By John O'Dwyer
So you’ve heard that yoga is good for you and is meant to have lots of wonderful benefits, and you would like to find out for yourself? Popping along to a class is a great way to start.
Here’s what to expect ...
1. Different types of yoga require different levels of fitness, so it’s the best check with the teacher before you start as there are many types of yoga to choose from. Also, each teacher has different class aims with some classes being dedicated to beginners and others are intended for those who have been practising longer.
2. Clothes: Anything that allows natural movement with room to stretch, and that you feel comfortable in, is suitable. Track suit bottoms and a tee-shirt will suffice but they can tend to move around, so something close-fitting and with a bit of give may be better. If you find that yoga is for you, there are lots of specialist yoga brands available such as .
3. Mats and blocks are sometimes provided, but it’s best to check first. The yoga venue or teacher may sell these and they are readily available elsewhere. You will be practicing barefoot so be prepared to take your socks off!
4. Arrive five to ten minutes early, giving you time to talk to the teacher about anything you need to share, and also letting you settle down and leave your busy day behind.
5. Most yoga will be done in relative silence with maybe some background music. It tends to be an introspective practice, focusing on your own body, and how it moves and feels. You may be asked to close your eyes but if you find this uncomfortable then a soft focus will also suffice.
6. Yoga focuses on the breath, so you will be guided to breathe in and out with each movement. This has a calming effect which brings greater awareness to how we breathe - we have all been told to take a deep breath when feeling stressed!
7. There will be different abilities (or levels of bendiness!) in each class. Don’t try and keep up and don’t get disheartened - some of these people may have been doing yoga for years. Everyone finds some movements come more naturally to them, whilst others can be challenging.
8. If something feels too much, or like it may endanger your body, STOP! If this happens, you can go into a resting posture until the class moves on, or call the teacher over and ask for a variation. The teacher is there to assist you and will sometimes come over and offer advice or make adjustments to your posture.
9. There may be some chanting at the beginning or end, which is often to tune in or tune out from the class. Some participants can find it deeply soothing but if it causes any stress then sit and enjoy listening - you never have to join in with something if you don’t want to.
10. Yoga classes traditionally end with a relaxation/meditation period, which is an important part of the class, and has been shown by modern science to have many health benefits. You could be lying on the mat listening to a guided meditation, doing a seated breathing exercise, or possibly both. After this, it is quite normal for the teacher to thank their students (and vice versa) with a small bow and hands in prayer position, using the Sanskrit word ‘Namaste’ which means "I bow to the divine in you".
If you don’t click with the teacher, or if the yoga is too fast/slow for you, then look around your community or ask people who know the local yoga scene. There is usually a style of yoga to suit most people. Give yourself a little time to get used to yoga. A weekly class can make a huge difference to your life but it does take time. Yoga also supplements the other activities you have in your life, which is why sports stars will have yoga in their repertoire to enhance their performance.
Yoga can seem serious because it’s practiced in silence, but ultimately it is about listening to your body and building a better relationship with it. Everyone has been through the experience of being the newbie in class, so don’t worry about doing anything wrong, just make sure you enjoy yourself!
John O'Dwyer, Centred Life
Yoga Teacher, Organic Farmer, Life Coach and Constellations Facilitator - John encourages people in a warm, compassionate and fun way to get back in touch with their life energy, drive and purpose. The benefits that John has received from yoga and meditation are many-fold and he has made it his mission to spread the good word of yoga! He has found the simplicity and effectiveness of Viniyoga to be beneficial to all.