What to wear: Wear comfortable, stretchy clothes that are not too loose. Choose appropriately based on how your clothing may respond to things like sweat, twisting, lying down, or bending forward.
Bring: A yoga mat, towel, and water. We will have mats for use at the studio if needed and other necessary yoga props for your convenience.
Eating/Drinking: It is best to let meals or snacks digest before coming to class. After a meal, give yourself at least 1 hour before practicing yoga. Having a light snack is okay. You may drink water during class as needed, but you may feel more comfortable if you hydrate prior to class.
Avoid: Wearing strong scents such as perfumes, deodorants, essential oils, or cologne. Please ensure that your mat, clothes, and body are odor-free to help maintain the purity of the practice space.
Get there early: If it is your first time, please arrive 15 minutes early to fill out any necessary forms, get changed if needed, and settle in.
Footwear: We practice with bare feet, so please take off your shoes and socks before you walk into the practice space and place them in the designated changing or shoe-storage area.
Electronic devices: Please turn your cell phone off, or, better yet, do not take it into the classroom with you. If you do need to keep your cell phone with you and turned on during class (i.e. if you are a physician on call or a pilot on standby), then please set it to vibrate. If you’ve brought your cell phone in with you and it accidentally rings aloud during class, please turn it off as soon as you safely can.
Communicate: If you have any injuries, limitations, or concerns, please notify your instructor before class begins so they can help you stay safe.
Enter the room: When you enter the room, please respect the sacredness of the space by entering quietly. Try to keep noise to a minimum when setting up your mat and collecting your props (i.e. block, blanket, strap), and be sensitive to whether conversations with others may disturb those around you. Also, please make sure that you have (quietly) closed the door behind you in order to maintain the temperature of the practice space and to reduce any noise from outside.
Positioning your mat: Orient your mat so you will be facing the teacher. If you are new to yoga and are trying out a class that may have some more experienced students in it, then you might consider placing your mat in a row behind the front so you can follow along more easily. Place your props and your water bottle nearby your mat to keep them handy, but make sure they are not in your way.
Making space for others: If a fellow student arrives and there is not an immediate space available for their mat, please extend the yoga love by adjusting your mat in order to create space for them.
Other people’s mats: For many people, their mat is a safe, sacred space. Please respect this by not stepping on others’ mats, if at all possible.
Take Child’s pose at any time: If at any point you feel that you need a rest, then please take Child’s pose. You can return to Child’s pose at any time—even if the teacher does not specifically cue it—and then rejoin the class when you are ready.
If you feel that you need to leave the room: It is not uncommon to experience dizziness, fatigue, or discomfort during your first yoga classes, especially if you are practicing in a warm room. If you must leave the room, then please choose a point in the class that is resting (i.e. Child’s pose or Down Dog) to excuse yourself, and leave and return quietly.
Communicate: Let your teacher know if you are confused, are having trouble with something, or are experiencing any pain. Your teacher is here to serve you but cannot help if s/he does not know there’s an issue. A quick mention to the teacher or asking for help can be the difference between having a horrible time and being comfortable enough to focus on your practice and other students may benefit from your question!
Follow your teacher’s cues: Unless you are taking Child’s Pose in order to rest or center yourself before rejoining the class, then please follow your teacher’s cues rather than following your own sequence. If there is a pose that you feel you cannot or should not do, then please let your teacher know and s/he can provide a modification or an alternative.
If you are late: Being on time is of course optimal, however if you arrive more than fifteen minutes after class has started, then it’s best to come back for another class; the first fifteen minutes provide centering and warming up, and joining in a class without having had this can risk injury and can also be distracting for fellow students. If you’ve arrived within the first fifteen minutes of class, then, if it’s OK with the teacher, please enter the studio and gather your props quietly, and choose a space for your mat that is close to the entrance so as not to distract other students. If possible, join the sequence as your teacher cues it. If there are some warm-up postures you need before you can join in the sequence, then quietly take these and join the sequence as soon as you can.
Savasana: Savasana or Corpse pose, is the last pose we do in class, and consists of lying down on our mats with our bodies relaxed and our eyes closed so that we may absorb the benefits of our yoga practice. This is a very important part of yoga class, so please give yourself a full Savasana! Your teacher will let you know when it’s time to come out of the pose.
Leaving class early: Please plan to stay for the entire class. If this is not possible, then please let your teacher know before class starts and take a short Savasana before you depart. When you leave, be mindful of your fellow students by being quiet as you collect your items, return your props, and depart the room.
Clean your immediate area: If you borrowed a mat from the studio, wipe it down if needed and return it. If there is moisture on the floor around your mat—either from your perspiration or your water bottle—wipe it up with your towel. If you used props, put them back.
Communicate: Speak with your teacher after class if you have any questions or concerns about your yoga practice. Make sure you take your own belongings: Double-check that those are your shoes! This goes for anything else you leave out during class, like sweatshirts, jackets, or water bottles.
Hold any loud conversations away from the studio: Please remember to keep your voices low when you are nearby the practice space, even if you are outside of it. It’s great to feel invigorated after class, but your voice can travel far in the tranquil environment of the studio, so please be mindful of others.
1. What Is Yoga?
The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as "union" or a method of discipline. A male who practices yoga is called a yogi, a female practitioner, a yogini.
The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra an estimated 2,000 years ago. The Sutra is a collection of 195 statements that serves as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today. It also outlines eight limbs of yoga: the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (mediation), and samandhi (absorption).
