How to Find a Great Beginner Yoga Class

From Better Homes and Gardens

It can be intimidating to check out a new fitness class of any type—What are those shoes people use in Spinning? Do I need gloves for kickboxing? What is barre anyway?—but yoga, with its liberal use of Sanskrit throughout the class, can really make you feel like an outsider. Don’t let visions of super-bendy, super-athletic people “om”-ing and chanting intimidate you. Yoga can be a great activity for people of any age or athletic ability—and once you get through your first class, you’ll start to realize that a lot of the same moves pop up again and again. And after a few classes, you might even find yourself recognizing some of the Sanskrit names for poses, too. (Hint: the best one to learn is Savasana, or “corpse pose,” which concludes every practice.) But first you have to find the teacher and the class that’s right for you. Here’s help getting started.

Check your teacher’s credentials.

Make sure the teacher is qualified, urges Hansa Knox, a yoga teacher in Denver, Colorado. She recommends finding a teacher who has at least 200 hours of yoga-specific training. A background solely in aerobics or other sports disciplines isn’t enough. Ask your instructor about his or her background and training, and how long he or she has been teaching yoga.

Introduce yourself before the class.

You might prefer to hide in the back row, rather than going up to the teacher before class to introduce yourself, but when you alert the teacher that you’re new to her class, you’re adding an extra layer of safety to your practice. Go one step further and tell her you’re new to yoga as well; good instructors will frequently offer modifications for more advanced moves so that everyone has an opportunity to participate. Additionally, she can keep an eye on you to make sure you’re not on track to hurt yourself by performing a pose that may be too much of a stretch for your current fitness or experience level.

Test-drive a class before committing fully.

Participate in a class before signing up for the full series or session. A good instructor won’t mind if you window-shop, and you’ll have a chance to see what kind of learning environment he or she creates. The best deals are generally found when you sign up for packages or a series of classes—but it’s not a good deal if you discover you don’t like the instructor or the class you signed up for.

Take a head count.

While you’re sitting in on that class, count the number of people in the room. If there are 30 or 40 people milling around, it’s impossible for the teacher to make sure everyone in the room is performing the poses correctly. And, as a beginner, you need lots of extra attention. Look elsewhere if you see more than a dozen participants.

Assess the instructor.

Does the instructor modify the poses to fit a person’s own abilities? Yoga should be adapted to the individual, points out San Francisco–based yoga instructor Arkady Shirin, rather than the other way around. Injuries often happen when someone tries to force a pose. “Your body will complain if you don’t respect its limits,” he says. “In yoga, pain is no gain.”

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