What to Expect at Your First Yoga Class

September is right around the corner, and it's National Yoga Month!  At our Sacramento gyms, we call it Zentember, and provide some great incentives and opportunities for members and friends to experience the benefits of yoga.  (Including a Free Day of Yoga on September 2nd, get all the details here.)  We're all about breaking down the barriers that keep people from getting--and staying--healthy, and we believe regular yoga practice is something people of all ages, shapes, sizes, and fitness levels can benefit from. Let's talk today about what you can expect the first time you try a yoga class.c0520

Yoga has a number of important health benefits, including increasing strength, flexibility, and balance. A low-impact exercise that can be easily modified for all levels, yoga is a group fitness activity that can be enjoyed by anyone: from brand new gym-goers to elite athletes, pregnant women to the elderly, yoga has benefits for all. With so much buzz about the positive effects of yoga, we typically have more than one beginner in each class. If you are inspired to try yoga for the first time, here are a few handy tips:

  • Clothing. There's no need to purchase an expensive name-brand outfit to get the most out of yoga--or any workout! However, as with many activities, clothing can make a difference in your comfort level. For yoga, we suggest clothing that is stretchy and comfortable. Some people like wearing loose, flowy tops. Others prefer tight workout tanks. Let what you'll be able to move comfortably in be your guide, and check out the variety of clothing options we have in our clubs and online store.
  • Footwear. Shoes should not be worn during yoga class. Yoga is best practiced barefoot, since bare feet promote balance. However, if you have any medical or personal concerns about your feet, feel free to wear socks--no one will mind!
  • Gear.  Mats, blocks, and straps are typically used during yoga practice.  Since many of the movements in a typical yoga practice begin or end with much of your body on the floor, a mat is a must.  Our instructors sometimes suggest their class members use foam blocks or fabric straps to assist their movements and poses.  For Cal Fit members, there's no need to bring these items to class--we have mats, blocks, and straps available for your use, free of charge.  Just remember to use the disinfectant spray and towels to wipe down your mat after class, so it's ready to be used again.yoga-mat
  • Comfort.  While you may feel some muscle soreness following a yoga class--just as you will when your body adjusts to any new activity--you should not feel pain during class.  Yoga instructors encourage you to be aware of your body and not push it to go any further into a pose than can be done comfortably.  Yoga isn't supposed to be competitive.  There's no need to try make your body do what the person's body on the mat next to you is doing. 
  • Breath.  Your yoga instructor will frequently remind you to focus on your breath.  Controlled, focused breathing is an important element of yoga, and it's key to improving your practice. Initially, it may not seem natural to think so much about something that your body does involuntarily.  As you adjust to conscious breathing combined with activity, there may be times that you need to stop what you are doing and simply focus on breathing.  With continued practice, you'll find that your instructor's prompts on using breath to guide your movements will enhance your practice.
  • Etiquette.  We suggest arriving early, so that you have time to claim your spot, spread your mat to face the instructor, and meet your instructor before class begins. Speaking of instructors, our Cal Fit yoga instructors really appreciate it when beginners introduce themselves before class; doing so gives your instructor a chance to watch out for you and offer quiet suggestions during class.  Relaxation is an important element of yoga, so silence your cell phone and be prepared for soothing music.  When bodies relax and stretch, it's normal for the digestive system to make a little noise--don't be embarrassed, you'll have a chance to politely ignore the noises your neighbors make, too.  c0524

If you haven't had a chance to experience yoga in the infrared heat of Madison Avenue Radiant Yoga Studio, we encourage you to do so!  All of the above tips apply.  Plus, there are a few additional ways to prepare for your first radiant yoga class.

  • Hydration.  While the infrared heat in our radiant yoga studio is a more pleasant, healthy warmth than that in traditional "hot" yoga classes, the space is warm.  Make sure you are well hydrated before class, and that you bring enough water along to enjoy during and after class.  You should drink 1-2 liters of water on a regular day for optimum health, we recommend increasing that to 3-4 liters on the days you exercise in heat.  Most of your water intake should beat least two hours before and after class.
  • Sweat.  Think of radiant yoga as a low-impact workout with high-impact benefits.  Movement combined with heat is going to make your body sweat, so along with hydration, come prepared with your own towel(s) and wear clothing designed to wick away moisture.  We suggest bringing a microfiber or beach towel to place on top of your mat, plus a smaller towel for wiping sweat from your face and body.  It can also increase your comfort to pull your hair back from your face and use a sweatband.  Nearby locker rooms are available for your use before and after class.
  • Hygiene.  With all that sweating, we recommend a shower following class.  Radiant yoga practice helps your body to release toxins and impurities, many of which come out while you sweat.  The heat also helps to open your pores, so going without a shower after class can lead to dirt and bacteria causing breakouts.  
  • Heat.  The temperature of the studio may come as a surprise when you first step inside.  It will be warmer than temperature-controlled buildings you've been in, or outside air if it isn't Summer.  Trust us when we tell you that your body will adjust to the heat fairly quickly.  Once class begins, your mind will become preoccupied with what's going on with your body--breathing, balance, placement, etc.--and it will forget about the heat.

At California Family Fitness, we don't want our yoga classes to intimidate anyone.  For those new to yoga or ready to take their practice to the next level, we recommend attending one of the special Yoga Basics Workshops that we offer on a monthly basis. An experienced instructor will demonstrate and explain a variety of yoga poses, as well as answer any questions you may have about them. Observe and apply the alignment of basic poses, learn how to connect your breath with movement, and find out how to apply modifications to ease or enhance your experience. You can register for September's Yoga Basics Workshop here.