I’m delighted to see more and more of my blogger friends into yoga. Some of them had tried before, stopped and are resuming. Some, out of curiosity, have been trying free yoga classes offered in the metro or are going for trial classes.
If you are also thinking of taking your first yoga class, I have some tips that will ensure that your first experience is not one of pain and trauma but one that will keep you coming again and again.
1. Eat at least 2 hours BEFORE taking a yoga class.
No, it is unpleasant to have someone throw up beside you. Worse if the one who throws up is YOU. So be kind to yourself and to your classmates. Eat sparingly before taking your yoga class and give ample time for digestion (2-3 hours is a rule of thumb). Some poses also massage your organs and if your food is not well digested, you may experience discomfort or cause discomfort to others. Some have been known to pass gas.
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
My teacher always says to drink lots of water before and after class. Never during. Yoga will make you break out into a sweat. You would want to keep completely hydrated to allow your body to lose water safely when you sweat out the toxins. Drinking water during the class is discouraged because you put out the “fire” that builds up as you go through the yoga poses.
3. Dress appropriately in workout clothes that are snug, comfy and quick-dry.
Yoga asanas will involve some bending down and over. We once had a female classmate who wore a loose tshirt. As expected, the moment we did Downward Dogs, she was clearly exposed. Another time, we had a male classmate whose shorts were pretty tight. When we executed a pose that required stretching, we heard what seemed like a snap coming from him. We feared he had injured his hamstrings, only to find out he ripped his shorts.
For guys, come in a cotton or spandex top with stretchable shorts. For girls, get a spandex or similar material for a top (tip: when trying these out in the mall, bend over and check the mirror if you’re SAFE). Jogging pants or stretch pants will do for the bottom. I have seen some female students come in stretch shorts as well as sports bras but unless the weather is THAT hot, cover up a little bit more. Skimpy wear that shows more skin than clothes can be distracting to everyone.
4. It’s the breath, not the pose.
The breath is ALWAYS more important than how perfectly you can touch your head to your knee or do a pretzel twist. As you go through the yoga motions, stay aware of when to breathe in and out. This is the key to reaping the health benefits of yoga.
5. Enjoy the experience, not compete with your neighbor.
My yoga teacher always reminded us not to compare our progress with our classmates. We do not need to feel intimidated because the one beside us could do a full split while we could barely manage to open up our legs. Or that someone in front did a head-to-knee perfectly while we could hardly touch the ground with our toes. Your body responds differently and will progress differently from everyone else. You may be able to do asanas that others will find difficult getting into. The reverse could likewise be true. It doesn’t matter.
Your teacher will also tell you which poses can be done the easy way. As you progress in yoga, you can then slowly deepen those poses.
6. Be patient and you will see your improvements over time.
If you became inflexible over several decades as a result of a sedentary life or a desk job, one yoga class won’t make you as flexible as rubber. Be patient with your body and allow it to be trained, stretched and made flexible over time. Go only as far as you can (without feeling pain).
When I talk to beginners, I always tell them to benchmark their first lesson: How far could you bend? How wide could you open up? When you twist, how far do you get? And I tell them that by benchmarking, they would be able to see their own body progress over the months. In my case, I could only touch the floor with the tips of my fingers on my first yoga lesson. It took several months of regular practice to get my palms to the floor and eventually palms down beside my feet.
7. For ladies — please, NO MAKEUP! And leave the lotion behind too.
Doing yoga is sweaty stuff. And you will be needing a towel every so often to wipe sweat off your face. Wearing makeup is definitely discouraged unless you want to end the class looking like Charlie Chaplin. I would also suggest NOT applying hand or body lotion prior to doing a class because the lotion in your hands would make you slip and slide on your mat when you get to the downward poses or those requiring you to push up using your hands. Lotion on other parts of the body would likewise make you slip. Lotion also blocks the toxins from coming out freely as it covers the skin pores.
Lastly, just go in with an open mind, listen always to your body, and have a wonderful yoga experience.