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The Common Do’s & Don’ts For Your First Yoga Class

Sophia Herbst
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Social anxiety affects about 12% of American adults at some point in their lives. Yet yoga has been documented to help relieve general anxiety disorders and is regularly recommended by doctors for its calming benefits. But what if you’re too socially anxious to go to a yoga studio? Quite the catch-22!

We understand that the yoga studio – while created for optimal zen – is a new environment, with new people, where you’ll be performing new things with your body. It can be intimidating! And not knowing what is or isn’t socially acceptable can be a source of added unnecessary stress.
 
To quell first-time nervousness, here are some common social Do’s & Don’ts for your first few yoga classes:
 

Yoga Class Do’s:

 
Sitting still, taking breaks, and chilling out:
If at any point in class you need a break, it’s perfectly ok to stop and relax for as long as you need. Nobody is “judging” you for resting or not “keeping up” with the flows – you set your own pace, listen to your body, and do what’s best for you. There are students who will go to a yoga class and hang out in Child’s Pose the entire time. Ain’t nothing wrong with that!
 
Loud breathing, gasping, sighing, etc:
Yoga focuses heavily on uniting breath with movement. If the guided breathing has you making louder noises than usual, don’t sweat it. There’s no such thing as the “annoying mouth-breather” in yoga class.
 
Closing your eyes:
If you are feeling particularly zen and want to close your eyes to fully enjoy the pose, by all means, please do! Closing your eyes can make you more in-tune with how your body is feeling in the moment (although it may impact your balance). Your instructor is not a movie star, and won’t mind in the slightest if your yoga would rather listen than watch.
 
Crying:
We often bring our emotional baggage with us into our yoga practices, and on top of that, yoga can be a deeply emotional experience (in the best possible way!). If you become overwhelmed by your thoughts, your life, or your emotions and the waterworks start flowing, there’s no need to be embarrassed. 85% of women and 73% of men felt less sad and angry after crying – it’s good for you!
 
Falling:
There is no shame in challenging yourself to new poses and not succeeding the first time. You will never grow & progress without a few falls, so get up and try try again! Even the best yogis fall! Check out Kino MacGregor, Ashtanga Yoga expert, falling in one of her filming sessions:
 

 
Farting (in moderation):
A yoga class can be highly relaxing, sometimes to your own surprise. Your body and muscles are moving in novel ways, and it’s perfectly normal for your gastrointestinal tract to get a little bubbly. If you let a little wind slip, there’s no need to turn red and slink out of the room. We’ve all done it. Seriously.
 
Wear as much (or as little) as you’d like:
The yoga studio is a judgment-free zone and nobody is going to give you the side-eye for your fashion choices (of course, basic rules of decency apply). Your body type is irrelevant – booty shorts or baggy sweatpants – what you wear to practice yoga is nobody’s business but your own. Whatever makes you feel comfortable!
 
Dozing off:
Every class should end with at least five or ten minutes of Savasana (Corpse Pose). The purpose of lying still is to let your practice “settle” into your body. But after an hour of yoga, accidentally dozing off is a very real possibility (“yoga brain”). If that happens to you, no worries. Just like farting – we’ve all done it.
 

 

Yoga Class (please) Don’ts:

 
Electronic interference:
For the love of yoga, leave your phone in the locker room! Yoga class should be the one hour in your day when you completely unplug, clear your mind, and focus on your practice. Checking notifications, texting, and answering calls are not only disruptive to your personal practice, but it’s disruptive to your classmates and instructor too.
 
Taking photos or videos:
We understand that you’re proud of the beautiful work you have been doing in class, and as a new practitioner, it’s exciting and you want to share! However, it’s important to be respectful of the yoga practice and mindful of your fellow students who may feel uncomfortable being recorded. Plus, you shouldn’t have your cell phone with you anyway (see above bullet)!
 
Chatting with your neighbor:
Making friends before and after a session is part of the group class experience, but chatting during class is not ok. We guarantee your neighbor did not come to yoga class to chat, and neither should you. May we suggest a coffee shop instead?
 
Leaving a mess:
If you borrow a mat, towel, yoga blocks, straps, or anything else from the studio, make sure to put them in their proper places when you are finished. Your yoga instructor is not responsible for picking up after you.
 
Arriving significantly late or leaving early:
We understand that life can throw you a curveball on any given day, but making a ruckus by entering or exiting the class while it’s still in session is disruptive to everyone, and bad for your own practice. Classes are planned very specifically, so arriving late and jumping in “cold” is not good for the body. While it can be frustrating, if your schedule does not allow for an uninterrupted yoga class, you should practice on your own for the day.
 
Are you nervous about going to a yoga studio? Try practicing at home first! Here is a YouTube playlist full of beginner yoga classes and tutorials.
 

 

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Sophia Herbst

Sophia Herbst is a Seattle-based freelance writer, blogger, and proud feminist. When she's not writing for Cody, a health & fitness startup, she's practicing yoga and CrossFit.

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