Thursday, July 8, 2010

What to Expect in a Yoga Class with Jennifer

Life is full of new experiences, changes in pace, and over-all twists and turns. Trying something new isn't always easy, but the majority of the time we say to ourselves, I'm so glad I did that! Trying a yoga class for the first time is no different. Whether you haven't the first clue of what downward facing dog pose looks like, or you're simply trying out a new instructor or studio, stepping into a new class can be intimidating.

Going into my first ever yoga class, I was totally lost. I had no idea where on the floor or which direction to place my mat, let alone if I was supposed to sit on it and close my eyes like everyone else was doing. It was a beginner level class, but the instructor never asked if it was anyone's very first class. He made very little eye contact as he called out names of poses that I'd never heard of, and when he came around to adjust my pose and said, "no no, not like that," I felt like a complete failure. I didn't try yoga again for two years after that experience, but it will always stick in my mind as what NOT to do as an instructor.

The best tip I can give beginners and new comers is to simply let go. Let it all go. Become uninhibited. Stress about nothing. Not work, not your relationships, not your body image issues, not your finances. Nothing. Even if it is only for the short time you step onto your mat. Even if you're a ball of stress as you drive to class, and that tension creeps back as soon as you get back in your car after final Savasana, nothing can touch you while you're in your yoga practice. And you'll see that after you practice for a while, the feeling you have when you're on your mat: moving mindfully, listening to the come and go of your breath, allowing thoughts to enter and pass as you celebrate the moment...these feelings will slowly start to become the norm. That's why more and more people are trying yoga and sticking with it. In my opinion, there is nothing better you can do for your Self and those around you, than to take that mindful time and turn inward to connect your mind with your breath and body.

Here are some helpful guidelines for coming to class:
1. Dress comfortably in clothing that isn't too loose. YOU DO NOT NEED TO BUY EXPENSIVE YOGA PANTS. This has been my beef with Americanized yoga. You don't need all the fancy gear that marketers just love to promote. Shorts, comfy pants that stretch, a t-shirt or tank top are all just wonderful.

2. Bring your own mat. This is a personal choice...but I strongly recommend it. Your mat is a very personal item, and it's nice to have one at home to unroll when you make the time and space for your practice. Loaner mats are available for use at a $2 rental fee. Mats can run anywhere between $10 and $80 and can be purchased at most super stores, the YMCA, sporting goods stores, and at Pete's Ski&Sport shop downtown.

3. Arrive a few minutes early. There is a small info card to fill out on your first visit. If you come regularly, you'll just sign in. I have found that when students have a few minutes to place their mat how they like it and sit quietly before class begins, it's easier to leave the outside world at the doorstep, and focus the mind on a beautiful practice.

4. Decide what class schedule will work best for you. If you can only attend class a couple times a month, the drop in rate of $8 would be the most reasonable. If you plan on coming more often, you can save a lot of dough by choosing the once per week, twice per week, or unlimited monthly packages. Cash or personal checks are acceptable payments. Checks may be made payable to Jennifer Henry.

5. Let go of any judgments or expectations of yourself and don't compare yourself to others. This is the biggie. You don't have to be ultra skinny, ultra fit, or ultra flexible to do yoga. The sassy yogini in me is on a mission to shout this from the roof tops. It's difficult when you flip through the pages of yoga magazines and are blasted with images of thin models contorting themselves in the finest yoga wear. Well take it from me, that is not what yoga is all about. It's a deeply personal experience, different for everyone. Yoga has taught me to be comfortable in my body, no matter what size or shape it is. To give thanks and show gratitude for how strong my body is and all it does for me...and not to focus on what it can't do. You have no idea how long the person next to you has been practicing, so don't compare. It's not that you can't do a pose, you simply haven't reached that part of your journey. Yet.

6. Know that you do not have to do whatever you're not comfortable doing. If your body is telling you to park it on your mat in child's pose for most of the class, then do so. Coming to one of my classes is not attending the Jennifer Henry Yoga Show. I play a small part in something much bigger...Your Practice. I am there simply to facilitate growth in your practice and an understanding of how the poses and movements are linked to the breath. If the class is moving from balance poses to the floor, and you're still holding your dancer's pose longer than you've ever held it and are feeling great, stay there. Ride it out. It's about you.

Water and tea are available at the studio, and you may bring a water bottle to keep beside you during class. We'll always begin with a centering or meditation exercise with breath, move through a warm up, get into the heart of our practice, then end with Savasana (corpse pose). The body tends to cool quite quickly in the final pose, so you're welcome to bring extra layers and socks if you wish.

Should you have further questions, feel free to give me a ring at 814.883.1562 or send an email to I look forward to our time together and to witnessing your growth on your personal yogic path.


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