In recent years, yoga has become something of a fad. Many people love this practice for the greater strength and flexibility it brings, as well as the emotional and spiritual benefits it can provide. But if you’ve never practiced before, you may not know how to get started, especially with a home yoga practice.
Yoga is a practice for everyone, no matter who you are or what your fitness level is. Knowing what to look for in a studio and what you should bring with you can make starting out a little easier. Read on to discover some beginner yoga tips to help you get the most out of your yoga routine.
Why Do Yoga?
Before we dive into yoga for beginners, let’s talk about why you should do yoga in the first place. Yoga can have amazing benefits for your mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health. This practice is all about becoming in tune with your body, your breath, and the world around you.
In terms of physical benefits, yoga can help you get stronger and more flexible, as well as improving your balance. Because of its connections to meditation, it can reduce anxiety and depression. And as you learn to become more aware of the awesome power of your body, the everyday miracle of your breath, and your connection to the earth, you may begin to understand what a spiritually magnificent being you are.
1. What You Need
At its core, all you need for yoga is a few minutes and a willing mind. Yoga doesn’t require a lot of fancy equipment; it’s about you, your breath, and your body. But there is some equipment that’s helpful to have for your yoga practice, whether it’s with a yoga instructor in a studio, yoga dvds, or a home practice.
First and foremost, a yoga mat can provide you some cushioning and grip to help you keep your hands and feet in place for some of the poses you’ll be doing. You may also want foam blocks to help you modify some poses to be easier or harder as needed. And a yoga strap can help you grip and sink more deeply into some stretching poses as you gain more flexibility.
2. What To Wear
The most important thing to consider when choosing what to wear for a yoga practice is ease of movement. Your clothes should be comfortable and loose-fitting so they don’t restrict your movement. They should also be stretchy and soft, making it easier for you to stretch into different poses as needed.
Many people prefer to practice yoga barefoot in order to improve their grip on the mat and their connection to the earth. But if you would prefer to have your feet covered, you can get yoga socks that provide some grip while still covering your feet. If you have long hair, you may want to pull it away from your face in a ponytail or a braid.
3. Class Vs. Video
One question many people first getting into yoga have is whether it’s better to start learning in a class or from a video. A video has the advantage of being convenient. There are a lot of apps out there that let you pick yoga flows of any length and challenge level to suit your needs at the time.
But when you’re first starting out, it’s better to go take at least a few classes at a yoga studio near you. Not only will this help motivate you to get started with your practice, a good yoga teacher will also help you form good habits right from the start. A teacher can correct any poses you may be doing incorrectly and show you how to keep proper form during your practice.
4. How To Find A Class
So once you’ve decided to take a class, how do you find a good one? One good place to start is by talking to your friends and family who take yoga. Ask them where they go, how much they pay, and what their experience as like, as well as what schedule the studio offers.
You can also look online for yoga studios in your area. Check their schedule, their ratings, and any bios they have for their yoga teachers. You want to look for a studio that you feel like you’d be comfortable at, as well as one whose teachers have plenty of expertise practicing and teaching yoga.
5. Types Of Yoga
Another way to narrow down which yoga studio you go to is by what types of yoga they offer. Not all yoga practices focus on the same thing. Choosing the type that aligns best with your goals can help you not only meet those goals, but also enjoy the practice more in the process.
Hatha yoga classes tend to be a little slower and gentler in their movements, so they’re usually a good option for beginners. Vinyasa, ashtanga, and power yoga classes are a little more challenging, focusing on higher strength and intensity. Hot yoga takes place in studios heated to more than 104 F, which many people enjoy, but it can cause a problem for people with certain medical conditions.
6. Class Etiquette
Once you’ve found and signed up for a class, the next question becomes how to behave during that class. In general, the main rule is respect – respect yourself, respect your classmates, respect your teacher, and respect your practice. But there are some other general rules of thumb that will help you have a successful first class.
Make sure you arrive on time or early for the class, and silence your cell phone before you go into the room. Respect the teacher and always make the corrections they give you, but don’t be afraid to ask questions after the class. Also make sure you stay on your mat so you aren’t stepping on your neighbors, and always stay through the savasana at the end of class — it’s just as important as the rest of the class.
7. Basic Class Structure
In general, most yoga classes follow a basic structure, although they will vary some from class to class and type to type. When you arrive, you’ll check in, fill out any paperwork, and find a spot in the classroom to lay out your mat and get set up. Before the class starts, sit quietly on your mat, doing a few warmup stretches or beginning to bring your focus to your breath if you like.
Once class begins, your instructor will likely start off with some deep breathing exercises and some slower, gentler poses and flows to start getting you warmed up. The classes will build in intensity throughout the workout before slowing back to gentler poses and deep breathing exercises. Finally, the class will wrap up with savasana, a relaxation pose where you will spend time taking in everything you’ve learned from the practice and transitioning back into the rest of your life.
8. Preparing For Your First Class
If you’re nervous about your first class, preparing for it a little bit beforehand may help you to feel more comfortable. You may want to do some research and familiarize yourself with the basic yoga poses. That way you’ll know generally what to expect during the course of a class.
Don’t eat a heavy meal right before you go to class; stick to lighter meals or snacks beforehand. Don’t be afraid to let your instructor know at the beginning of class that this is your first time practicing yoga. They’ll be able to keep a special eye on you this way and can help gently correct you on the proper way to do each pose.
9. Focus On The Breath
During your yoga class, always try to bring your focus back to your breath. Your breath is the one constant through not just your yoga poses, but also your life. Focusing on it will help to center you and keep your mind away from the distractions of what’s going on at work or at home.
When you find your mind wandering, draw your focus to the sensation of breath pulling in and out of your body. Notice the rise and fall of your chest and belly and the way air feels moving in and out of your nose and mouth. Pay attention, too, to how your breathing lines up with the shift from one pose to another and how a deep breath can help you sink deeper into a pose.
10. Listening To Your Body
Throughout your yoga practice, make sure you’re listening to your body. Yoga isn’t like many other forms of exercise where the goal is to push your body to the limits. This practice is about gentle stretching and meeting yourself where you are.
If you feel any intense pain or discomfort, don’t keep pushing into the pose. Some discomfort is normal during some stretches, but you shouldn’t be gritting your teeth against pain. If you aren’t sure how to manage a pose that’s more than you can manage right now, don’t be afraid to ask your instructor for a modification.
Learn How To Get Into Yoga
Yoga is an amazing way to get fit with numerous health benefits and to improve your mental, emotional, and spiritual health all at once. Knowing how to get started with yoga can take out some of the intimidation factor of showing up for your first class. Make sure you respect everyone in the room, including yourself, and you’ll have an amazing practice that you’ll look forward to coming back to.
If you’d like to take your first yoga class, check out the rest of our site at Yoga in London. We have classes for people at all levels of their practice, as well as resources for those looking to learn more about yoga. Check out our yoga essentials guide on what to wear and bring to class to get prepped for your first practice.