Attending your first yoga class may be a bit intimidating. We often see images of very flexible yogis bending every which way, almost like a contortionist; however, most yoga classes are full of beginner to intermediate students. In addition various yoga studios offer a variety of experiences. Seeking out studios, fitness centers, or private instructors that focus on gentle, beginners, level I, or all levels instruction may be a friendly option to dip your toe into the yoga water.
Selecting a style of yoga may be difficult too. It's easy to get lost in sanskrit names or novel techniques. Many class titles are accompanied by descriptions of the type of activity and skill level required. If this information is not listed contact the studio or teacher to discuss the delivery of the class or session. You should expect to spend a few classes becoming familiar with that style of yoga, and then form your opinion. Keep in mind that yoga has many styles, and that a dislike of one style may not apply to all styles. Yoga can be more focused on physical pratice, meditation, breathing, service, etc etc etc. The key is to find the style that speaks to you, and to shine in that style.
Once you have found a style of yoga, you can begin to pick between instructors. Just as it may take a few sessions to decide on a style, it may take a few sessions to learn which instructors you connect with. Firstly, you should feel comfortable with the instructor. You should feel that the instructor has your best interest at heart, will promote a safe practice, and appropriately support your intentions for practicing yoga. Instructors should expect nothing more from you than a commitment to being open minded and conscious of your own capabilities. Keep in mind that an instructor may ask you to try a beginner class or different style to encourage basic development prior to some more challenging classes. This should not be taken as an insult, but rather a way to keep you safe and promote development of your practice.
It may seem taboo to talk about, but yoga instructors and studios have to get paid to stay in business; therefore, you need to find a studio that fits within your price range. Typical drop-in rates may range from $10-20 per class and tend to decrease in cost when you buy packages or punchcards of classes. For example one drop-in class may be $15 but a package of 5 classes may cost $65 ($13/class). Watch out for expiration dates of packages, as the fine print may require you to attend yoga class frequently to get the true value. If you're looking for yoga on a budget, check out free events, special discounts or even coupon sites for special deals. For example Lululemon Athletica stores (www.lululemon.com) tend to offer FREE yoga on Sunday mornings. Popular sites like LivingSocial (www.livingsocial.com) or Groupon (www.groupon.com) frequently have yoga packages. You may even check out community yoga offerings such as township, church, school district, or community college-sponsored programs. Quality of instruction may vary, so keep your body and your wallet safe by previewing a class first!
With all of the above being said, the most important thing is that you are receiving from your yoga practice what is important to you. This could be yoga from an old DVD that you practice in your PJs in the basement or expertly instructed yoga on a tropical island on a South Pacific retreat. You need not travel far, spend a lot, or primp and prime for yoga. I encourage you to follow your intuition, approach with an open-mind and wade...or dive right in.