The word ‘yoga’ means ‘union’ – uniting every part of ourselves – so we can feel inner peace. Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Anniston, Meg Ryan and Cameron Diaz swear by yoga to help them focus, lose weight or stop smoking.
What’s your motivation for starting yoga classes?
First of all, ask yourself why you’re interested in starting a yoga class. Do you want to reduce stress? Get toned and super-fit? Banish your back or neck pain? Calm your thoughts? Get in touch with your inner wisdom? Be really honest with yourself, as these questions will help you find the right style for your type.
Chose the right school of yoga
There are dozens of styles of yoga around, and each has different benefits. Some (like Astanga vinyasa yoga) are very physically demanding, others are held in a heated room (Bikram Yoga), while others focus on gentler, therapeutic movements (Dru Yoga) or meditation and chanting (Kundalini). Some are generic hatha yoga classes, which will probably be reasonably gentle and accessible for most fitness levels.
Get to know the teacher
Before you commit to a term of yoga classes, arrange to meet the yoga teacher and discuss your needs. Ask questions too – check that they are qualified with a yoga school which is accredited with an international body such as Yoga Alliance. Check what their attitude to safety is, as many people get injured every year from over stretching or straining when they haven’t fully prepared. Does your teacher offer modifications and contra-indications to each posture? Do they do enough warm-ups and cool-downs? Is there an adequate period of relaxation (savasana) at the end of the class?
Find a location that works for you
If you’re going to get to your yoga class, rain or shine, then choose a location that’s realistic. I’ve seen so many students attending classes enthusiastically at the beginning of September, only to decide that it’s just too far when the cold, dark nights set in. Some people are happy to travel for an hour to find a teacher that they like, but for others, choosing a class in their village hall works better.
Get the right equipment
For most classes, you’ll need a yoga mat and comfortable clothes, as well as a bottle of water. Some dynamic classes require a towel (to mop up all that sweat!) while others encourage you to bring a blanket or shawl for the relaxation or meditation. For your first class, you probably don’t need to go out and buy all the equipment – talk to your yoga teacher and she’ll advise you what is necessary. Some teachers have spare mats to lend to new students – which can help until you’re committed.
Make time to practise at home
Even better than attending a yoga class once a week is having a regular home yoga practice. On the yoga retreats I teach in Wales, I always suggest finding a quiet place at home, and doing just ten minutes of yoga and meditation daily, in order to maintain that great ‘feel-good’ post yoga class glow! There are plenty of yoga DVDs and books around which can help with your home practice, or you can subscribe to an online yoga class, like the Dru Online Studio.
Whatever you choose, the old adage that an ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory, certainly applies to the process of beginning a yoga class! By doing regular yoga, you’ll feel fitter, calmer and more focused – and able to deal with every day stresses so much more easily. I wish you the best of luck on your yoga journey!