Have you ever gone into some sort of exercise class for the first time with zero direction? For instance, the only way you knew to grab a set of hand weights was when you began noticing other people schlepping them over to their spot.
Once class starts, you glance around the classroom and everyone seems to know exactly what they’re doing except you (which is rarely ever the case). But regardless, playing the role of class newbie tends to be a tad overwhelming at times.
That’s how I felt when I took my first hot yoga class almost a decade ago. Nobody told me what to expect ahead of time or even hinted at those important little details that allow one to center their thoughts and turn off the ego, instead of sliding around, fighting to stay in a pose instead of slipping out of it.
After a class or two of watching and learning from my fellow students, I figured out what needed to happen in order to feel successful at the end of class.
So if you are about to take your first hot yoga class, the following tips will definitely help you walk into the studio feeling confident and ready to rock it!
1. Find Out Which Style of Hot Yoga Is For You
All in all, the term “hot yoga” can pretty much mean any yoga class held in a warm room usually somewhere between 85° – 108° F. I know, 108°. Ufta. Known for its healing properties, flushing toxins, increasing strength and flexibility, and more, most bodies respond really well to hot yoga.
But if you’re new to the whole hot yoga scene, you might not know how one type differs from the next? That’s where this section comes in handy!
One of the most widely known types of hot yoga is called Bikram Yoga (along with variations of the method), where every class consists of the exact same 26-pose sequence that you do not only once, but two steamy times. Also, students complete two breathing exercises to connect with the breathe.
The studio is heated to a toasty 104° F (or depending where you’re taking class, 105° F).
And you’re in that sauna, er, classroom for an hour and a half.
Now, I don’t know if my thyroid issues are to blame or if it’s the fact I’m getting older, but my tolerance for heat has become pretty pathetic. It didn’t used to be that way, but nowadays, I. hate. being. hot.
It’s gotten to the point where I’ll give myself a shimmy or two just for making it through an hour long yoga sesh without growing so agitated I start trying to trip the teacher whenever she walks by. So if 60 minutes is a challenge for my heat intolerant butt to remain sane, enduring 90 minutes of the ole Bikram heat does not sound like my cup-o-boiling-hot-tea.
On top of that, the handful of Bikram classes I have taken over the years never really left a positive impression on my body. Ok, I know there are millions of hard-core followers in the world who would love to disagree with me on this, but my joints and muscles felt tight and crunchy post-class rather than loose and lengthened. But like I said, that’s just me!
My body tends to respond better to another type of hot yoga which generally falls under the umbrella of vinyasa or “flow”, a style where one pose smoothly transitions into the next creating fluid, flowing movement. I love this style simply because it keeps the class merrily moving along as well as feeling like every muscle is being addressed at some point.
And although you’ll do many of the same poses week after week, don’t expect the same sequences every. single. class. This, m’friends helps to prevent burnout.
2. Wear Clothes That Hug Your Hot Bod (both literally and figuratively)
Before you go throw the whole hot yoga idea out the window, let me ‘splain. When I say clothes that “hug” the body, it’s not like a sausage casing kind of embrace, it’s more like a hug coming from an acquaintance. Who’s a germophob. That means, tops that are close to the body, but not tight.
One thing to steer clear of? Big honkin’ t-shirts which will turn into a little mini tent for your upper body once your hips head to the sky for a downward dog.
Additionally, I’d avoid wearing anything from shortish to shorty short shorts with wide, loose-fitting leg holes. I can guarantee the poor soul behind you in not interested in playing a game of peek-a-boo with your hootie hottie.
What to wear instead? I’ve found anything similar to these workout tanks or tops to be fine. Like I said above, they fit close to the body, but they’re not skin tight. For your bottom half, I suggest wearing either workout capri’s, yoga pants, yoga leggings, or biker shorts.
Regardless of the pant type you wear, double check that the material is a polyester blend and its description specifically mentions that it wicks away moisture. Having this quality helps to keep the sweat from showing. Meaning, you won’t look like you’ve just peed your pants upon walking out of the studio.
3. Be Mindful of Your Food and Drink
You want to make sure you drink plenty of water leading up to the class. However, you don’t want to chug-a-lug minutes before your session starts. Nothin’ like a belly full of liquid sloshing around while trying to twist, bend, and fold your way to tranquility.
Same goes for food. Yogini, Marina Chetner, recommends not sitting down to a meal within 3 hours of class. But if you feel a food mood coming on, “eat something light and bland like Saltine crackers; a couple should curb the hunger pangs.”
4. Arrive Early to Class
If it’s your first hot yoga class, aim to arrive at least 20 minutes before your class starts. This way, you can…
- fill out any initial paperwork at the front desk
- stash your belongings in the studio’s designated spot, (e.g., cubbies, lockers, floor space against the back wall, etc.)
- grab any props you may need to use
- set up your mat
- take a load off, chill out, and center yo’self
After you have that first hot yoga class under your belt, it’s still a good idea to show up a little early to class. Giving yourself about 10-15 minutes beforehand should be enough time to do what you need to do and not feel rushed.
