How to Handle Your First Yoga Class Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

How to Handle Your First Yoga Class

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Sometimes when you want to start a new hobby, it's useful to have some kind of inside information. And it is here that you will find some light-hearted tips and expectations about the wonderful relaxing exercise, yoga.

There are different types of yoga such as Hatha yoga, Ashtanga and Bikram. The list is slowly lengthening as more and more people are putting their twist to it (no pun intended here). Originally an Indian type of exercise, yoga is supposed to stretch and strengthen your body, therefore giving control over your entire physique. The follower of the yogi way of life would then be able to sit comfortably for long periods of time to enable deep meditation and relaxation, in the hope of achieving nirvana - a deep state of bliss and contentment.

The more popular take is that whilst it is relaxing, it also tones up one's physique, lengthening muscles thus balancing the body. Yoga is brilliant for your posture, the 'attaining of nirvana' not being important. People take up yoga because, for example, they suddenly find it difficult to put their socks on while standing, or they are continually hyperventilating.

Yoga can teach you how to relax.

Making Your Entrance

So, here you are daring yourself to enter the yoga class, loitering by the door. The class was suggested to you perhaps by the doctor or maybe your psychiatrist. Wearing what you think are suitable for bending and stretching, you make an entrance. Lycra pants and a top that holds everything in and hopefully down (when one does the inversions) are recommended. Some of your fellow yogis may have certain body ornaments and decorations. Tattoos and piercings for example are de rigueur in some places. Dreadlocks and toe rings are also common, but these are purely decoration and not meant to be intimidating and are to be ignored. They are not compulsory. Indeed you may have a few extra adornments yourself, in which case you will fit in perfectly. Men, although in the minority at most classes, should not feel intimidated in any way as male yogis can and do develop the most amazingly toned muscles. However, you will hopefully enter the yoga studio with modesty, as it is requested that you leave your ego at the door.

The class is non-competitive. Apparently it is impossible to do a pose incorrectly; you have to listen to your body and do what it wishes. It would be perfectly acceptable to just lie on the floor for the full 90 minutes.

Collect a mat and two blocks (holding one in each hand and then bending down brings the floor a lot closer), find space in the room to roll your mat out, and then stand or sit on the mat and wait for the class to start. Choose a position in the room that faces the mirror. (Most studios these days seem to have a wall of mirrors!) It might seem strange to suggest you face a mirror, but to have one's back towards a mirror is most disconcerting when one is in an inversion, as you will then be facing the mirror. To look at your face and boobs (or those of others, man boobs included) when one is upside down is, to say the least, surprising and a little bit depressing. If you still have a sense of humour, laughing out loud disturbs the rest of the class.

You've Been Spotted!

The teacher will usually be there to welcome you. As you will be a new face, she will want to know if you have any injuries or ailments – just physical, not mental, so don't be too eager to explain why you are there. Just mention if you have high blood pressure, for example, as this will excuse you from quite a lot of the poses. Having your head lower than your heart is not a good idea if you are hypertensive, apparently.

As the class starts, you will either be asked to lie on the floor or to sit in a comfortable position. Choose to lie on the floor. Sitting with your legs crossed, if you are not used to it, can be tiring and at this point of the class you are supposed to be relaxing and thinking about the breath. When lying on the floor, breathe in and out in a knowing fashion. The teacher will think you are a natural. Try and concentrate and listen to the teacher, as at this point you will be asked to clear your mind. Empty the thoughts about what you are having for tea, for example, or trying to remember what time the cat has to be at the vets, or the silly idiot who cut you up this morning. The list is usually endless but this time is your time, so try and think of nothing. Do not think about going to sleep as after a while you will be asked to stretch. Again, stretch in a knowing fashion. This will impress.

The Bending Begins

After this initial stretch, the class proper starts. A good teacher will always give you different options of the same pose, depending upon your flexibility. Bend, stretch and twist as much as you dare without losing consciousness or passing wind. Keeping in mind that you have at least an hour of this bending, stretching and twisting so don't overdo it! Relax into the pose and as previously mentioned, do not forget to breathe, both in and more importantly out.

Eventually the class will be coming to an end. You will have attempted at least one twist (self explanatory), one balance (standing on one leg, or on one's hands), and an inversion (head below your heart). You will have remained calm throughout the class, breathing in and out at regular intervals. Calmness ensues and a well-earned relaxation follows.

And Finally

A suitable position will be required: again choose your back, flat on the floor and try not to snore when you fall asleep while listening to the teacher explaining to you how to relax. Relaxing now is the easiest part of the class; you will not find it difficult or confusing. In fact, when you awake you will be feeling reborn and feel that you have actually done something worthwhile for a change. You will want to return to this class again and again and again. Promise.


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