Several people have seen my Curvy Girl Yoga post, and now they want to try yoga! I'm so excited! That is awesome news. No matter your age or athletic ability, you can do yoga. Just remember that.
Now - you've decided that you want to try yoga. What's the next step? I realize that everyone is not blessed to have a Rockstar Stacy in their lives. Which is a real shame. LOL! Yoga studios were opening all around me and I was convinced, after watching "Namaste" on Oxygen channel, that there was no way I was contorting my body like that. I didn't know anything about modifications. Stacy convinced me to give her class a try, and the rest was history! But since you probably don't have a Rockstar Stacy, I'll give you my 2 cents on what I think you should do to get started.
READING IS FUNDAMENTAL...SOMETIMES. Normally, if I was going to try something new, the first thing I would do is read and research. You CAN do that, but there is soooooo much information out here on yoga, I think it would be confusing. There is a Yoga for Dummies book out there (there's a "for Dummies" book on everything, isn't there? LOL) that really breaks down the basics, the types of yoga, takes you into some beginning breathing exercises, and talks about some of the poses. Honestly? If I had read that book first, I think my mind would have been doing too much, and I wouldn't have tried a class. Your mileage may vary. You might decide that you need your brain to be full. That said...
HOME VS STUDIO: The next thing you need to decide on is, will I start at home or start in a studio? Maybe you live in the boonies and don't have access to a studio. Or maybe you are intimidated by the studio environment - which, that's ok if you are. In that case, you may want to start with an at home video for beginners. Make sure you have a big enough space to practice. You don't want to be banging into furniture while you're trying to move. No bueno. The disadvantage to starting at home is that you don't have anyone to provide guidance to make sure you aren't going to injure yourself in a pose, or to provide modifications. I would just say that you should make sure your videos are geared to beginners.
If you want to make the leap to a studio, then check around your city. Do you know anybody who already does yoga? Ask them which studio they are going to. Check out the websites of the potential studios. What type of vibe are you feeling? In this case, you need to know what you want, in terms of environment. Some people just want their azz kicked, physically. They want some power yoga classes, they're not interested in the spiritual aspect or the meditation. They want to leave dripping in sweat, physically challenged, and good to go. Other people need a studio with a family environment, such as Charlotte Family Yoga Center. The provide Family Yoga classes on Sundays, where you can bring children 4 years and up to participate in yoga with you. They also provide child care during many of the classes, for a nominal fee. If you have young kids, this type of studio is for you. But you also have to be ready to possibly hear kids playing while you're down in savasana. If that's not for you, skip the family environment.
YOGA FASHION: Many of us are fashionistas outside of the studio, but might not know what to wear IN the studio. First things first - you need comfortable, light weight clothing. It's going to be warm in the studio. As you (and the rest of the bodies) start building heat, it's going to get even warmer. Don't go in there with sweats or UnderArmor on - recipe for disaster! You don't want to go in there with clothing that's too baggy, either. Oversized t-shirts will be falling all over the place as you try to move and get into poses. You'll want to get some clothes specifically geared to working out. At the same time, if you don't know how well you're going to take to yoga, or how often you're going to be practicing, you may not be ready for the likes of Lululemon or Prana. I know I'm not. LOL! Not yet, anyway. You can find clothing for yoga at Old Navy, Gap, Target, WalMart...lots of options. I tend to wear crop pants a lot. Something that's fitted and sometimes has the wicking fabric to get the sweat away from my body. I found some cute tops at WalMart, but they don't always stay put when I'm in down dog or inverted poses. That's the advantage of the more expensive brands. Just do what works within your budget. If you find yourself getting deeper and more involved in your practice, then you can upgrade your wardrobe.
TO MAT...OR NOT TO MAT? You don't HAVE to start with your own mat. Most of the studios have mats that you can borrow or rent for a nominal fee. If you are squeamish and need to know that only your "stuff" (LOL) has been on your mat, then check out retailers like Target and WalMart. If you decide that you want to continue you're practice, you'll likely find that those mats don't give you the stability or resistance you need, and you'll end up going for an upgrade. I personally use a Manduka eKO Mat (in the denim color, of course!). I use their mat sling to carry it to and fro.
WHICH CLASS DO I CHOOSE? Your first studio class will depend on what the studio has to offer. Hopefully they will have some kind of beginners series. Each class in the series will focus on certain movements.One class you may learn the sun salutations (Sun A and Sun B). Pretty much every flow class I've taken has started with these to build heat. In another class you may focus on the warrior poses, or triangles and forward bends. If you are fortunate enough to start with a beginners series of classes, you'll be well versed on the poses when you move on to the next level.
My first class was a slow flow vinyasa class. That means that your movements will be done in conjunction with an inhale and an exhale. In a slow flow class, you will hold poses for several breaths before moving on to the next one. In a power flow class, you do a lot more moving. I've been on several yoga studio websites and almost all of them recommend that people transition from beginners classes into slow flow. If there's no beginners series, have no fear. You can make it through a slow flow class. Just make sure to let the instructor know that you're new and may need a bit more guidance. :)
I'M READY FOR MY FIRST IN-STUDIO CLASS. WHAT DO I BRING? HOW DO I PREPARE? If you've bought a mat, bring that with you. You may also want to bring a water bottle, and a small towel to wipe the sweat from your brow or from your hands. You may want a small bag to carry your personal items like your wallet, keys, phone, etc. Most of the studios I've been to have little "cubbies" outside for you to store your things.
You'll be practicing in your bare feet, so if you are OCD about your footsies looking good, then get a pedi. However, do NOT lotion your feet or hands before class. You'll just slide all over the mat and it'll be an exercise in futility. Honestly, most people are not going to be paying attention to your feet. And your yoga instructor has seen every kind of foot there is.
EXTRAS: Most flow classes end with savasana - you lie flat on the mat (or on a bolster if you choose), with your eyes closed. There's soft music playing in the background and everyone is quiet. We're usually given cool lavender cloths to put on our forehead/eyes during savasana. Lavender is calming, and also very few people seem to be allergic to it. However, if you are very sensitive to smells, you may want to decline the towel.
Many teachers like to give you a little extra nurturing at the end of class. They may come around and give each student a small foot rub, or a shoulder rub. They may press your shoulders and/or hips down to help your relax and release during savasana. I took a slow flow class today and she came and rubbed our foreheads. If you don't like to be touched, you may want to let the instructor know at the beginning of class.
Most of all, just come in with an open mind, and a willingness to leave the rest of the world outside the class room for an hour, so you can treat yourself to something yummy.
I hope I hit the highlights for you. If you have any specific questions, just ask! Happy Yoga!