Have you been too intimidated to take that yoga class at your gym or Y?  Does yoga seem like an expensive habit?  It doesn’t have to be.  In this edition of Simply Well with Stephanie I will translate the Sanskrit and empower you to give yoga a try!

What’s the difference between Hatha and Vinyasa and what the heck is Bikram?

There are many different styles of yoga.  If you’re looking at a class schedule or video description and you’re not sure, just google it!  To get you started, here are a few of the most common styles:

Hatha – This is often used to describe a slow and posture based classes.  Hatha classes are great for beginners because the focus is often on basic postures, terminology, and proper alignment.

Bikram – It’s getting hot in here!  Bikram is often referred to as hot yoga.  True Bikram is done in 105 degrees and you follow a set of 26 poses.  Hydration is the key to success, if you are heading to Bikram.

Vinyasa – This is all about the flow.  Each pose in vinyasa flows into the next and there is a focus on breath with movement.

What should you wear and bring?

True confession – yoga clothes and gear can be expensive.  But it can also be affordable, especially for a beginner.

Popular gear
Yoga mat: This is where you can drop some serious cash.  The price for yoga mats varies widely.  As a beginner, I’d recommend that less is more.  I got my first yoga mat for $12 at TJ Maxx.  Since then I’ve tried several mats and my favorite by far is from Jade.  This is the mat I use daily for yoga and meditation.

Blocks: Blocks will help you maintain proper alignment in poses.  They will be your best friend as you increase your flexibility.

Strap: Blocks and straps go hand in hand for me.  I use a strap for a lot of floor work to allow me to go deeper into the stretches.

Towel: If you are going to practice hot yoga, a towel is a must.  You’ll want the towel over your mat to give you extra grip.

Bolster and Blankets: You frequently use these props in restorative classes to help support you and allow your body to truly release.

If you are attending a class, you probably don’t even need the gear.  Most studios supply mats, towels, blocks, and straps for free or a small rental fee.  If you are just testing the yogic waters, I’d recommend that you use their mats and props until you know you want to invest in the gear.

Dress me up
I’ve done yoga in sweatpants, my pajamas, running shorts, tights, and yoga pants.  Form-fitting pants and tank-tops are the best for yoga.  You don’t want baggy clothes getting in the way while you bend, twist, and reach.  The first time I did yoga I was wearing a t-shirt and during the first downward facing dog it covered my face and I literally got stuck with the shirt over my head.  Yoga is done barefoot and most studios ask that you remove your shoes before entering the room.

Don’t be a wallflower

The best thing you can do during your first yoga class is to introduce yourself to the instructor at the beginning.  Your first instinct might be to try to “blend” in with the group but I encourage you to let the instructor know that this is your first class.  If you have any injuries, be sure to share.  The instructor will be able to offer modifications to your during class and will know to help you with alignment.  And they are less likely to only speak “yoga” when they know a newbie is in the room.  I’ve also found it helpful to position yourself in the middle of the room.  That way you can peek over at your neighbors if you lose your place or don’t understand how to get into the pose.

Class versus your living room

I’m mostly an at-home yogi.  I love yoga classes but there isn’t a studio near my house.  I’d recommend taking a few classes to get started.  Many studios offer discounted classes for new students and this is a great way to learn about different styles of yoga and get instruction on the poses and postures.  You can also find free videos online to begin your practice.


Stephanie’s {Simple} Yoga Tips
  1. Don’t eat or drink within 2 hours of class.  You’ll be twisting, bending forward, and turning upside down and a full stomach won’t be fun.  If you are super hungry before class have a small piece of fruit and some water.
  2. Wear a tank top – trust me!  You don’t want your baggy t-shirt to restrict your movement.
  3. Wear slip on shoes and remember to take them off before entering the room.  Most places have cubbies for your shoes outside of the room.  I usually wear bright pink Toms so that I can easily spot them after class and not have to search through a sea of black shoes!
  4. Show up for class 15 minutes early so you can secure a great spot and introduce yourself to the instructor.
  5. If it hurts – stop!  Yoga is supposed to challenge you but not hurt you.  The phrase “no pain, no gain” isn’t meant for yoga.
  6. Don’t pay attention to what anyone else is doing.  This is your practice and you should do your best.
  7. Leave your phone in the locker room or your car!
  8. Breathe!
  9. If you get tired, don’t be embarrassed.  Just rest in child’s pose for a few moments.
  10. Don’t leave during savasana.  You might think that you’re totally stealth sneaking out while everyone is on their mats but I can promise you that you’re not!  Savasana allows you to breathe, release tension, and quiet your mind.  It’s just as important as the poses.  (Plus it’s just rude!)
Resources to keep it {simple}

Yoga Journal Pose Gallery

YogaGlo (they offer a free 15-day trial)

30-day Yoga Challenge (free)

10 Tips For Your First Yoga Class

An Open Letter to Anyone Thinking About Trying Yoga

Tara Stiles YouTube page