By Tyson Venables
Your girlfriend’s been going on and on for months about getting you to attend a yoga class so you finally cave in and decide to give it a go – despite the fact that you are utterly terrified of the thought of it! You’ve spent most of your life pumping iron and now you’re jumping into the world of flexible yoga! I was that guy and I can truly say that yoga has changed my life! But that didn’t happen straight away and it wasn’t always stretchy pants and incense.
I initially struggled to find a sense of ease in a class where I was suddenly being told to do things my body has never been done before. As a yoga teacher, crossfit coach and PT, I’ve seen first-hand the benefits of yoga but I also understand that those first few classes can be daunting! That’s why I’m sharing what you can expect and my top tips for learning how to find comfort in a yoga class, from one guy to another!
Your First Yoga Class
The moment you step into a yoga studio, you are likely to be greeted by a smiling teacher with high vibrations who has been practicing yoga for years. Your anxiety levels rise when the rest of the students begin to arrive; they file into the room placing down their mats and begin their pre-class rituals. Some are folding themselves in half, others inverting into a handstand. All the while you’re just trying to work out where to put your mat (ideally where you can’t be seen or judged!)
Once the class commences, the teacher begins with a breathing technique with some obscure name you’ve never heard of before. You fumble your way through it and open one eye to see if you re doing the same as everyone else. Your nerves begin to settle, and then the teacher finishes the breathing with a round of ohm… Your ohm sounds like a car starting up and the anxiety levels rise again as a few people look around to see there that Volkswagen-sounding ohm is coming from!
The main course then starts: it’s a Vinyasa class. You initially liked the sound of it and thought ‘yeah, that’ll be good to start with’. But within three poses you’re sweating bullets and you’ve forgotten which foot is left or right. ‘How on earth do I bend my knee and peal my hip open?’. ‘Flipping your dog’ doesn’t even sound like a yoga pose but Karen on the mat next to you is ‘flipping her dog’ with ease! It’s a full blown circus an you’re blown away.
Your body is begging for a rest so you come to your knees and wipe the puddle of sweat forming on your mat. Everyone is moving with flow and grace except for you! But at last, the teacher says that the next pose is something you can actually do well: savasana; laying flat on your back with your eyes closed. And that’s when you feel it: bliss. You made it and you actually feel lighter, longer and more calm than you’ve ever felt in your life. The contortionist workshop you thought you ended up in now seems like a bubble of bliss and as the class wraps up, you tell yourself that you already can’t wait to come back next week.
My Tips for your First Yoga Class!
So as you can tell from my personal story, it’s not easy at first! Below is some tips to hep you navigate the world as a new male yoga student:
- Shop around! Look for studios in your area that offer fundamental to yoga or beginner classes.
- If you’re not spiritually minded or it doesn’t interest you, email or call the studio and ask if they are a deeply spiritual studio or get along to you local gym’s yoga classes. Generally, these classes are a good entry point to yoga.
- The different class types are vast. My biggest tip here is to look for classes that are beginner level or are based on Yin or slow flow. These two types are a lot slower and encourage you to hold postures for longer, which helps you get better at each position.
- Pack a towel! Men generally sweat a lot more than females especially in a yoga class that you have never done!
- Wear loose fitting shirts and shorts long enough that if you go into a deep squat or lunge, nothing is revealed!
- Have a nice cold H2coco Coconut Water ready to drink in the fridge or your sports bag for your post workout fluid replenishment!
- Unless you love being the centre of attention, leave the front row to the more experienced yogis and set up towards the back of the room. That way it’ll relieve some of the anxiety of being that rusty bag of sweaty bones in the front row!
- Never compare yourself to any of the long term practitioners in the room. Even Karen has been coming for years and has all the shapes dialled in!
My final piece of advice is to enjoy the process! You’re embarking on a new journey. It’ll be hard at times, you’ll find success in others. It’s human nature to compare ourselves to our neighbours. But the yoga mat is your little sanctuary for that period of time you are in class. It’s your time to become a better mobile man through yoga. Enjoy thinking clearer, moving better and being less stressed!
Tyson Venables is a health and fitness professional, qualified PT, yoga teacher and founder of Mindful Man Project. Having worked in welness for over 10 years, Tyson has a wealth of knowledge about the human body and how to help each individual reach their highest potential.
Tyson’s approach to movement is holistic and takes into consideration each individual’s needs. He works closely with his clients and students to determine the best programs necessary to help them reach their goals and create healthy sustainable lifestyles. For more on Tyson and to follow and his journey, check out his Instagram page: @tysonven.