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    Emily Malone

    culinary arts grad. nutrition facts lover. vegetarian chef. marathon runner. country music maniac. failed dog trainer. barre fanatic. loving mama.

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    A Look Back.



A Beginner’s Guide to Yoga

Obviously I am a big fan of yoga, but I didn’t start that way.  In fact, before November 2009, I had never been to a yoga class in my entire life.  A little background…

When I moved to Charlotte I had no friends.  After meeting Kath and Amanda at a 5k race, I decided on a whim to join them for hot yoga a few days later, because I knew I needed to be brave and try new things with new people in my new town.  In my first class, I felt like a total fool, but I also left feeling like I wanted to go back for more.  I ended up going back more and more and more, and here I am 8 months later, a totally devout, yet sometimes still off-balance yogi. 

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Since the beginning, I’ve also had fun recruiting friends to try yoga.  Seriously, if I can do it, anyone can.  Which brings me to the purpose of this post.  Yoga should be fun, and not intimidating, so here is everything you need to know before you dive into the wonderful world of yoga practice. 

Types of Yoga

Ashtanga, bikram, vinyasa, flow, hot, power – there are SO many different types of yoga.  I’m not going to get into the specifics of each type here, only because I do not have the expertise to do so, and because every studio has their own interpretation of each style.  But for a beginner, I would recommend trying a vinyasa or power mixed class for your first one.  Also, many studios offer beginner classes that are great for learning the poses and correct postures. 

What to Wear

Yoga gear is fun and super comfortable.  I wear yoga pants approximately 7 days a week.  :)  Typically, regardless of the type of class you go to, you’ll want to wear some sort of yoga pants, sports bra, and tank top.  (Unless you are male, in which case you can leave the sports bra at home.)  Here are a few options for good yoga gear:

Budget Buy:  I get most of my pants, sports bras, and tops from Old Navy and Target.  I don’t want to spend a ton of $$ on clothes that are going to be dripping in sweat, so for me these are good options.  Gap Body is also a good option for yoga bras, but they are a little more expensive. 

Splurge:  Lululemon owns the market for high end yoga gear.  It is insanely expensive, but also incredibly durable and comfortable.  Worth it for a few key pieces, but probably not realistic to outfit your entire wardrobe.

What to Take With You

There are a few essential things you’re going to want with you for your first class.  The first being…

1.  A Yoga Mat – if you don’t have one, most studios will rent one to you for just a few dollars, in case you aren’t sure you’re ready to commit to buying one just yet.  As always, you have a few options…

Budget Buy:  Cheap yoga mats are terrible.  Yes, you can buy one for $10 at Walmart, but I promise you will regret it when you are slipping and sliding all over the place.  My current mat is made by Aurorae, and is a great mid-range mat option for about $35.  I highly recommend this mat if you’re looking at getting started in yoga, but not totally ready to invest in the premium gear quite yet.

Splurge:  If you are ready to call yourself a yogi, only one mat will do.  The Manduka mat is expensive – almost $100 – but it is absolutely top of the line, and comes with a lifetime warranty.  These mats are built to last.  Now that I have committed to my yoga practice, the Manduka Pro is at the top of this year’s Christmas list!

2.  A Yoga Towel – even if you’re not doing a hot class, you’re probably going to want some sort of towel between you and your mat.  And if you are doing a hot class, you absolutely need a towel – otherwise your mat will turn into a slip and slide.

Budget Buy:  For your first class, I’d recommend just taking a clean bath towel that you already own.  It’s going to be a little bit more slippery than a yoga towel, but again, you want to make sure you like the practice before you invest in too much gear. 

Splurge:  Once you realize that you LOVE yoga, you’re going to want to get a non-slip yoga-mat sized towel.  While there are several brands and styles available, the best and most popular is Yogitoes.  They range in price from $40 to $65, and they come in all sorts of fun colors and patterns.  I have red and yellow!

3.  A Hand Towel – again, you can just use one you bring from home.  Even in the non-heated classes, I tend to get really sweaty.  You’ll want some sort of sport or hand towel to wipe your face off of a few times during class.