As we explore these eight limbs, we begin by refining our behavior in the outer world, and then we focus inwardly until we reach samadhi (liberation, enlightenment). Today most people practicing yoga are engaged in the third limb, asana, which is a program of physical postures designed to purify the body and provide the physical strength and stamina required for long periods of meditation.
2. What Does Hatha Mean?
The word hatha means willful or forceful. Hatha yoga refers to a set of physical exercises (known as asanas or postures), and sequences of asanas, designed to align your skin, muscles, and bones. The postures are also designed to open the many channels of the body—especially the main channel, the spine—so that energy can flow freely. Hatha is also translated as “ha” meaning "sun" and “tha” meaning "moon." This refers to the balance of masculine aspects—active, hot, sun—and feminine aspects—receptive, cool, moon—within all of us. Hatha yoga is a path toward creating balance and uniting opposites. In our physical bodies, we develop a balance of strength and flexibility. We also learn to balance our effort and surrender in each pose. Hatha yoga is a powerful tool for self-transformation. It asks us to bring our attention to our breath, which helps us to still the fluctuations of the mind and be more present in the unfolding of each moment.
3. What Does Om Mean?
Om is a mantra, or vibration, that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of yoga sessions. It is said to be the sound of the universe. What does that mean? Somehow the ancient yogis knew what scientists today are telling us—that the entire universe is moving. Nothing is ever solid or still. Everything that exists pulsates, creating a rhythmic vibration that the ancient yogis acknowledged with the sound of Om. We may not always be aware of this sound in our daily lives, but we can hear it in the rustling of the autumn leaves, the waves on the shore, the inside of a seashell. Chanting Om allows us to recognize our experience as a reflection of how the whole universe moves—the setting sun, the rising moon, the ebb and flow of the tides, the beating of our hearts. As we chant Om, it takes us for a ride on this universal movement, through our breath, our awareness, and our physical energy, and we begin to sense a bigger connection that is both uplifting and soothing.
4. Do I Have to Be Vegetarian to Practice Yoga?
The first principle of yoga philosophy is ahimsa, which means non-harming to self and others. Some people interpret this to include not eating animal products. There is a debate about this in the yoga community—I believe that it is a personal decision that everyone has to make for themselves. If you are considering becoming a vegetarian, be sure to take into account your personal health issues as well how your choices will affect those with whom you live. Being a vegetarian should not be something that you impose on others—that kind of aggressive action in itself is not an expression of ahimsa.
5. How Many Times Per Week Should I Practice?
Yoga is amazing—even if you only practice for one hour a week, you will experience the benefits of the practice. If you can do more than that, you will certainly experience more benefits. I suggest starting with two or three times a week, for an hour or an hour and a half each time. If you can only do 20 minutes per session, that's fine too. Don't let time constraints or unrealistic goals be an obstacle—do what you can and don't worry about it. You will likely find that after awhile your desire to practice expands naturally and you will find yourself doing more and more.
6. How Is Yoga Different From Stretching or Other Kinds of Fitness?
Unlike stretching or fitness, yoga is more than just physical postures. Patanjali's eight-fold path illustrates how the physical practice is just one aspect of yoga. Even within the physical practice, yoga is unique because we connect the movement of the body and the fluctuations of the mind to the rhythm of our breath. Connecting the mind, body, and breath helps us to direct our attention inward. Through this process of inward attention, we learn to recognize our habitual thought patterns without labeling them, judging them, or trying to change them. We become more aware of our experiences from moment to moment. The awareness that we cultivate is what makes yoga a practice, rather than a task or a goal to be completed. Your body will most likely become much more flexible by doing yoga, and so will your mind.
7. Is Yoga a Religion?
Yoga is not a religion. It is a philosophy that began in India an estimated 5,000 years ago. The father of classical ashtanga yoga (the eight-limbed path, not to be confused with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga yoga) is said to be Patanjali, who wrote the Yoga Sutra. These scriptures provide a framework for spiritual growth and mastery over the physical and mental body. Yoga sometimes interweaves other philosophies such as Hinduism or Buddhism, but it is not necessary to study those paths in order to practice or study yoga. It is also not necessary to surrender your own religious beliefs to practice yoga.
8. I'm Not Flexible—Can I Do Yoga?
Yes! You are a perfect candidate for yoga. Many people think that they need to be flexible to begin yoga, but that's a little bit like thinking that you need to be able to play tennis in order to take tennis lessons. Come as you are and you will find that yoga practice will help you become more flexible. This newfound agility will be balanced by strength, coordination, and enhanced cardiovascular health, as well as a sense of physical confidence and overall well-being.
9. What Do I Need to Begin?
All you really need to begin practicing yoga is your body, your mind, and a bit of curiosity. But it is also helpful to have a pair of sweat pants, leggings, or shorts, and a t-shirt that's not too baggy. No special footgear is required because you will be barefoot. It's nice to bring a towel to class with you. As your practice develops you might want to buy your own yoga mat, but most studios will have mats and other props available for you.
10. Why Are You Supposed to Refrain From Eating Two to Three Hours Before Class?
In yoga practice, we twist from side to side, turn upside down, and bend forward and backward. If you have not fully digested your last meal, it will make itself known to you in ways that are not comfortable. If you are a person with a fast-acting digestive system and are afraid you might get hungry or feel weak during yoga class, experiment with a light snack such as yogurt, a few nuts, or juice about 30 minutes to an hour before class.