The most important thing you can do in your first yoga class is tell your teacher that you're new. That way, you can tell them about your body's background, any injuries, and if you prefer more or less attention in class—this takes out some of the guesswork.
While each class looks different, the beginning of class will typically be a body-opening warmup, the middle will be the heat-building portion where you’ll move and sweat, followed by some floor work to stretch out your legs and back. By the end of the class you’ll lie on the floor, breathing in the beautiful dreamland called savasana.
And if you think you know your lefts from your rights, get ready to get confused. The mind is very active, processing a lot of new things all at once, and you’re going to get turned around. You'll lunge with your right foot instead of your left; you'll get lost, goof something up, and end up accidentally rolling over and onto the mat of another unsuspecting yogi.
It's all good. Relax, breathe, laugh, and, like a dance move, just pick it back up whenever you can. Also, pay attention to these two very important words: child’s pose and savasana. They both mean rest! Child’s pose is your home base, your go-to when you get that feeling of "too much," or feel like you need a break. Place your shins on your mat, forehead to the ground, and place your arms by your sides, palms facing up. That’s it. Now, just breathe. The other, savasana, is the 5 to 15 minutes at the end of class when you get to lie on your back breathing, relaxing, and letting all of the benefits of your class and hard efforts seep and sink in.
Remember nap time when you were younger? Guess what: Adults need breaks, too, and savasana is the perfect "conscious" nap time. But just a word of warning: Savasana may be the time when you get the most anxious or feel the need to get up and move. Try not to. Contrary to what you might feel at first, savasana is so far from a waste of your time, so resist the urge to skip it or go through your to-do list in your head. Breathe and repeat the words "I am calm; I am one," cuing each phrase on the inhale and exhale. If that doesn't work for you, simply make up your own mantra. Like most things, it really does get easier as time goes on.
If you absolutely must leave a class early (it happens!), let the teacher know in advance. And on this note, if you need to use the bathroom, go. Finding inner peace certainly won’t happen if you’re dealing with a full bladder.