More of us are practising yoga now than ever before.
In fact, we Brits are now spending £790 million per year on yoga classes alone, never mind buying the best yoga mats to use at home. And with a list of health benefits as long as your arm (or outstretched leg), it’s not hard to understand why practising yoga is so popular. What’s more, size, previous fitness levels or age really don’t matter when it comes to yoga (not that they ever should) so now a surge in women of all shapes, ages and fitness levels taking part in classes, both virtually (during the era of Covid) and in person. Thinking about trying yoga for beginners? Here's why it's a great idea.
What are the benefits of yoga?
Research has shown that yoga and meditation, alongside a healthy diet and lifestyle, can rapidly reduce the fraying of telomeres – the part of our DNA that affects ageing. In other words, yoga could be our secret anti-ageing hero!
A telomere is a cap at the end of our DNA that protects our chromosomes and, as we age, it slowly starts to fray and shorten. External factors, such as smoking, stress or a poor diet, can increase the pace at which these telomeres shorten.
Scientist Elizabeth Blackburn has reported that four to six months of practising yoga can affect enzyme activity on our telemones, increasing it by 30 per cent and reducing the rate of decay. Regular yoga will not only make us feel younger but give us a youthful glow, too, with its scientific anti-ageing properties.
There are also the more commonly known benefits of increased flexibility, improved muscle tone and increased strength. If you’re injured or suffer from stiffness, yoga really comes into its own; unlike many forms of exercise, it’s very low-impact and, as a result, extremely kind on bones and joints.
So, want a slice of the benefits of yoga for yourself? Here are our top tips for getting started with yoga for beginners…
Yoga for beginners: how to get started with the practice
1. Choose a class that suits your needs
First, find the type of yoga that’s right for you, when starting yoga for beginners. If you want to use yoga as a way to relax, unwind and de-stress, try the Yin or Hatha disciplines. In these classes, you’ll hold poses for longer periods and focus on breathing techniques, making it perfect if you’re injured or have stiff joints, too. Looking for something a bit more lively to help you lose weight? Vinyasa Flow and Ashtanga classes incorporate dynamic movement sequences (the “flow”), which get your heart pumping and add a cardio-based exercise element. If you’re a complete novice, book a session that’s specifically for beginners to learn the basics and get advice and attention from a teacher.
2. Try simple yoga poses at home
Not ready for a class just yet? Following lockdown and while coronavirus continues to be a factor, you may want to try an online video and get started in the comfort and privacy of your own home. YouTube is bursting with tutorials for every style and level of yoga imaginable. Yoga with Adrienne is a brilliant YouTube yoga channel for beginners – try her Foundations of Yoga videos to get the basics under your belt. However, if you can, heading to a class in person or trying a live class online is a great option – having a teacher there to correct you in person can be very beneficial.
3. Begin your day with yoga for beginners meditation
Fitting in a yoga breathing sequence before your first mouthful of morning coffee is a brilliant way to clear your mind for the day ahead. Try sitting cross-legged with your hands in the prayer position, close your eyes and breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on your breathing – if your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to concentrating on the flow of your breath.
4. Wear whatever you feel most comfortable in
While yoga classes might conjure up images of bendy twentysomethings in minimal Lycra, traditional sports kit isn’t necessarily the right thing to wear. Choose a soft top that allows for plenty of movement, trousers or leggings with lots of stretch, and avoid dangly tassels or ties that might get in the way – and take your socks off! Or, you could even choose loungewear. But, the most important dress code of all is to wear whatever you feel most comfortable in.
5. Pause when you need to
Any yoga teacher worth their downward dog will remind you that you don’t “do” yoga – you practise it. Yoga isn’t something that can be “won” and certainly isn’t a competition. So, if you’re midway through a class and finding it too much, don’t be afraid to stop. In fact, pausing and moving into child’s pose (sitting down on your knees with your forehead on the ground) is actively encouraged by yoga teachers.
6. Stay for the savasana
Ever wondered why yoga classes are often one hour and 15 minutes? The final quarter of an hour is devoted to savasana. In savasana, your teacher will ask you to lie on your back, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Sometimes they’ll even play relaxing music or tell ancient yoga stories. Some people leave before the savasana, but for many it’s the most rewarding and revitalising part of a yoga practice. Stay, unwind, relax and we guarantee you’ll leave feeling amazingly calm.
7. Make sure you have the right equipment
One brilliant bonus of yoga is that it requires very little equipment to get started and can be done just about anywhere. But one thing that is important to have before getting started is the best yoga mat. Yoga mats will help to support your body while you work through the moves. Plus, they will help you to stay secure to the floor while moving about. So pick one up, roll it out and you’re good to go!
8. Be consistent
As is always the way with exercise, you need to keep it up regularly to really reap the benefits. Even just one hour a week can have an amazing effect on your body. But, the more you practise, the more you’ll improve your mental and physical health; aim to consistently keep up two hours of yoga a week.