Have you been wanting to try hot yoga but for some reason haven’t yet? I have spent nearly every day since 2008 (and since 2010 at my own studio) teaching yoga to brand new beginners! While most studio websites offer advice to newcomers, potential clients are also sifting through Class Rates pages, Schedule Pages, and Teacher Bios. They might not even see the ‘First Class Advice’ page. That’s why I am dedicating this post to writing about how to not only survive, but also how to thrive in your first hot yoga class!
1. HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE!
Hydration is arguably the single most important thing that you can do to set yourself up for success before a hot yoga class. When you arrive at class well-hydrated, your body does a really efficient job of managing the heat. So you will probably feel hot and maybe even a little uncomfortable, but you’ll be in such a better position than if you had not had any water.
Now, hydrating before class doesn’t mean chugging a bottle of water two seconds before you walk into the studio. Give yourself at least 24 hours to really drink a lot of water. For example, if you plan on taking yoga on Friday afternoon, start to drink a bit more water beginning on Thursday morning.
How much is enough? Well, there’s lots of discussion on exactly how much based on your body composition, but I personally feel like I can’t go wrong with 8 glasses of water a day. Check out this post from Health Ambition for more on exact amounts.
2. TAKE IT EASY & PACE YOURSELF
Most hot yoga classes are between 60 and 90 minutes. That might feel like a long time to be stretching in a hot room when you’ve never done it before! That’s why pacing yourself can lead to feeling energized rather than burnt out. Go easy, especially in the first 15-20 minutes of class. By “easy” I mean exert only 50%-70% of your maximum effort. Just because you can push harder, doesn’t mean you necessarily should. In fact, holding back and pacing can be part of the mental challenge!
In Bikram Yoga, the style of hot yoga that I teach, we always do 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. I like to think of the class as a marathon, but instead of running 26.2 miles, we stretch our way through 26 postures and inhale and exhale through 2 breathing exercises. A marathon is not a sprint; instead, a great deal of pacing is required to make sure the runner has energy at the end of the race. Take the same approach with your first hot yoga class (Bikram or any style). Take it easy at the beginning and save some energy. If you give it everything you’ve got in the first 10 minutes, it will be hard to keep going.
3. INFORM THE TEACHER OF ANY MEDICAL CONDITIONS BEFORE CLASS
This is an important one and will allow the teacher to give you any extra information to help you feel better in the class. Maybe there’s a modification that will help an achy back. Or maybe there’s a technique to try if you’ve recently had knee surgery. If the teacher knows your situation ahead of time, he or she can make sure that your first experience is the best it can be!
4. HAVE NO EXPECTATIONS
Say whaaat?! Yes, it’s true. Here’s why: if you show up to class thinking, ‘This is going to be a piece of cake. How hard can yoga be? I’m going to do every single posture and not rest at all.’ then you’re setting some pretty high standards for yourself on something that’s pretty challenging, on something you’ve never done before. Think about the flip side: if you arrive to class expecting to take it easy, expecting to rest, expecting that it will be challenging, then you will practice the yoga postures with more relaxation. That relaxation will lead to easier breathing and ultimately an easier time controlling your movements. If you have sky-high expectations for your first class then there’s no where to go but down. If you have little or no expectations then there’s no where to go but up. 🙂
I’ve seen every kind of new student. The ones who thrive in their first class always show up saying, “I’m just glad I got here. I’m going to take it pretty easy. I may not be able to do everything.”
We live in a world today where more is better and pushing to the max is expected. Use this yoga class as an opportunity to step back from that mentality and see what happens.
5. DON’T COMPARE
A very simple definition of the word yoga is “union.” This union refers to the union between YOUR mind and YOUR body. While it’s tempting to compare yourself to others in the room, each individual is on his or her own journey. The super bendy person next to you might actually be coming to class for the mental benefits. The guy in the corner who can’t touch his toes might be using yoga to avoid back surgery. You never know. People show up to yoga class for myriad reasons. When you focus on yourself, your postures, your breathing, your body, and your mind you start to have your own journey.
Whew! I hope those five tips above are helpful! I speak for myself and all of the wonderful teachers I’ve been so fortunate to work with over the past nine years (and counting!) that when a new student walks through the doors, we are so genuinely happy that he or she has decided to come try out our class. Showing up to the studio is the hardest posture. 🙂