Yoga for Beginners

When you’re new to yoga, you may look around at the other people in the class and assume they know what they’re doing.  You may think they are experienced yogis who can do handstands with ease, are social media friends with the instructor, and wear top-of-the-line yoga clothes.  But the truth is that everyone had to start somewhere, and yoga is so much more about practice than perfection.

Because of this reason, many people might hesitate to walk into their first class.  They may be wondering, what should I wear?  What should I bring?  What kind of class should I try?  In this post, we’ll go over the basics so you feel comfortable walking in.  We’ll answer questions like whether or not you need to bring your own mat, wear shorts or leggings, and what to expect during savasana. 

At Inspiring Actions Yoga Studio, we have classes from beginner level all the way to teacher training, and everything in between!  Our studios in Hudson and River Falls, Wisconsin, as well as online, are for everyone! When you come to our studios, you will feel welcome, motivated, and inspired regardless of your experience level. 

What to Wear

In a yoga class, you’ll do a lot of twisting and spend a good amount of time semi-upside down, like in downward dog. Comfortable, tight-fitting clothes are a must. Leggings, bike shorts, or yoga pants with elastic ankles are all ideal options.  If you go with shorts, make sure they’re long enough to cover yourself for poses like happy baby where your legs are in the air.   

For a top, I typically go with a sports bra at home and a tight-fitting tank top at the studio. The key is to be comfortable, but not have clothing that could fly around.  A loose-fitting t-shirt would fly up constantly and you’d spend most of your time adjusting it instead of focusing on your poses and breath.

There are a ton of name brand yoga clothes out there and although the quality may be great, a pair of leggings from your closet and any tight-fitting tank top work just fine.  If you start practicing consistently, you may find yourself wanting to upgrade. 

Just know that when you walk into your first yoga class, it becomes much less about what everyone is wearing and much more about everyone’s energy working together to form positive changes in each individual’s life.  A good yoga studio will be welcoming, and inclusive of all levels. 

Some yoga studios will have the supplies you need on hand.  This includes mats, blocks, straps, and blankets.  Some require you to bring your own, so if you’re unsure, it never hurts to contact the studio you’re going to beforehand, to confirm if you need to bring any of these.

What to Bring

Some yoga studios will have the supplies you need on hand.  This includes mats, blocks, straps, and blankets.  Some require you to bring your own, so if you’re unsure, it never hurts to contact the studio you’re going to beforehand, to confirm if you need to bring any of these.

If you already have a mat, feel free to bring your own! Sometimes the comfort of our own things can help ease any anxiety we might have about attending a new class.  I have a favorite mat. It’s jute, and it’s the perfect thickness and texture for me. Take some time to find what works for you! 

A water bottle is basically a must.  During yoga, you are squeezing and stretching toxins out of your muscles, so water will help flush this out of your system so you feel refreshed.  I usually have one next to me during practice and try to consciously take sips throughout the class. 

Other than the essentials, bring an intention with you.  Read our post here for more on setting a dedication or intention for class.  This is basically something that you want to manifest through your practice that day.  It could be a state of mind you want to develop, like forgiveness, or something you want to let go of, like resentment.  It can be specific or vague; just try to think of something you can bring your awareness back to, and an overall spiritual goal of your practice. 

What to Expect

If you’re new to yoga and are picking a class, pay special attention to the level in the class’s description.  If it says intermediate or advanced, it typically means some yoga experience is helpful.  A class that is described as beginner level, or for all levels, is a great place to start. 

All classes are different, but a yoga class typically starts with some kind of grounding exercise.  Many classes start with asking participants to focus on their breath and meditate about their intention or dedication.  The body of the class will take the shape of whatever type of class you’re taking (vinyasa, yin, slow-flow, etc.), and most end with savasana.  Below are some very common yoga poses; read on to find out why savasana (corpse pose) is everyone’s favorite!

Tabletop Pose (bharmanasana)

Many poses in yoga use table top as a base, so it’s a great one to learn and… already know how to do it!  Essentially, tabletop is simply being on your hands and knees.  Since we want to do poses with intention, however, pay special attention to the alignment of your arms and legs. 

To do tabletop pose: Come to your hands and knees on your mat.  Hands should be about shoulder-width apart, aligned with your shoulders.  Knees should be about hip-width apart, aligned with your hips.  Keep your chin up, but not too far up that it is straining the neck muscles. 

Cat/Cow (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana)

There are a number of mental, physical and spiritual benefits of this simple yet powerful pose.  Cat/cow stretches the neck, shoulders, and spine and relieves tension of the neck and upper back.  It also increases blood circulations between the vertebrate of your spine and can help with back pain and digestion. 

To do cat/cow: Come to tabletop pose.  Align your shoulders with your wrists, hips with knees.  On an inhale, drop your belly and pull your heart forward to come to cow pose. 

From here and on an exhale, pull your belly in and arch your back for cat. 

Child’s Pose (balasana)

Child’s pose typically represents a moment of rest in a yoga class because it can be very relaxing and can help relieve anxiety.  This pose stretches the spine, hips, knees, and ankles and promotes circulation throughout the body. 

To do child’s pose: From tabletop, keep your hands in position and push yourself back over your legs so your thighs rest on your calves.  Bring your forehead to rest on your mat and rest your arms alongside of your torso with palms facing up.  For a different feeling, stretch your hands out in front of you, head still on the mat.  Focus on your breath and imagine your spine lengthening and strengthening as you breathe in and out.  Bring your awareness back to your breath and your intention. 

Downward Dog (adho mukha shvanasana)

Downward dog is often used as a transitionary or resting pose. It is basically a full body stretch, with focus on calves, hamstrings, and shoulders.  It can also relieve stress and tension in the neck and back, while improving circulation throughout the body.

To do downward dog: From table top, tuck your toes and push your hips up and back, straightening your legs and arms.  This pose basically looks like you were about to fall over but caught yourself with your hands.  It’s a common misconception that the goal of downward dog is to get your feet flat on the ground; the real focus is on straightening your spine.  

Corpse Pose (savasana)

Savasana signals the end of class, a time of restoration and integration.  During this pose, it’s not uncommon to feel the energy from your practice radiating around you, and to have an overall sense of peace and clarity. 

To do savasana: No pic necessary for this one. Lay down; that’s pretty much it!  This is why savasana is everyone’s favorite!  Lay on your back on your mat with feet splayed out comfortably, arms at your side with palms up.  The focus here is to appreciate the good we’ve just done for our bodies and minds. 

Final Words

Yoga has countless physical and mental/emotional benefits.  A regular yoga practice will no doubt change your life and could also lead you toward other interests that expand your spiritual horizons.  But if you’re new to yoga, it can be intimidating to start at all, let alone in a studio where there are witnesses. 

No matter your hesitations or perceived limitations, you are welcome here at Inspiring Actions Yoga Studio.  Join us for one of our many beginner options at our Hudson, River Falls, or online studio.  We want you to experience the life-changing benefits yoga can offer.  And regardless of experience level, we’re all learning and growing together when we dive into the healing pool of yoga.  Push past your fears and join us for a class!


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