Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

For Yoga Students: At Class

By Anytimeyoga @anytimeyoga

This is a continuation of the series on how to, as a yoga student, help make your studio experience as awesome as possible. Previous installments include pieces on selecting a studio and preparing for a first class.

I was going to title this “At Your First Class,” but not all of the things I want to say are only applicable to the first class. I mean, some are. Some are also good practice generally, and some are most applicable to the first few classes in any given studio… but their pertinence sort of fades over time.

Also, as in the last post, some studios will have explicit policies on a few to many of these items. If yours has one that differs from what I offer here, following the stated policy of the studio is probably your best bet.


  1. Meal plan. — A lot of studios will recommend to avoid eating — or at least, to avoid eating a large or heavy meal — for 1-3 hours before class. Eventually, this is something you’ll tweak to your own body’s needs. Generally speaking, though, the more physically vigorous the class is, the more you’ll want to trend toward the 2 to 3 hour end of the spectrum.
  2. Arrive early. — Many studios will request that new students arrive 10-15 minutes early for their first class, usually to fill out some paperwork (a history and liability form) and chat with the instructor. If you anticipate having a number of questions or concerns to discuss, it might be good to err on the side of a few additional minutes.

    Also, this is a good time to check out what “on time” generally means for this class. For some studios, it’s right up until the very minute class begins. In others, arriving without 5 or more minutes to spare is gently (or not so gently) discouraged.

  3. Talk to the instructor. — Theoretically, they should ask you about any previous yoga experience or any current or chronic physical issues. Even if they don’t ask, it may be helpful to bring up any of these you feel might be pertinent to your practice. For instance, if you’re concerned a class might be borderline too intense for you, bringing this up can remind the instructor to be extra conscious of modifications. Similarly, if you have concerns about receiving hands-on adjustments — in general or for a particular area of your body — this is a good time to voice them.
  4. Set up. — Depending on what’s happening in the studio, you may want to ask the teacher if there’s a particular place you should set up, or you may want to check out the layout of the studio and select a place of your own. Either way, it’s good to set up on the assumption that the room will get fairly full. Not that you should cram yourself into a corner or anything, but also look to understand if the already placed mats appear to have a pattern.

    Additionally, now is the time to grab your props. It’s good to ask the instructor what props they recommend for this class as they might have a particular plan in mind. If there are props that go unsuggested but that you routinely use — for instance, I know I’m almost always going to want a bolster for savasana, even though almost no teacher tells me ahead of time — go ahead and grab those too. Again, try to set them up in such a way that they’re: a) handy and nearby; b) giving you and your mat the space you need; c) not encroaching on other people’s space. It’s kind of a tricky balance — but the main thing is being willing to shift if it’s clear they’re going to be in the way.

  5. Consider using the restroom before class. — I know that public restroom use comes with different baggage for different people. I also know that every time I’ve been in a yoga class and found myself needing to go during class, it was both more sudden and more distracting (to me — I don’t know about other students in class) than it would have been for me to go beforehand. Obviously, not everyone will need this — and leaving the studio floor to pee or poop is not actually the end of the world, I promise — but if it’s reasonable to try going beforehand, it is not a bad idea.
  6. If you have time before class starts, consider warming up or finding a comfortable grounding pose. — Which is best will depend both on the class and how your body is feeling. If it’s a class you expect to be fairly vigorous for you and/or your body is particularly uncooperative this day, gently putting your body through its range of motion can help it feel happier. If the class is slower paced or you want some relaxation — or you’re just not sure what you’d do for a warm up — taking a still, restorative pose can work too. Suggestions include and easy cross-legged seat, reclined bound angle, constructive rest, or even savasana. (PS — Having your savasana at the beginning of class is totally like going to dinner and eating dessert first.)
  7. When class starts, give yourself permission to do less. — Since you’re still getting used to doing yoga in this particular environment, this can throw off what you feel comfortable doing. I mean, if it feels good to push yourself, go for it. But understand that it may feel odd to go to your edge with postures, certain breathing techniques, or even certain meditations in this new space. That may well change over time, but at the beginning, giving yourself permission to do less may help keep the experience safe and enjoyable for you.
  8. Talk to the instructor after class. — This can be a bit difficult in larger classes, but in your first class, it’s generally worth it to try to get there. This way, you can ask any questions you have about things that did or didn’t happen in this class. Alternately, even if you don’t have questions or concerns, it can be nice just to touch base and say thanks. (PS — Thanking your instructor is one of those tips that extends to every class, first or not.)

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