Updated: Feb 15
I have met lots of people lately who are keen to start yoga. As there is so much conflicting representation in the media about what might happen in a yoga class – from occult ceremonies to eye-watering contortions by people in bikinis, I thought I would put together a down to earth FAQ for those who would like to know what to expect.
Cool instagram vanity yoga shot
Will I have to stand teetering above crashing waves on a high precipice?
Contrary to what Facebook and Instagram would suggest, yoga takes place in more humdrum locations like community centres, village or school halls and churches. There are also designated yoga studios which tend to be well equipped but a little pricier.
Do I have to wear special clothes?
Absolutely not! The wonderful thing about being a yoga teacher is that I can pretty much go round in pyjamas all day. The important thing is that you feel good in what you are wearing and that you can move and stretch easily. If that means LuLuLemon or Sweaty Betty then fine, but a pair of leggings or tracksuit bottoms and a tshirt ot tank top is grand. Bring an extra layer for the relaxation at the end when the body starts to cool down.
Will I be able to keep up with what the others are doing?
It is important to find the right class. If you’re a total beginner, even if you are fairly fit, start with a beginner’s class so that you can familiarise yourself with the poses and the instructions and alignment principles.
I remember my first yoga class – I was totally disorientated by the waves of instructions washing over me, trying to roll my shoulders back whilst bringing bits of my body to the ground and inhaling and exhaling at appointed times. That was a beginners’ class but my body awareness was pretty low even though I was a bit of a gym bunny.
There are classes where you will make very gentle movements and do lots of relaxation, classes where you’ll focus mainly on alignment and classes where you will jump around like a caffeinated frog, do headstands, handstands and splits. You should be able to get an idea from the class description what’s in store. Read between the lines – “dynamic” means more on the hyped-up frog side, “restorative” indicates a lot of lying down and bolster hugging, “gentle” means gentle.
NB “vinyasa” in the class title indicates a vigorous fast-paced class with jumping involved.
Enrol in a beginners’ course such as New to Yoga to get a really good foundation in the practice. That way you can build on your knowledge and it won’t take long until all the pieces of movement, mindfulness, breath and alignment fall into place and it all becomes a very interesting and pleasant conversation within the body and mind.
How much will it cost?
The cost of yoga varies depending on where you are in the country and what type of location you choose. A studio class can be anything from £10 in Bristol – £16 in London for an hour’s class. In a community space in Weston Super Mare it’s more likely to be in the region of £5 – 8 per hour.
Most teachers offer concessions – I offer pay what you can if you don’t think you can afford the cost. I also offer a service exchange if people can’t afford to pay at all. Eg you help me with my garden and you come to class for no charge.
All studios and most independent teachers also offer a class pass or block booking option. It’s worth asking the teacher for your options as yoga is not traditionally paid for and many teachers will take you on in some form even if you can’t pay. We have to charge generally as we have to eat and pay the mortgage.
Do I have to buy a yoga mat?
It depends. Check with the teacher if it’s a community class as sometimes the teacher will bring a few mats and sometimes she/ he will come fully equipped with a studio’s worth of mats, blocks, belts and blankets. I am the latter and drive around with a mobile yoga studio in my car. If you decide to keep going with yoga then invest in a good sticky mat, they’re not expensive and they’re more hygienic than using a borrowed mat.
Studios are always equipped with plenty of basic equipment and some will have very specialised things like yoga chairs and headstand stools.
Will I have to do anything weird?
Good question! Generally no – a lot of teachers stay away from what our culture perceives as weird although traditionally yogis do a lot of stuff which is considered unusual in the West. Again, check with your teacher. The weirdest thing I have done in a UK yoga class is rapid breathing with movements, roaring like a lion (Simhasana) and chanting which I don’t consider weird. I tend to close my classes with the traditional chant of Om shanti shanti shanti which is “OM” the primordial sound followed by “shanti” which means peace. Sometimes people join in and sometimes they don’t it’s fine either way. Oh, and there is sometimes humming bee breath or brahmaree pranayama where you are invited to make a humming sound as a gateway to meditation but again it’s fine if you don’t join in.
Don’t ever do anything you are not comfortable with – the teacher really won’t mind if you opt out. If you are feeling apprehensive then check with the teacher before you turn up to the class.
What exactly is yoga?
Huh. Yoga has more definitions than any other practice I am aware of. Let’s deal with Hatha yoga which is the physical practice of yoga. Today, yoga is practiced as a body-based meditation. It is, in essence, an awareness practice, meaning that we make movements in order to improve body-mind awareness and train our attention to be focused and non-judgmental.
The postures themselves are known to be extremely beneficial to health and wellbeing, so a happy side-effect of yoga is a toned, flexible body free from disease, and good energy levels. Yoga postures and breathing practices can also be used to heal from injury or to become free from anxiety, stress, insomnia.
It is nowadays generally accepted that yoga is an altogether GOOD THING. It brings you peace of mind, restores balance to the nervous system, detoxifies the cells of the body, improves your relationships and your sex life, and helps you to see life from a clearer perspective.
The foundational stone of yoga philosophy is kindness. In my opinion, it will save the world.
What isn’t yoga?
Yoga is not exercise. It’s not a way to numb out. It’s not competitive. Most importantly yoga is not another reason for you to beat yourself up. You can only be bad at yoga if you are using it as exercise and to numb out. The fantastic thing about yoga postures is that stiff people and bendy people make exactly the same movements in the postures and benefit exactly the same amount.
How long will a class be?
Classes are getting shorter and shorter, like our attention spans. Currently most classes are between an hour and ninety minutes.
There are so many different styles – how do I choose the right one?
Try out lots of different classes. As a rough guide, if you are a total beginner try Hatha first. You’ll get a good foundational knowledge of the poses and learn about movement and breath. You can read a bit more about a Hatha class on my website.
Hatha flow links the postures together at a faster pace and is quite dynamic but is not as fast and bouncy as vinyasa flow.
If you are looking for an energetic flow try Ashtanga which is a set sequence, or a Vinyasa Flow class where the sequences vary every time. Both of these styles include strong challenging complex poses.
Sivananda is also a set sequence but is not a flow practice. It’s a good all round style and you know what you are getting with each class.
Yin and restorative are both very mellow and calming. You won’t get a workout but you will bliss out to the max. Restorative or gentle yoga are good options if you are working with physical limitation, stress, anxiety or injury.
Iyengar yoga has very strict alignment principles so if you like to know if you are getting it right or wrong and you like to have rules, it might be the one for you.
Good luck! if you have any more questions then please ask me. You can drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out my website for classes in Weston Super Mare at www.yogabynature.org