Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Yoga class: how to make a newbie look like an expert!

I made it to yoga today!  Yay!  I could feel how sore my muscles were and this was the perfect break in my regular workout routine of running and weightlifting.  I was so tight, and could tell from the get-go that I wasn't going to be able to get into poses as easily as I usually do, but I feel about a million times better today than I did yesterday.
 I totally understand that yoga is not for everyone.  I don't think there is any workout that is great for everyone.  Truthfully, your best workout is the one you enjoy doing.  If you don't enjoy it, you won't be motivated to work out and then you're getting nowhere!  That doesn't mean everyone can't benefit from yoga - they can, and it's a great workout for people with injuries or to counterbalance some of the more punishing workouts (like running or lifting - as I mentioned above).  I believe in trying everything twice - and seeing if it works for you - so if you're thinking of trying yoga - I have some tips!

If you are a yoga 'virgin':
If you're headed to your first yoga class there are a few things to consider.  First of all - there are many, many different types of yoga.  And many different ways and places to practice.  You can do yoga at a studio, at your gym, on the beach, on your living room floor, in a hotel room - yoga and running are two of the least expensive and most portable sports you can find!    I strongly recommend trying yoga out with a class.  Licensed yoga instructors have to go through pretty thorough training and their job is to help you to get into poses in a safe way.  You really want to make sure that you are doing the poses correctly so that you are getting the most out of your session and avoiding injury.  So get yourself to a classroom! 
Most gyms and studios offer Introductory classes, but if you can't make it to an intro class, that doesn't mean you can't go.  My gym doesn't offer intro classes.  They have more or less strenuous classes, but every class offers variations in the difficulty of the poses. 

What to wear:
Obviously yoga pants are everywhere.  They are super comfortable and actually more frequently seen on stay-at-home moms than at the gym, but if you happen to have a pair of yoga pants, by all means, throw them on!  If not, then I would go ahead and wear a pair of longer workout pants or light sweatpants.  Why am I recommending pants?  Because downward facing dog is a pretty instrumental pose in most yoga classes, and it's not necessarily a pose you want to be doing in booty shorts with someone standing behind you!
On top you want something that allows the full range of motion for your arms - a sleeveless top is a great option or a loose fitting tee.  Now, for reasons similar to the pants factor, I recommend a long, fitted tank top on top.  There are poses that will allow unfitted tops to slide forward and bring your t-shirt up over your head.  Obviously that wouldn't fit into yoga best practices, so keep it simple!  Today I work knee-length running pants and a long tank top to class.  It was perfect :)

How to keep your gas in check!
Ah...the big question!  How to not be "that guy/girl" who stinks up the class!  Well, every yoga class is different - as mentioned before, so I feel like I should mention that some yoga will be stinkier than others!  No matter how you try to avoid it, there will be a farter in a prenatal yoga class.  It's a fact of life.  Pregnant women fart.  A lot.  The good thing about farting in prenatal yoga is that next week it'll probably the the woman next to you who is the farter - so there's no reason to stress. 
Now for the rest of us?  I do have some tips:
#1.  Watch what you eat!  Please don't stop at Chipotle or Taco Bell 1-2 meals before your yoga class.  Same for munching on broccoli or cabbage salads!  And if you do eat those things before class, don't be surprised if the farter is you. 
#2.  It's not just what you eat...It's also how much you eat.  Before yoga, a light snack is in order.  This morning I had coffee, and a banana with some peanut butter.  After class, Goose and I got smoothies.  Be gentle with your stomach, and it will do you the favor of not embarrassing you.
#3.  This should be obvious, but use the restroom before class.  If you can poop before class, do so.  We would all rather you be disruptive and show up 5 minutes late than you get there on time and stink up the place. 
#4.  If you think you might stink, go to the back of the class.  I speak from experience, it is no fun to be behind a stinky yogi.  And if you think those silent but deadly farts are going unnoticed, I assure you, you are mistaken.

Get to Class!!
One you pick out a class time that works for you, try to get to class a few minutes early.  Introduce yourself to the instructor, let your instructor know that you're a newbie so that you may need some extra guidance, and then find a spot, ideally one where you can view yourself in a mirror.  Different classes offer different props.  Mine offers blankets and blocks.  Grab yourself one of each if they're available.  Both can help you make poses more comfortable and to get into certain poses that require extra assistance. 
Really try to concentrate on the poses, watch yourself in the mirror to check your alignment and your poses.  And relax!  Yoga is fun!

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