios and gyms provide free mats or have them available to rent. Call the place you're going to confirm just in case!

You need to be hydrated

You might not think yoga is a strenuous activity, but as with any workout, you want to be hydrated. Drink a lot of water before you hit the mat, and take a water bottle with you to class. You can take sips of water between poses, don't worry. Many people keep water bottles at the front of their mat so they can drink during class.

You can relax in Child's Pose

Child's Pose is one of the favorites among yogis. You kneel on the mat, knees separated and toes together, with your arms laid out behind you. If you ever feel uncomfortable, tired, or just want to relax in the middle of class, Child's Pose is where it's at. No one will judge you for taking a break. I've even spent a whole class in Child's Pose because I needed to have a moment.

Yoga is always there

Whether you love your first yoga class or are unsure if you want to do yoga again, it's always there. The yoga community is an amazing one and will always welcome you with open arms and a "Namaste." Maybe you'll go to a class every now and then. Maybe you'll get into a routine practice. Maybe you'll become an instructor one day. Or maybe you'll decide yoga isn't for you, and that's okay. Hopefully, you're prepared for your first class so you can give it a solid shot.