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Yoga Tips

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Updated October 22, 2012

Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog

© Barry Stone
If you are brand-new to yoga, these tips will help you get started, whether you are taking yoga classes or planning to practice at home. Perhaps the most important tip is to always ask questions when you don't understand something. If it's about yoga culture or etiquette, more experienced students are almost always happy to share their expertise. Questions about specific physical postures are best directed toward your teacher, either during or after class.

What to Wear

Shoes: Yoga is most often done barefoot. You will occasionally see people with some kind of sock or shoe, but it's usually due to an injury or medical condition.

Pants: There are many different styles of yoga pants, but you don't have to run out and buy a special pair. Any comfortable exercise pants or shorts will do. Avoid pants that don't stretch, like jeans.

Tops: A shirt that is a bit fitted is best. A big baggy t-shirt is not great since it can slide up even in basic poses like downward facing dog. Wear whatever kind of bra you prefer for exercise.

If you're going to do hot yoga or Bikram, there are some special considerations. See our recommendations for hot yoga wear.

What to Bring

Mat: If you a headed to your very first class, don't worry about bringing a mat if you don't have one. The great majority of yoga venues have mats for rent for just a dollar or two. As you keep going to class or if you are practicing at home, you are going to want to invest in your own mat. There are lots of different considerations as to which mat is right for you. Take a look at our comparison chart to help you decide.

Water bottle: If you are going to hot yoga, most everyone brings a water bottle with them. With other types of yoga, you can probably wait until after class to get a drink.

How to Prepare

Food: It's best not to eat a heavy meal right before you do yoga. You can have a light snack an hour or two before class and be fine.

Warming up: If you are early to class, try these warm-up poses.

Home Practice: Set up your mat in an open space. If you have room in your house, it's nice to find a spot where you can leave your mat out. This encourages you to use it regularly

Practice Tips

Alignment: Whether you are in a yoga class or using a DVD, keep a close eye on the instructor's alignment. That's the precise way that the body lines up in each posture. Good alignment is very important to minimize the chance of injury.

Look and Listen: When you are first learning the poses, it's ok to glance around the room to see what everyone else is doing, but look to the teacher for your primary instruction. Also listen for her verbal cues as she describes how to do the poses.

Stay Positive: Don't feel bad if you teacher corrects your postures. Hands-on instruction is the best way to learn good form. Try not to judge yourself harshly in comparison to what others are doing on their mats. Everyone is at a different place on the path. Stay light-hearted and keep your sense of humor. Laugh if you fall out of a pose, smile when things get difficult. Enjoy yourself.

Trust Your Judgement: Remember that your practice is an individual process. No one else is inside your body, so defer to your own judgement about what you can and cannot do. Over time, you will learn to discern the difference between something you may be afraid of or think you can't do and something that is actually painful and possibly injurious. There is no hurry to get into any particular pose. Listen to your own body and respect what it tells you about how to practice.

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