Philadelphia: Your First Hot Yoga Class, Explained
Philadelphia: A Guide to Your First Hot Yoga Class
How to succeed without getting anything "right"
That unique feeling of excitement and dread, standing at threshold of the door to your first hot yoga class: Yogambilivlance. "Am I supposed to be sweating already?" "Where should I put my mat?" "What. Have. I. Done."
STEP ONE: Relax
Good news is, if you don't relax, the practice will do it for you. Yes, we mean that even if you're huffing and puffing and sweating and contemplating if you're having a near death experience in your first yoga class, by the time you hit savasana, your body and mind will be in a different place. According to a study done by UCLA, just 12 minutes of yoga has been shown to decrease the immune inflammatory response (UCLA). Or, as the one University of Illinois study put it, a 20-minute yoga session improves focus and information retention, and decreases mental fog (Illinois). So let's get one thing straight: YOU CAN'T MESS THIS UP.
STEP TWO: Come Prepared
- Yoga Mat - buy one at 5 below for 5 bucks, or rent one a the studio
- Big Towel - especially if you're using an yoga mat not made for hot yoga, bring the biggest towel you own so you can lay it down on your mat to keep you from sliding like an uncoordinated kindergartener on a slip-n-slide
- Water - Don't just bring the biggest bottle of water you have, start drinking at least 2 hours before class. 20 oz of water within 2 hours of a class will actually make class way easier.
- Flexible, well-fitting clothes - Nothing worse than a baggy shirt or shorts threatening to expose your body when you're just trying to keep it together. Make sure whatever you're wearing will stay where it's supposed to stay even if your legs are over your head
- Fortitude - This is kind of a joke, but honestly, you're going to do great. Just bring your best. And know that today isn't about being perfect, it's about trying something new - and knowing that's badass in and of itself.
STEP THREE: Get Settled
Walk right up to the desk, and let them know it's your first class (and hey, even if it's your third or fourth, just say it's your first and you'll get the full rundown). Sign in, and put your things away in a cubby or whatever storage your studio has. LEAVE YOUR PHONE BEHIND. Ringing phones in class are going to distract you and take you away from what you're doing. You've come this far. Just do the damn thing. Take your mat place yourself in the middle of the room (that way you can see what's going on no matter what direction everyone is facing) and make sure to grab at least one block, even two! Blocks are so helpful in almost every pose and are NOT only for beginners.
- Side note: Take comfort in knowing that the most anyone ever looks around a yoga class is in their first few months of practicing. Once you've been there for a while, you're not focused on anything but yourself, so while you may be checking out the person's down dog behind you, they're not looking back. And if they are, they're remembering their first class and commending you for showing up.
STEP FOUR: Remember - you're doing it right
Go ahead: look around, take water, take a child's pose if you need a break. Do what you need to do to make this work. There's literally nothing you have to do in your first yoga class. In fact, the act of yoga isn't about the actual poses. It's about the action of simply being exactly where you are. So if you're on your yoga mat feeling confused, behind, sweaty, or anythign of the sort, if you take the time to be honest with yourself and genuinely notice what's going on in your body an mind, you're doing perfectly.
Also, if it's really challenging, you're doing it right. Let's just get technical about this for a moment, shall we? Humans have a single, physiological stress response. Think increased heart rate, breathing, muscle tension, and stress hormone levels. It's a great response... for cavemen and women to understand that a saber toothed tiger in front of their cave means danger. But in triangle pose? Not so necessary.
A very common thought among new yogis is that when you're doing yoga, if you start to feel this stress response, that you're doing it wrong. But the reality is that that's exactly where you need to be! Yes, over time certain poses get easier, but for more experienced yogi's they're essentially chasing the dragon. We all want to get back to that place where it's hard and challenging, because that's where you grow. That's where you can really start putting in the breathing, focus, and concentration that will make a huge difference on your mind and body. If you can learn to breathe through physical challenge and discomfort, you're learning how to breathe through challenge and discomfort period. Imagine all the other places that will translate in your life. So remember, if you are the one having the hardest time in a yoga class, in some ways, you're the "best" one in the room.
STEP FIVE: WTF Do I do in Savasana?
Close your eyes, breathe any way you want to breathe, and just take a few minutes to feel the changes you've made in your body and mind. Let your body relax almost like you're going to go to sleep, and simply notice. You're not here to clear your mind. As Alan Watts says, that would be "like trying to still rough water with a hot iron. You'll just disturb it all the more." Just notice how you feel! How has the feeling in your body changed? Can you notice some details of your muscles or your body that you couldn't notice before? And if your thoughts wander away from what's happening - where do they wander? Where does your brain wander when you give yourself a moment to rest and simply be with yourself.
STEP SIX: Keep Flowing
When you're done with class, spray down any blocks you used (most studios have spray bottles) as well as your mat. Feel free to ask the teacher any questions you had, they'll be happy to answer them! After class, make sure to re-hydrate. At least another 20oz of water before bed will leave you feeling amazing the next day.
And remember, just because you walked off that yoga mat, doesn't mean you have to stop noticing what's going on around you. When you remember, check in with yourself throughout the day. "Are my shoulders tense?" "What am I doing with my hands?" "Am I seeing what's in front of me, or am I seeing my thoughts?" There's no end game here. You're not better when you're being mindful and worse when you're not. Yoga is the simple act of noticing exactly where you are. So where are you now? Let that be okay. There is no great journey without a single, first step.
Illinois - https://news.illinois.edu/blog/view/6367/204796
UCLA - http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/yoga-reduces-stress-now-it-s-known-236785
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