Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid.
If you've never been in a hot yoga class, it's easy to be intimidated by the thought of jumping in the "torture chamber" for 90 minutes. Maybe because you just don't know what to expect, and there is a lot of chit chat about it on the internet, and some of it is true, and of course some of it is absurd. So, allow me to debunk a few myths and tell you exactly what you can expect in your first hot yoga class.
First of all, try to let go of your expectations. Like starting any new practice in your life, you will not be an expert your first time. If you can accept this the better off you'll be. I like to use a swim cap as an analogy. If you go to your local pool to start taking swim lessons, you will probably be given a swim cap. I think we can agree, that nobody looks super cool in a swim cap. Everyone at the swim lesson has already accepted that they may look a little silly, but everyone is there looking silly together and taking the steps necessary to get better at swimming. Your first yoga class can feel the same way. Your only job for that class and maybe several more after that, is letting go of how silly you think you look, and doing what you need to do to keep going.
Yoga is brimming with benefits, and the posture series we practice here works every muscle head to toe. All of the postures are meant for beginning yoga students, and are centered around strengthening the spine. When your spine is strong and flexible, every other structure and system in your body can operate more efficiently. Because the postures are practiced in a heated room, your body will be warmer and ready to move, so any fears you have about level of flexibility will likely be squashed right away, because your tissues will be able to move better, your circulation will be improved, and your breath will feel more natural.
When you come to your first class there are some basic logistics to consider as well to make sure you get the most out of your class.
- Come hydrated. You will sweat a lot, and you are welcome to bring a bottle of water to class to sip on. However, if you are under hydrated and feel like you need to guzzle water throughout class then you run the risk of being uncomfortable trying to practice with a belly full of water.
- Eat something. Plan ahead, and have a small meal an hour or so before class starts. Having a little something to eat can help you power through class, but if there is anything in your stomach, it will remind you it's there.
- Dress light. You will be sweating and the clothes you are wearing will get wet. If you have on clothes with a lot of fabric and extra room in them, that fabric and room will quickly turn into a distraction. Imagine pants legs or shirt sleeves turning into sweat soaked flags/banners proudly proclaiming "I'm your shirt! and I'm in your way again."
- Breathe. Your goal for your first class should be to stay on your mat. If you need a break, take it. sit down. lie down. breathe. When you are first starting it's easy to think that this is failure, or because you took a break you are somehow not practicing yoga anymore. You absolutely are. When you can find a connection to your breath and be still when you are on the verge of a freak out, THAT is what practicing yoga is.
When you finish your first class you will probably feel super jazzed you survived. And you should! When you struggle through class and learn to stay clam and trust your body and your breath, it's a big accomplishment! You might feel so great that you want to jump up and hit the road right away. Instead, take a few minutes to lie down and relax. There is time for this built into class, and your body has a lot of things to reorganize inside. If you allow yourself time to lie down and be still after class you may find that you are bursting with energy when you get up. It is often said that yoga is the gas station, and as you practice your tank is filled up again and again.
Finally, in the days following your first class you will probably be sore. Yoga has amazing healing powers and this is a sign that those powers are at work. But you just moved your body in a new way, and it takes time to take the weak parts of your body and make them strong. Keep drinking water. Staying hydrated can help your tissues heal faster, and feel better. Keep coming to class too. Your soreness can be helped by getting back in the room feeling the heat, and trusting the postures to help you heal, get stronger, and more focused. You are much stronger than you tell yourself. You CAN do it.