4.  WATER – hydration is key during yoga, especially if it is a hot class.  I would recommend taking at least a 20 ounce water bottle, and don’t be afraid to leave the room to refill if you run out.

What to Expect During Your First Yoga Class

You will feel foolish.  There is no way around this.  But I can assure you that yoga is the most laid back, non-judgmental sport of its kind.  I know it’s hard to believe, but I assure you NO one is watching you.  And the entire purpose of yoga is to push yourself to your limits each time, so even the best yogis fall and stumble all the time, myself included. 

You won’t know the poses.  That’s okay – just watch the other people around you.  I know I just said no one is watching, but that doesn’t include the first-timers.  :)   The great thing about yoga is that the poses are universal, like a language, so once you learn them they will be the same at any studio.  After two or three classes, you will know the basics and already feel like a seasoned veteran. 

Your teacher will touch you.  Now this isn’t always the case, but I’d say it happens 80% of the time.  Instructors are there to assist you if you need help adjusting your pose, or to help push you to the deepest point of your stretch.  It doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong, it just means that they want to help you take it further.  Be prepared for a lot of hands on contact.

You will want to go back for more.  The first class is scary, I’ll admit it.  But after my first 60 minutes of hot vinyasa that left me shaking and drenched in sweat, I knew I had found something I needed to explore more.  Since then I’ve tried different types, temperatures, and teachers.  There is so much variety in yoga, and I really believe there is a class that suits just about everyone.

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Hopefully that’s enough to help any beginner yogi get started!  If you haven’t tried yoga yet, or have felt too intimidated, I seriously encourage you to give it a shot.  You never know what you’ll find in yourself when you get to the mat each day.

Namaste.  :)

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117 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Neen@BroadBean to RunnerBean     at 3:24 am

GREAT post! I’ve been to one yoga class i thought it was beginners but turned out to be advanced ashtanga for 90minutes, the teacher persuaded me to stay i’ve never sweated so much and never had muscle ache like it! i loved it, there are no classes in my area though, so i’ve just bought Jillian Michaels Yoga Meltdown to try out at home

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

OMG I would have died. I am STILL scared of ashtanga! haha.

[Reply]

Lindsey @ Eat, Read, Run     at 8:59 am

Thank you for this post! I’m a new reader and have total yoga envy. I always want to be one of those people who does it, but I’m always too nervous to try it at my gym. Maybe it’s time. I’m a runner and I think that yoga would help switch things up a bit.

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Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

I usually find that gym yoga is much easier than studio yoga, so that might be a good place to start as a newbie! Give it a shot. :)

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Kelly     at 9:00 am

Okay, once you move here, I am requesting that you take me with you to a yoga class. I’ve never been and, quite honestly, the idea of going makes me a little nervous!

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

Absolutely!! How fun! :)

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Canadian     at 9:20 am

I tried yoga a few years back. I’m not sure it’s for everyone. I didn’t like it and won’t do it again, but I wanted to give it a real shot by following through with what I had signed up for, so I hung in with it for the whole semester.

Why didn’t I like it? Partly because it made me feel fat and clumsy. And I was uncomfortable with the spiritual aspects of yoga. (Are Westerners commodifying another culture’s spiritual practice and trying to turn it into a sport? And does yoga conflict with my own religious beliefs, should I really be doing something that has a strong basis in another religion?) I do agree that flexibility is important though, and I try to do stretches regularly out of a book called “Stretching” by Bob Anderson.

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

I really haven’t explored the spiritual or religious side of yoga, only the fact that I find it calming and meditative. The studios that I have been to have never mentioned religion at all – I guess it depends on where you go. And I felt VERY clumsy at the beginning, but by going every day I have greatly improved.

[Reply]

Anne @ a daily slice     at 9:30 am

This is so helpful! I wish that I would’ve tried yoga sooner–I’m absolutely in love with it. I only do it once a week… maybe I should do a 30 day yoga challenge?? The next time a Groupon comes along, I’ll splurge!