5. Know What to Bring
When we’re talking about hot yoga, there are a few things that are super important to remember to throw in your bag.
a) Yoga Mat
Many times the yoga studio will have yoga mats available to either rent or borrow. With that being said, I think you’d rather bring your own. Even though students are supposed to wipe their borrowed sweat-covered mats down after class, I’m sure there are some pesky germs leftover. For those on a tight budget, you can find reasonably priced mats online.
b) Water Bottle
Pack a decent-sized water bottle so you can sip on that sucker throughout class. I really like the one I have. Check it out here.
c) Hand Towel (or two)
You’re gonna be a sweaty beastling, that’s just all there is to it. Some instructors say not to towel off during class, that it distracts you from your practice…I can see where they’re coming from, but the sweat rolling down my face, off the tip of my nose (but not before hanging out on the edge for what seems like minutes), and burning my eyes after it picked up a little of my face moisturizer beforehand is way more distracting for me. I’m telling you, you’ll be glad you brought a hand towel along.
d) Yoga Towel (or beach towel)
I only had a yoga mat for my first class and I found myself struggling, gripping my muscles, and getting really frustrated trying not to slip out of poses. I use this microfiber towel here. Look for a yoga towel that’s the same size as your mat since you’ll lay it directly on top of it. In comparison to other quality yoga towels, it’s one of the more inexpensive towels I’ve found, and gets the job done just fine. If you didn’t have a chance to buy one before taking your first hot yoga class, a beach towel can work as a substitute.
Whether the studio provides lockers, cubbie holes, etc., ask the front desk where to put your stuff. I’ve been to studios where you’re not allowed to bring your stuff with you into the classroom and others where they don’t care.
7. Take Your Shoes Off
Taking your shoes off before entering the classroom is a respectful thing to do. Walking in with shoes on treks in dirt, sand, etc., and even though yoga is practiced on a mat, nobody wants to be on a filthy floor. Not only that, but taking of your shoes protects the room’s floor from getting damaged. Also, others are walking around in bare feet, and stepping on a gross floor is anything but enjoyable.
Last, but certainly not least, yoga instructor, Judy Cameron, explains that many yoga teachers “seek to create a sacred space…in which people can explore yoga as a spiritual discipline. The ultimate insult in many cultures is to raise one’s shoe or show the sole of one’s shoe to someone.”
So even if you see others walking into the classroom with shoes, show your respect by removing them.
8. Set Yourself Up
Since this is your first hot yoga class, I encourage you to stand toward the back of the class. In other words, avoid standing front and center. Let the regulars have that spot. Standing near the back gives you a chance to observe and learn from the more advanced students.
When placing your mat, make sure you’re not directly in front of someone or extremely close to the person next to you. Granted, some classes get so packed, you may end up super close to your neighbor, but since you’re there early, you should have no problem starting spread out.
Once your towel is placed over your mat, many times studios offer spray bottles filled with water for students to use. Grab one and spritz your towel giving it a once over. This works incredibly well for slippage. Yeah, the towel is there to help with that, but it’s still pretty common to slip a little on it. But once you’ve misted your towel, you should be good to go.
Studios offer props to use such as blocks or straps. If you’re a beginner, these will help you perform poses you’re not quite flexible enough to do on your own. Snatch a couple up from the prop area and bring them back to your mat.
By this time, you might notice the room is pretty quiet. Students use this time to work on de-stressing and quieting their minds for the upcoming class. So try to keep the talking to a minimum. If you are introducing yourself to the teacher or asking a quick question to another student, make it brief and aim for 6 inch voices.
Being a newbie can feel intimidating, but if you want, you can go up to your instructor and let him/her know you’re a beginner. They want to help you have a successful class! That’s what they’re there for.
9. It’s Okay to Take a Breather
If you’re feeling dizzy, nauseous, any discomfort, or you just need a timeout, it’s a-okay to chill in child’s pose till you’re ready to get crankin’ again. And don’t be embarrassed if you have to do this several times throughout class. Nobody’s going to judge you. Just focus on listening to what your body needs.
One thing to keep in mind though; unless you’re about to toss your cookies, try to stick it out by not walking out of the studio.
10. Don’t Go Overboard
You’ll notice when taking a hot yoga class that your muscles and joints will feel looser, which will allow you to stretch further than you’d normally be able to go. However, use the first few classes to ease into finding your body’s limitations. Pushing too hard too fast could cause an injury.
To wrap things up, if you’re feeling a tad intimidated or nervous for your first hot yoga experience, simply follow the above suggestions. These 10 tips will definitely take the edge off a bit and help to put you at ease when making your class debut!
What tips do you guys have for someone’s first hot yoga class? Let me know in the comments below!
If you enjoyed this post, I’d love for you to share it with others so they can benefit from the information as well. Thank you so much!
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