What To Know Before Your First Yoga, Barre, or Pilates Class
I almost didn’t write a post about starting light-resistance exercise classes (Yoga, Barre, Pilates, etc). I thought “well, these are classes...don’t you just...show up?,” but then I thought back to my very first yoga and barre classes. I thought about the nervousness that I wasn’t “fit” enough and the notion of being woefully unprepared, resulting in me putting off attending a class longer than I should have.
I don’t think I’m alone in that experience. For that reason, the first item on my getting started list is:
“YES, you’re _____ enough to get started”
You’re fit enough to get started: You need not have years of exercise experience to begin one of these light-resistance classes. It may be wise to specifically attend a “beginner” level class, or contact your local studio to find out if they have a specific recommendation for starting out. Even if you can’t do a single strict push-up, that’s OK! If you’re overweight, out of shape, uncoordinated as heck, that’s OK. The preconceived notion you have that the class will be filled with ultra-fit experts who mock you the entire hour is wholly inaccurate. I can’t be the only one who thought that, right??
You’re flexible enough to get started: This is another one I’ve heard time and time again, especially in reference to yoga. If you can’t twist your body into a pretzel, don’t fret. You’re not alone! No one would expect that from you at a regular ol’ yoga class. There are SO many modifications and substitute exercises that can be used when you come to a pose that you’re unable to complete. A decent instructor will be knowledgeable and willing to help you with these when necessary.
Drop your “it’s a competition” mindset.
These types of classes aren’t a race. Nobody’s keeping score. Despite whatever fitness experience and strength in the gym you may possess, you’re a beginner here. It’s kind-of a competition with yourself in that you should always be striving for progress, HOWEVER pushing your body far past it’s natural limits has diminishing returns. It’s generally a good idea to avoid comparing yourself to your neighbor, but especially here, just drop that ish.
It's actually cool to laugh at yourself a little.
Sometimes you're gonna feel silly, yes. So, why not just laugh it off? I've spent waaaay too much energy trying to "fake it till I make it" and hide embarrassment, when letting out a giggle is often all I need to put me at ease.
OK. Now that you’ve (hopefully) got the mental piece straightened out, let’s talk about gear...
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What to wear:
Sorry folks, not gonna say that anyone “needs” a $100+ Lululemon outfit to wear to class. Just ain’t true! Wear something comfortable that allows you to move freely and focus on your practice instead of your appearance. Flowy and/or baggy styles seem to be popular, though I personally find myself worrying more about what these styles expose when I bend over than I prefer. My ideal outfit choice is a pair of leggings, a full coverage tank, and a sports bra. Doesn’t really matter if it comes from Amazon or Athleta, TBH.
While yoga and Pilates are typically practiced barefoot, barre classes require a special rubberized grip sock. AKA grip socks or non-slip socks. Most barre studios sell these socks in-house, but you may want to shop around for better price and come prepared.
Standard yoga mats are pretty thin- approximately 1/8 inch thick (or 6mm). This thickness is ideal for stability during standing yoga poses. Your studio may provide mats for class attendees, so it’s worth calling to find out. However, due to personal hygiene and varying preferences, many regular yogis bring their own.
Pilates mats are a bit thicker- approximately 3/8-½ inch thick. A pilates mat needs to be more dense than a yoga mat because many pilates exercises are done on the back or stomach. Ever try spinal rolling on a yoga mat? Ouch!
I had trouble finding a clearly defined “Standard Barre Mat.” I’ve seen thin yoga mats used, but the Pure Barre studio I used to attend provided thicker pilates-type mats. I think if it were me, I’d go with the thicker mat. This way, you can do the standing exercises on the bare floor and use the cushioned mat for seated work.
Water bottle- pretty self explanatory.
Hand towel- You might sweat! I hope you sweat! A towel to wipe off with periodically is nice to have.
A few notes on what to expect during class and after:
During you first few yoga, pilates, or barre classes, you might feel like an uncoordinated idiot. This is normal. Stick with it and you’ll learn and improve.
If attending barre, you’ll notice that “shakes” are praised. This is just a name for the muscle trembling that occurs when you’re pushing yourself- in other words, the exercise is working!
If you’re new to exercise, you’ll most likely be sore after class. This soreness can range from mild-OMG I can’t walk. Again, normal. You’re sore because you’re not adapted to exercise and your muscles are being challenged.
Try to relax and have fun! These types of classes may not be for you- that's OK. Just do me a favor and don’t knock it till you give it a fair shot.
What about you guys? Have you or did you experience some anxiety before your first class?