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

Groupons are so great for that kind of thing.

[Reply]

Kareen     at 9:55 am

What a great post! If I didn’t already love Hot Yoga, I would want to go. Your observations are so true!! I might try to squeeze in a 90 minutes Hot Yoga class before I go teach my own class tonight…
Very inspiring!

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

Yay, happy to inspire!

[Reply]

Whit     at 11:05 am

This is an awesome post! I wish I was the kind of person that kept up with google reader so I could have sent this out yesterday! I took like 6 people to yoga with me last night. All new, all now addicted. ;)

[Reply]

Maryann Lancaster gal     at 3:00 pm

I’ve thought about yoga but the classes near here are during the day and it won’t work because I work.
Also, I have body issues like neck, shoulder, ruptured disc don’t see how I could even do it anyway. Anybody have some of these issues?

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

You can always tell your teacher that you have certain physical limitations, and they can usually suggest modifications to problematic poses.

[Reply]

Amber K     at 4:24 pm

A great intro to yoga! Although, I bought my yoga mat for probably $8 and it works great.

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Lindsay     at 4:52 pm

Great post! Wish I had read this before my first class! Any tips on making yoga more affordable?
Sometimes the packages of classes are too many in too short of a time – and they are still kind of expensive. I have seen that Lululemon does free classes in their stores – has anyone done those?

[Reply]

Grace @ Front Porch Yoga Reply:

My suggestion would be to find a studio that you feel comfortable in and after a few classes where the teacher starts to know your name, ask if you could do a trade, where you would do check-ins or clean the floor after class in exchange for yoga. I’ve done this more times than I can count to save money on yoga classes! Usually, there’s a mutual exchange of gratitude :)

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

I definitely agree – that’s my plan in DC, to hopefully get free or discounted classes.

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

A lot of studios also offer “good karma” or reduced rate classes. My studio has a few each week for only $5!

[Reply]

kelli     at 6:02 pm

love this lately I have been so into yoga, have been doing hot yoga alot, but went on a yoga/hiking retreat recently so into all different types, even found a better studio near me that does ALL types of hot yoga not just hot…so i am excited!

[Reply]

Not Enough Time « The Runner's Plate     at 12:41 am

[…] because you don’t know what to wear or what to take with you? Check this post out by Emily: A Beginners Guide to Yoga – The Front […]

Michal     at 3:02 pm

This was great. I love yoga, but I’ve struggled with finding the right gear (especially to avoid the slip-n-slide). Thanks! :-)

[Reply]

Grace @ Front Porch Yoga     at 3:21 pm

Thanks for sharing your yoga enthusiasm!

There’s a new book out called “27 Things to Know About Yoga”. I haven’t read it yet, but I think it’d probably be a GREAT place to start for beginners and those afraid of trying it. Read more here: http://victoriaklein.net/writing/27-things-to-know-about-yoga/

And here’s a link to a post that I wrote about 2 beginner yoga myths: http://www.frontporchyoga.com/2009/02/09/gumby/

One last thing regarding the question about making yoga more affordable. I would find a studio that you feel comfortable in and after a few classes where the teacher starts to know your name, ask if you could do a trade, where you would do check-ins or clean the floor after class in exchange for yoga. I’ve done this more times than I can count to save money on yoga classes!

[Reply]

Leah     at 10:16 am

I finally went to my first yoga class after reading this post. And wrote about it on my blog. It was really fabulous. I wasn’t able to do all the posses perfectly, but I did my best. She suggested modification when she saw that I was struggling too much. Thank you so much for this great post!

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

that is AWESOME! So glad I convinced you to give it a try. The teachers are really there to help you, never to make fun or make you feel stupid. I’m so happy you had a good experience!

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cole     at 2:22 pm

WOW what an informative post, thank you Emily! I have been wanting to try yoga for a couple months now and this may be the encouragement I needed :)

[Reply]

featheredpipe     at 3:13 am

nice post.It will help the beginners of yoga classes..

[Reply]

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