People choose to start yoga for a variety of reasons. From becoming more flexible, stronger and healthier, to reducing stress or being injury free. Whatever your reason for practicing yoga there are three things that will be helpful for you to know when starting with yoga.
1. You don’t have to be flexible or strong to start yoga.
A common myth about yoga is that you have to be naturally strong and flexible in order to practice. Whether or not you can reach down to touch your toes or balance on one leg shouldn’t determine if you start yoga. Yoga is all about balance, and by practicing regularly you’ll notice that your body starts to become more balanced in respect to flexibility and strength. Regular yoga practice won’t just have an impact on your physical body, but also making your mental and emotional state more flexible and stronger.
Thanks to the increase in popularity of physical yoga practice in the last years, many people’s perception of yoga is thinking of people twisting their bodies into pretzel -like shapes. This can be intimidating and off-putting for beginners, and those that are looking to improve their general health via yoga. Once you join a class, you’ll realize that everyone is in fact focused internally on their own practice and not watching or judging how you perform.
The physical movement found in yoga is a great way to open the body. As you get more familiar with the poses you can start to focus on incorporating your breath with each movement, which in turn helps calm the mind. Over time, this can allow the body to feel more comfortable and allow you to also sit quietly for longer periods of time.
2. Find the yoga style(s) right for you and aim for consistent practice.
So, you’ve chosen to practice yoga, but what style of yoga is right for you? As a beginner it can be overwhelming to navigate through the vast number of different styles with unfamiliar sounding names. These styles range from dynamic to slower practices. Even within the same yoga style there might be some differences based on the yoga teacher’s background and approach. Your motivation for doing yoga can help guide you towards which yoga style(s) will best suit you and your needs.
Ashtanga or Vinyasa yoga are best to choose if you are looking to become more flexible, stronger and for dynamic movement. Ashtanga is a relatively fast practice that consists of sequences of yoga poses that are approached in the same order each time, allowing you to move meditatively through the sequence. Vinyasa also moves dynamically through a series of poses, but the order and poses themselves will be different in each practice.
Hatha yoga can be great if you are looking for moving at a slower tempo, but still gain strength and flexibility. With more time spent in each yoga pose and slower transitions, Hatha is useful for beginners to get familiar with the most common yoga poses. Also, due to the focus on alignment and time to find the correct posture Hatha can be helpful if you are learning to practice with an injury.
Yin or Restorative styles are ideal if your goals for practicing yoga are for stress reduction, stillness and gently opening the body. In Yin yoga most poses are seated or lying down and held for 3 – 5 minutes. While in Restorative yoga many props are used for support, and you are likely to hold one gently supported pose for 15 – 20 mins.
There are no limitations on practicing more than one style of yoga. In fact, it can be helpful and balanced to diversify your practice through different approaches and styles. Do watch out though if you find yourself constantly changing between different styles and teachers, and ask yourself why that is. It is helpful to have stability in what, when, where and who you practice with.
No matter which style of yoga you chose, it will bring you some benefits if you practice it consistently over a period of time. To achieve consistent practice one of the most important aspects of your chosen yoga style(s) is that it is something you enjoy. That way you’ll be more motivated to practice. As a beginner one of the best ways to get familiar with the different styles is to try them out. Join different classes either at a studio or virtually at home and see what you like best!
3. It's all about practice. Choose the setting to learn yoga that feels most comfortable for you.
Once you’ve decided that you want to learn more about yoga, the way to do this is simply by doing it, and observing the benefits for yourself. There are different ways that you can chose to start yoga, depending on what fits best with your goals and lifestyle.
Group classes at a yoga studio or gym are one of the most popular ways to start yoga. They let you learn directly from a teacher, while also getting motivated by others in the group. You will get assistance and support from the teacher, and feedback if you are doing the poses correctly. If there are group classes close to where you live, it’s a good idea when starting yoga to find a beginner or all level class with a relatively small group. This way you’ll get more personal attention from the teacher, which can be useful when you are new.
If it’s hard for you to join group classes, or feel slightly intimidated as a beginner you can choose to start practicing at home with help from online video tutorials. Yoga video tutorials like those we offer at YogaScreen also provide the possibility to learn the fundamentals of the most common yoga poses. This is a great option if you live in a smaller place with few yoga classes available, or are short of time and money. They allow you to access the videos for free in the comfort of your home. You might choose to try each day setting aside 10 or 15 minutes to practice yoga guided by an online teacher.
Another option is to attend a beginner’s yoga workshop or course, where more time is taken to guide you through the basics. The great thing with dedicated beginners’ workshops and courses is that you are in a group with other yoga newbies, and will be given the tools you need to practice yoga in a group or personal setting.
Yoga was traditionally taught from teacher to student with personalized one-on-one instructions. Private classes allow the teacher to directly focus on your needs and tailor the class to help you reach your goals for practicing yoga. If you are interested to learn this way, it can be a great way to get personal attention when learning yoga. Private classes will be more expensive than joining group classes so you’ll need to have more finances available.
Whichever way you choose to start yoga, it’s useful to practice regularly for a period of time before you make up your mind if you want to continue it. This way you’ll give time to notice some of the physical and mental benefits. The beauty of yoga is that once you have some knowledge on what and how to practice, you can take your yoga mat with you and practice wherever you want.