10 things you can expect in a basic yoga class as a beginner

Stepping into a yoga class for the first time can be a bit intimidating.

You’re not sure what to expect, and the thought of twisting your body into pretzel-like poses seems daunting.

But here’s the truth: Yoga is about more than just flexibility.

It’s about connecting with your body and finding peace in the present moment.

As a beginner, there are certain things you can anticipate in a basic yoga class.

And I’m here to share those with you, to equip you with knowledge and ease any apprehensions.

Let’s dive right into “10 things you can expect in a basic yoga class as a beginner.”

1) Gentle start

Remember how you were worried about those pretzel-like poses?

Well, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Most basic yoga classes begin gently, especially those designed for beginners.

Your instructor will usually start the class with a warm-up, often involving breathing exercises or gentle stretches.

This helps to prepare your body for the more challenging poses later on, and get your mind in the right space.

This is the perfect time to familiarize yourself with your surroundings and start connecting with your body.

It’s also a great opportunity to ask any questions or voice any concerns you may have.

Yoga is all about creating a welcoming and supportive environment.

So don’t feel pressured to perform or keep up with others.

It’s your journey, at your pace.

2) Personal modifications

When I first started yoga, I remember being worried about not being able to keep up with the class.

I saw seasoned yogis bending and stretching in ways I thought my body could never do.

But then, my instructor introduced me to the concept of modifications.

Modifications are alternative ways to do a pose that accommodate individual flexibility, strength, and comfort.

This makes yoga accessible for everyone, irrespective of their fitness level or flexibility.

In my case, I remember struggling with ‘Downward Facing Dog’.

My hamstrings were just too tight.

My instructor noticed this and showed me how to bend my knees slightly to make the pose more comfortable and achievable.

So, you can rest easy knowing that yoga is not a one-size-fits-all practice.

Your instructor will provide modifications for poses that may be challenging as a beginner.

This means you can go at your own pace and work within your own limits.

3) The power of breathing

In yoga, there’s a special term for conscious control of breathing: ‘Pranayama’.

It’s actually one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, as outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

Pranayama is often incorporated into yoga classes because it helps to calm the mind, reduce stress, and improve focus – all essential components of a successful yoga practice.

In your first few classes, expect to spend time learning different breathing techniques.

It might seem strange at first to focus so much on something we do naturally and unconsciously every day.

But the beauty of this practice is that it brings you back into the present moment and helps you connect more deeply with your body.

4) Emphasis on alignment

One of the key aspects of yoga that sets it apart from other forms of exercise is its emphasis on alignment.

It’s not just about getting into a pose, but about doing it correctly to avoid injury and reap the full benefits.

During your first few classes, expect your instructor to spend a significant amount of time discussing and correcting alignment.

They might use terms like ‘tuck your tailbone’, ‘lengthen your spine’, or ‘roll your shoulders back’.

If at any point you’re unsure what an instruction means, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.

Yoga instructors are there to guide you and ensure you’re practicing safely.

5) Savasana is a must

Savasana, also known as corpse pose, is typically the final pose in any yoga class.

Despite its somewhat morbid name, this pose is absolutely heavenly.

It’s your time to relax and absorb the benefits of your practice.

In Savasana, you’ll lie flat on your back with your palms facing up and your eyes closed.

The aim is to completely relax your body and quiet your mind.

This might seem easy, but many people actually find it challenging to fully let go and be still.

Expect to spend a good five to ten minutes in this pose at the end of each class.

While it might be tempting to skip out early, try to resist.

Savasana is an essential part of the practice, helping to integrate the physical and mental benefits of yoga.

6) Embrace the community

Stepping into a yoga class means stepping into a community.

It’s a place where individuals come together to share a practice, breathe in unison, and support each other’s journeys.

In my first yoga class, I was touched by the warmth and acceptance that radiated from everyone in the room.

It was like walking into a space filled with positive energy.

Don’t be surprised if you start forming connections with your fellow yogis.

These could be simple nods of recognition, encouraging smiles during a tough pose, or deep conversations after class.

7) Progress not perfection

During my initial days of practicing yoga, I found myself constantly comparing my flexibility and poses to others in the class.

I felt discouraged when I couldn’t reach my toes in a forward bend or balance in a Tree Pose.

But then, a wise instructor reminded me of an important yoga philosophy: it’s about progress, not perfection.

Yoga is a practice.

It’s not about touching your toes or executing a perfect pose.

It’s about the journey of getting there and being present in each moment.

It’s about celebrating the small victories – maybe today you can reach a little farther, hold a pose a little longer or find a moment of stillness in your busy day.


8) Discomfort can be a good thing

When you hear the word discomfort, it’s natural to think it’s a bad thing. But in yoga, this isn’t necessarily the case.

During your practice, you might come across poses that push you out of your comfort zone.

These poses may feel awkward or even slightly uncomfortable. But don’t shy away yet.

This discomfort is not about pain or harm.

It’s about challenging your body’s limits and unlocking new areas of growth.

It’s about exploring your edge and expanding your comfort zone bit by bit.

9) Mindfulness is key

Yoga extends beyond the physical practice of asanas (poses).

It’s also a mental practice.

One of the core elements of yoga is mindfulness, or being fully present in the moment.

During your classes, instructors will often guide you to focus on your breath, sensations in your body, or a specific intention.

This is all part of cultivating mindfulness.

Practicing mindfulness can help reduce stress, increase focus, and foster a deeper connection with yourself.

It’s not always easy – our minds are used to jumping from one thought to another.

But with practice, you’ll start to notice a shift.

10) Yoga is a journey, not a destination

The most important thing to remember as you step into your first yoga class is that yoga is a journey, not a destination.

It’s not about achieving the perfect pose or becoming the most flexible person in the room.

Yoga is about self-exploration and self-improvement.

It’s about learning to connect with your body, quiet your mind, and cultivate a sense of inner peace.

Everyone’s yoga journey is unique.

Some days you might feel strong and flexible, other days you might feel stiff and tired. That’s okay.

What matters is that you show up for yourself, on your mat, as you are, each and every time.

Because every time you do, you’re taking another step on your yoga journey.

And that’s something to be celebrated.

Yoga is about connection

As we journey through the world of yoga, it’s important to acknowledge that yoga is more than just a physical practice.

It’s about connection.

Connection with your body as you learn to move and stretch in new ways.

Connection with your breath as you learn to control it and use it to guide your practice.

Connection with your mind as you cultivate mindfulness and presence.

And perhaps most importantly, connection with yourself.

Yoga offers a unique space for self-exploration and self-discovery.

It allows you to meet yourself where you are, without judgment or expectation, and simply be.

Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Yoga Group to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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