@Tallulah_: Good for you for picking up yoga! It really does have tremendous benefits 🙂
I have been a dedicated Bikram yoga practitioner for 6 years. I started with Bikram (aka the original “hot” yoga) because I liked the idea of a more physically vigorous style of yoga. Also, it was all the rage in my city, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Six years later, I still love it! I’d dabbled with other types of yoga (hot and not hot) but Bikram is where it’s at for me. I feel so invigorated after practice and I LOVE sweating in the hot room for 90 minutes. I’ll just warn you that there is a lot of controversy surrounding Bikram yoga because Bikram the man (he is an actual person) is quite an interesting (to put it vaguely) individual with some questionable behaviour. Also, there is a lot of controversy around “hot” yoga in general (e.g., some people believe the heat is dangerous, you can over-stretch your muscles, etc.). That said, I think if you are smart about your yoga practice and listen to you body first (instructor second), it is very safe for most people.
Now some tips for beginners…
Breathe…seems simple right? Wrong! Learning how to breathe properly in a posture takes time (months, years even). Breathing should always be your priority. Try to maintain slow, deep breaths, in and out through your nose.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! The instructions that are given are only a guide. If you are in a posture and gasping for air, or feel some intense pain (not just discomfort), back out of it a bit.
Give yourself a break if needed. Yoga can be very challenging and many people in the room will be seasoned practitioners. Try to avoid comparing yourself to them (rather, use them as a visual guide) and focus on yourself. If you need to sit out a posture, or lay down for a few minutes, go ahead and do it. Even regulars like myself do it!
Remember that it’s a process. The ultimate goal should not be how pretty your posture looks. Rather, the focus should be on the process of learning the proper alignment of a posture and progressing step-by-step over time. It’s all about opening up your body and not about how straight your leg is in standing bow.
Breathing first, proper alignment second, depth third. Period.
Hydrate! This is particularly important for heated styles of yoga, as you will be sweating a lot. Hydrate before class, and after class. Avoid drinking a lot during class. A belly full of water (or food) can make for an uncomfortable class.
Have fun, and try to not take yourself too seriously 🙂