Yes, starting a yoga practice can be very intimidating. One of the number one reasons I hear from people for not starting a practice is that they feel they are not flexible enough to do yoga. That is why you start! Yoga helps build flexibility, so you can just meet your body where it is now and get started. As long as you show up on your mat, you can benefit from yoga.
Besides flexibility, yoga is also great for increasing muscle strength, reducing pain, improving mental clarity, it offers a sense of calmness, relaxes the mind and relieves stress.
With so many studios popping up and yoga seemingly everywhere, it has never been more accessible. However, it can also be a bit overwhelming to know where to begin. Here’s some tips and information to get you started and on your mat in no time.
There are now several styles and schools of Yoga. Here are a few and their different approaches.
- Hatha – this is a generic term that refers to most forms of yoga. Typically these classes move a bit slower and focus on holding poses (or asanas) for a few breaths.
- Iyengar – developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, this type of yoga utilizes props such as yoga blocks and straps to make the asanas more accessible. This is a great practice for beginners or someone who maybe has difficulty with balance, alignment or who has certain physical conditions.
- Vinyasa – Vinyasa is a more fluid and constant moving form of yoga. Asanas are linked with breath and transitioning from one asana to the next is part of the practice. When you see classes labeled as Power Yoga, they are usually a form of Vinyasa.
- Gentle or Restorative – there are many forms of gentle or restorative yoga, such as Yin Yoga. These classes will also feature props like yoga blocks and bolsters in order to support the body in more passive poses. These classes typically move very slow and are great for relaxation.
I highly recommend trying out a few classes and styles to get a feel for what type of practice you may be drawn to. Also, taking a class in a studio means you will have a teacher there to watch your alignment in the poses so as to avoid injury.
A certified yoga teacher will be able to modify the exercises for you and help you to find the proper alignment in each exercise. Make sure that your teacher is there to teach, focus on your alignment, and keep you safe. They should not be practicing alongside you for the whole class. They are there to teach, not get in a workout of their own.
A knowledgeable teacher will focus on alignment, anatomy and offer modifications for special cases or injuries. They should also be able to teach all levels of students at once, teaching the exercises so a beginner can do them, while offering progressions of the exercises for intermediate and advanced students in the class. No yogi left behind!
If the thought of going to a studio is still a bit intimidating, there are now many options that can help you start a practice at home. This is actually how I got started in my own yoga practice, which led me to practicing at local studios and then eventually getting certified to teach.
All you need is a mat and some floor space to get started. I started off by following along to yoga DVDS. Some of my favorite yoga DVDs are from Gaiam, especially Gaiam Healing Yoga DVD With Rodney Yee. Not to mention that there are so many great instructors who do videos on YouTube (myself included) and there are even some pay per view yoga sites online. These help to make getting started easy and fun. Here are a few that I love:
As far as what to wear, just wear what you are comfortable in. I prefer athletic gear that is lightweight, more form fitting, breathable and moisture wicking. I prefer more form fitting clothes when I work out, because extra fabric can actually be a hindrance and just get in the way. However, wear whatever you feel comfortable in and what’s going to get you on your mat.
Make sure to have a towel nearby for sweat and to wipe sweat off your mat so you don’t slip in certain poses. Also, have a water bottle handy so you can stay hydrated while focusing on your practice. Props are a great way to help make certain asanas more accessible as well as take you even deeper in some poses. I recommend having at least one yoga block and a yoga strap ( or a long towel or belt will do). You can find these anywhere now, even at places like Target, TJ Maxx and sporting goods stores. I’ll leave a few links at the end of this article of my favorite yoga props. I’ve also included one of my YouTube videos that is a short and gentle yoga practice perfect for beginners.
I hope this post as given you some more information on starting a practice and helped to relieve some of the anxiety about getting started. If you have any questions please comment below or reach out to me and I’ll be happy to answer them. Now unroll that mat and get your yoga on. Namaste!