jessica fong yoga

It’s National Yoga Day! To celebrate, we asked one of our favorite yogis to explain how yoga can fit into your fitness routine:

Over the past decade, more and more pro athletes and fitness buffs from all sports have taken yoga as an active recovery option. Most people are increasingly more aware that yoga helps improve range of motion, but the true benefit for an athlete is how much yoga reduces the stiffness and body tweaks caused by repetitive movements common to any sport. Not to mention, it’s also a great way to manage stress and calm the mind – key to the mental component of any athlete’s goals.

But let’s be real for a second?

Chances are that your first yoga class will be harder than you expect. More than simply physically demanding, the poses and movements can be quite awkward to the first time practitioner. They just are, but as with any discipline, yoga gets easier. Every yoga practitioner – even your teacher – has been in your shoes at one time or another, so, if you’re new to the practice, here are three tips and tricks for easing into one of the best athletic recovery options available.

  1. Plan to arrive 15 minutes before class to sign in, meet the teacher, let them know this is your first class and perhaps inform them of any injuries you may be working with. Trust me, you will want to do this. Yoga looks easy, but once you start moving, you may realize how tight you really are. Every new student benefits immensely from a little extra guidance in their earliest classes.
  2. You will sweat, so make sure you hydrate before and after class. As a matter of fact, expect to sweat way more than anyone else in the room – bye bye water retention, hello muscles. Sweat is meant to cool you down, so the bigger you are, the more sweat your body will need to cool off. This is completely normal and yoga teachers are used to this. Just make sure you bring a hand towel to wipe off the sweat from time to time.
  3. Be quiet like a ninja. Practice controlling your breath. Remember this is not the gym – it’s pretty much the yin to the “gym yang.” During practice, be quiet and cultivate mindfulness by making conscious choices about what we do in each moment. Yoga classes are not the proper place for grunting and growling.

jessica fong upward dog

One final point.  Your competitive side may want to kick in, but don’t push it! You may find yourself not being able to do a lot of the poses. Remember yoga isn’t solely about strength.  Flexibility, coordination, and balance are equally as important, and it takes time to cultivate these four components into a smooth flow that feels less foreign to you. Are you going to be as flexible as the skinny girl in the front row? If it’s your first class, chances are, probably not. So instead of trying to mirror what your neighbors are doing, go at your own pace without straining or injuring yourself. Long-term health and function is more important than short-term success.

About Jessica Chin Fong:
Jessica has been practicing yoga since 2005. In 2011 she completed her first RYT 200 certification at Philip Christodoulou’s Anuttara Yoga Shala. Since then, she has studied yoga extensively. Jessica’s style has evolved into a blend of physical and mystical. Her classes vary in intensity from playful, fiery, and vigorous Vinyasa flows to graceful, slow and meditative. Jessica’s passion for yoga was recognized by Lululemon in 2013 and she was invited to be an Ambassador for their brand. Her goal is to inspire students to make small changes on the mat that will lead to big changes in their lives. Catch one of her classes at Yoga Joint, and find her on Instagram @jess_chinfong.