Whether you're a total newbie or haven't practiced yoga in years, you won't regret stepping on the mat for the physical health and mental wellbeing benefits of the mindful practice. No matter your age, size, fitness level or experience, it's never too late to start yoga for beginners.
While investing in the best yoga mat or signing up for a yoga class is a great way to kickstart your yoga journey, there are so many other things you need to know before you start practicing yoga.
You've probably seen countless images of yogis on social media doing headstands or putting their legs over their heads during practice. But, that's not all that yoga is. While some people who practice yoga may aim to be able to achieve such moves, most yogis practice because it makes them feel good, both mentally and physically.
No matter your age, shape, size, or fitness level, there are so many health benefits of a regular yoga practice. These include increased flexibility, improved muscle tone, and increased strength. As it's a low-impact exercise, yoga is kind on bones and joints so it great to take up if you want to take it easy or are feeling a little stiff. That's not to mention the mental health benefits, including helping you be more mindful and feel more present.
So, whether you're interested in yoga for weight loss or want something slow and restorative, there's a yoga practice for you.
Ready to get started and reap the benefits of yoga? Here are eight things you need to know about yoga for beginners.
1. Choose a class that suits your needs
If you're new to yoga, find a beginner’s class to get you started. “This isn’t necessarily because yoga is hard or because you’re not flexible enough to join a regular class,” says Chatty Dobson, Yoga Teacher & Owner of FLEX Chelsea, “But beginner's classes tend to focus on technique and micromovements, so you’ll be getting things right from the start which should prevent injuries further down the line.
If you can’t find a beginner’s class and are looking to yoga to relax, try a Yin or Hatha class. In these classes, you’ll hold poses for longer periods and focus on breathing techniques, perfect if you’re injured or have stiff joints. Once you’ve nailed the basics in beginner’s classes, try Vinyasa Flow and Ashtanga classes that incorporate dynamic movement sequences (the “flow”), which get your heart pumping and add a cardio-based exercise element.
2. Try simple yoga poses at home
If you're not ready to sign up for a class and want to gain some confidence in your yoga abilities from home, you're in luck. There are thousands of yoga videos and classes available to watch for free online, so you can get started in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Plus, yoga classes can be a nice addition to your at-home workout routine.
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 a yoga meditation
Before your first mouthful of morning coffee, take a few minutes to breathe deeply - in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on your breathing and if your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to concentrating on the flow of your breath. This is a great way to practice the yoga breathing technique you'll learn in your yoga classes and build upon throughout your journey. Incorporating it into your everyday routine, even on the days you don't do a full yoga practice, will help you maintain a feeling of mindfulness and being present.
“As you get more used to breathwork and meditation you’ll find it appears more in your life unconsciously – whether it’s a walk around the park with minimal distractions, or 5 minutes peace when you wake up or before bed, that all counts and all have benefits,” Chatty explains.
4. Wear whatever you feel most comfortable in
While yoga classes might conjure up images of bendy twentysomethings in minimal Lycra, a 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.
The most important dress code of all is to wear whatever you feel most comfortable in so you can focus on your practice without feeling restricted or conscious of what you're wearing. “Any old leggings, trackies, or even loose pajama bottoms (if you’re at home!) and a t-shirt will do the job perfectly,” Chatty says.
5. Pause when you need to
Any yoga teacher worth their downward dog will remind you that you don’t “do” yoga – you practice 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. Yoga is for everyone and it's there for you to take at your own pace. Even if you show up to your first class and find some of the poses overwhelming, just showing up is the first step in your yoga journey. No matter how many times you have to stop and pause, you are still practicing yoga.
“Take it slow. Don’t put pressure on yourself by looking at the other people in the room, judging yourself for not being as ‘good’ as them – everyone started somewhere,” says Chatty.
And remember, everyone is concentrating on their own practice and won't notice what you're doing, Chatty says. "Also, don't forget that instructors are only human, and they’re there for you – if you have any questions, always be sure to ask after class.”
6. Stay for the savasana
The final 15 minutes or so of every yoga class is often 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 revitalizing part of a yoga practice. Stay, unwind, relax and we guarantee you’ll leave feeling calm and present.
7. Make sure you have the right equipment
Chatty points out the brilliant thing about yoga is that you don’t need much to get started. “It’s more comfortable, and better for grip if you have a yoga mat, but it’s not essential,” Chatty says, “However if you are getting a mat, don’t scrimp on the price – those cheaper mats are slippery can mess with your shoulders for years.”
Once you get into a regular yoga practice, having a good yoga mat that supports your body while you move and stays secure on the floor is a must. Investing in one of the best thick yoga mats is a good option for those who need a little extra cushioning to support and protect their joints.
8. Be consistent
As with all forms of exercise, consistency is key. If you want to really reap the full benefits of yoga, you need to commit to the mindful practice. What that looks like is for you to decide, but even putting aside 20 minutes three times a week to practice yoga will benefit your general health and wellbeing greatly. And, the more you do it the more you'll improve and you'll find yourself wanting to spend even more time on the mat.
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