If you’re new to yoga, you might not know what to expect when you walk in the doors of a beginner’s yoga class for the first time. You might not even know how to start in choosing a beginner’s yoga class to attend. Here’s a “how to” checklist.
1. Nail down your goals and find the right style for you.
Everyone comes to yoga for different reasons. Sometimes these differences are slight, other times they’re vast.
For instance, are you interested in an intense physical workout to throbbing music, or are you on more of a spiritual path towards (quiet) enlightenment? Are you attracted to yoga because of its health benefits, and if so, is it physical or emotional health you are most interested in?
Are you interested in the philosophy and rich traditions of yoga, or are you on the other extreme and wouldn’t be caught dead reciting a mantra?
Whatever your personal needs and proclivities, there’s a yoga for you. If several flavors of yoga are offered in your area, do your research online or in the library to find which style would be the best fit for you.
Once you know what it is you’re looking for, you can set some goals. Call the teacher of the beginner yoga class you’re considering and ask if your expectations are reasonable.
2. Choose a drop-in or series beginner yoga class
A drop-in yoga class allows you to pay-as-you go. There will likely be some turnover week to week as to which students show up for class. The teacher is likely to keep this class on the mild side, because students will be at such differing ability levels.
This may be just what you’re looking for if you just want a taste of yoga but don’t want to buy an expensive package of classes. This may also be a good choice for you if your schedule won’t allow you to attend a class every week. Keep in mind there are significant drawbacks.
One, because the class is ongoing, you will never get to start at “the beginning.” You may be a little lost at first while you learn the culture of the class. Also, drop-in beginner yoga classes tend to be repetitive.
A series yoga class is different in that you buy a set number of classes and each class builds on what you learned in the previous week. A good series class is repetitive only in that there is some review each time, but then the teacher introduces new material.
You can learn much more much faster in a series class, but again there are drawbacks. First, if you miss a class it may be difficult to make up the material that you missed. Also, you will be asked to pay for the whole series up front.
Take a look at your level of commitment, your schedule and your budget and decide whether a drop-in or a series class is better for your needs.
3. Make sure the teacher has adequate training.
Yoga is now a significant contributor to sports injuries. This can be attributed to two things: students pushing themselves too hard for perfection and inadequate training of instructors.
Don’t be shy in asking your potential instructor about their background. There are certifications for teaching “gym yoga” that an instructor can get in a long weekend. A three day training is just enough to make someone dangerous. That’s not to say that some of the people who start with such certifications don’t turn out to be excellent instructors by dedicating themselves to practice and increasing their knowledge over the course of months and years.
There are of course people who teach yoga with no formal certification whatsoever, and though it might be difficult for these teachers to get liability insurance, there’s nothing illegal about it. Keep in mind that yoga is a spiritual tradition thousands of years old, and the idea of giving someone a certificate for learning a few poses and breathing techniques would have been an odd idea indeed even seventy years ago. It is one thing to wake up one morning and decide to teach yoga with little to no experience. It is quite another to teach after living for years under the tutelage of a master yogi who just doesn’t believe in certificates.
As a general rule, seek out yoga teachers with at the very least 200 hours of training. In the United States there’s an organization called the Yoga Alliance that offers a registry of teachers who attended training programs that meet certain standards. Someone can have the Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) designation from the Yoga Alliance and still be a crummy teacher, but usually RYTs are a safe bet.
4. Look into additional costs of the yoga class.
Sometimes there are additional costs involved in taking a beginner’s yoga class besides the registration fee. You may need to buy your own yoga mat, strap, or other props, for instance. In some classes you may need to buy certain books for study or even special clothing of a certain color.