New to yoga? What to expect in my Hatha Yoga class
If you are new to yoga, it can be a bit daunting to come along to a new class and you may not be sure what to expect. I’ve tried to detail here what will happen during a class with me. Please feel free to let me know if you have any more questions.
Hatha Yoga is an ancient system of physical movement, breathing exercises and meditation practices. It can increase flexibility, strengthen muscles and improve posture. Yoga can also bring balance to your body and mind, improve digestion and sleep, and help with your general sense of wellbeing. Yoga means to ‘yoke or unite’ and this can be applied in many ways, one of which is coordinating breath with physical movement, and thought to movement/breath.
It consists of a series of poses/postures or ‘asanas’ that focus on different areas of the body and ranges of movement. Some postures are linked together to create a flow, which builds heat and can bring an element of cardiovascular exercise. These asanas can be modified to make them as easy or as challenging as is suitable for you - your unique body and individual requirements.
Yoga is for everybody – all ages, shapes and sizes, and ability levels.
What to wear
You want to feel comfortable and relaxed so wear what feels good for you but I'd suggest avoiding anything too baggy as it can get in your way and be distracting. Leggings/jogging bottoms/shorts with a t-shirt or vest top would be perfect. You may want to bring a jumper to keep warm when we are lying down in our final relaxation. Bare-feet are recommended whilst practicing, but if you feel totally uncomfortable with that, then you can wear socks but please make sure they are non-slip. You’ll probably also want to remove any bulky or chunky jewellery.
Format of the class
A yoga class will consist of:
A warm up
We will prepare the body by warming up the joints and muscles for deeper stretching/activity in the main phase. We will also prepare the mind by checking in and connecting with how we are feeling, and trying to let go of anything that has happened before class. We will also tune into our breath, and begin to notice the rhythm and movement of our breath - such a simple thing, but often overlooked during our busy and stressful everyday life. This can be calming and prepare us for the rest of our practice.
The main phase
We will usually do something called ‘Sun Salutations’ (Surya Namaskar) which is where we begin to link a series of postures together, taking the body up and down and forward and back. This really starts to warm up the body and gets everything moving. This is also sometimes known as “Vinyasa”.
Sun salutations are followed by a series different postures (asanas) where we take the body in different ranges of movement – balancing, lateral, forward and back bending, seated, inverted and twisting being the main forms. We don’t do exactly the same poses every week. This means that you get a chance to try various postures - over time, you will you find your favourites (and your not so favourites!) as there are 100’s to choose from. Modifications/different options of poses are also offered so that you can try it out whatever your ability level. I mostly have a theme and focus for each session.
After our asana practice we finish off in final relaxation for around 5 minutes where we relax and let go of the body and mind, normally lying down on the floor. I often lead a guided relaxation where we relax through the various areas of the body.
This is a very important part of practice – as well as being enjoyable, it allows the body to activate the para-sympathetic nervous system that slows the heart rate, relaxes the muscles and restores the body to a state of calm. It also allows the movements taken throughout the practice to begin to be embedded into muscle memory.
Most weeks we will do a pranayama of some sort at some point throughout the class. These are breathing exercises which can help you to become more aware, and perhaps be more in control, of your breath. Some of the more advanced pranayamas are said to bring balance to the body and mind and can be energising or calming. You do not have to do anything that you makes you feel uncomfortable or that you do not like, but in general most people find them beneficial to their yoga practice.
Post - class
Time to have a chat if you want and/or ask me any questions about yoga! Then make your way back out into your everyday life, hopefully feeling relaxed and energised.
Namaste - a greeting in Sanskrit meaning "I bow to you" and my favourite translation (there are many) being "I see the light in you, and I salute that light".