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Manduka Medium Vertical #2 - EU

Tuesday
Apr052011

What to Expect

If you're new to yoga, or considering trying a class for the very first time, here are a few things to keep in mind. These rules of thumb are pretty much universal.

NO SHOES Most people know this, but it bears repeating: Yoga is practiced barefoot. As a matter of fact, you will likely be asked to remove your shoes the minute you enter the yoga studio. This is as much for cleanliness (Shaucha, or purity, is one of the ten yamas/niyamas highlighted in Pantajali's Yoga Sutras,) as it is a sign of respect and humility.

MATS/BLANKETS/BLOCKS/STRAPS These are the most common props used in yoga. Used judiciously, they can ease pressure on joints, create more openness in the body, and ensure deeper release in restorative poses. Some yoga styles are more prop-happy than others (Iyengar, for example,) and a skillful teacher can show you how to properly and safely take advantage of them. If you practice with any regularity, you’ll want to invest in a mat.

WHAT TO WEAR Wear something comfortable that you can move in. Your clothes should not be too baggy, as you'll want the teacher to be able to see your body in space. There are many brands of yoga-specific clothing available today, but you don't really need anything special. It's what's happening on the inside that counts anyway! Special clothes, of course, can be their own type of incentive for practicing regularly, and stylishly ;) Fortunately, Paris has a few lovely yoga-centric shops to check out: Yoga Concept (3ème,) Lolë Paris (4ème,) and Anima Athletica (16ème.) On a budget? Try American Apparel (locations throughout Paris.)

PARTNER WORK Partner work, or performing yoga poses with the help of a fellow student, is a great way to improve your skill both as a student and as a teacher. Doing handstand with a friend in the middle of the room can be very empowering. Depending on your comfort level with going upside down, it can also be very scary. If you're new to the concept or aren't feeling up to the task, let the teacher know and he/she will spot you, pair you with an advanced student, or find a suitable alternative.

WHAT IS OM? DO I HAVE TO CHANT? Om is a mystical syllable that is said to encapsulate all of the sounds in our natural world. In the same way that an orchestra tunes before a performance, yoga classes begin with the sound of Om to bring all of the instruments (bodies, hearts, minds of the individual as well as the group) into harmony. The chant demarcates not only the beginning of class but also highlights one of yoga's distinguishing features: that of its focus on breathwork or pranayama. The chant is also used to bring class to a close. In this way, it “seals” and imprints the practice on you. Think of chanting as an invitation. It’s never obligatory.

NAMASTE This greeting means “the good in me recognizes the good in you.” It is generally accompanied by anjali mudra: palms pressed together at the chest, fingers pointed upward, with a slight bow of the head.

CAN I EAT BEFORE YOGA? It is best to practice on an empty or very lightly filled stomach.

We are continually updating this section of the site so that it accurately reflects the yoga experience in Paris. If you have useful advice to share with first-time yoga students, or if you have any questions regarding what to expect at a yoga class, please let us know!