Beginners Guide to Yoga
All you need to know to get started
You don’t have to be a yogi to reap the benefits of yoga. And no, you don’t even need to be flexible. The true practice of yoga begins with a desire to live in a more peaceful existence. The daily practice has incredible benefits from increased strength and flexibility, injury prevention to stress reduction.
The physical and mental benefits are countless, however getting started can be intimidating.
This yoga guide was created to give you all the tips, guidelines and recommendations to start a successful yoga practice.
Before diving deeper into how to get started, let’s see what yoga is and where this thousands of years old practice is originating from.
How did yoga develop into the practice we all know today?
Yoga is the doorway to a state of peace and harmony that often gets lost amongst the constant stimulation we face everyday.
As defined by the Oxford dictionary yoga is “a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practised for health and relaxation.”
Before becoming a noun, the term “yoga” used to be a verb that meant:
- To Connect
- To Engage
- To Participate
- To Get Involved
It’s a process of engaging with the world to create peace and harmony. It’s being mindful. It’s being present.
With more than 5000 years of history, yoga is one of the most ancient practices of the human kind. The roots run back as far as 2700 B.C. but started to develop into a form of maintaining physical health only between 500 B.C- 800 A.D. The exercise developed in Northern India but it only reached the western world in the 1800s.
The benefits of yoga
Yoga has wonderful physical and mental benefits. From the physical aspect it can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome. It increases flexibility, muscle strength, energizes you and can help to lose weight. The stretches involved in the movements help to prevent injuries and increase athletic performance.
Aside from the physical benefits, the best thing about yoga is how it helps people to manage stress and develop healthy coping skills. Yoga empowers you to make conscious choices toward living a more healthy and fulfilling life.
Is yoga a religion?
Shortly, no. This confusion arose as practices evolved over thousands of years in the context of the spiritual and religious traditions of India.When these teachings were transmitted in the West, they were often taught by teachers who were also practicing some form of religion originated from India.
Yoga is considered as the science of understanding the mind-body connection and a path to follow to become spiritual, calm, balanced and blissful.
No matter what religion you are practicing yoga can be spiritually enlightening. It makes whatever you believe in more real and you can grasp a much deeper understanding of it.
How to prepare for your first yoga class?
Now that we have the basics down, let’s see what to expect on your first lesson.
As you already know, the goal is to bring your mind into a focused and calm state. This is much more important than perfectly executing the physical poses on your first practice. At first it may seem difficult as you will use small muscles that you may not have used too much before and your brain will need to create new connections between your body and mind. Don’t worry, falling and stumbling is perfectly normal. It will get easier with time and practice.
Let go of your perfectionism. No need to fast-track spiritual progress. Aim to create a sustainable practice for life rather than chasing crazy poses. Turn your attention inward and remember to be present.
Prepare to attend yoga classes at least 1-3 times a week. Try to gradually incorporate yoga in your routine and make it a habit. Aim to bring small but achievable practices in your daily life. Try to do some short exercise in the morning and observe how it makes you feel.
And most importantly, find a good teacher who inspires you. Someone who’s clear, open, attentive and helps you with correcting the poses.
Choose your style
Depending on what you want to get out of your practices there are many different branches of yoga to choose from. Different practices will suit different people and you may have to try several kinds before finding the best fit for you. Here’s a quick breakdown of the most commonly known yoga styles, so you know what to expect.
1. Beginners’ favourite: Hatha
If you’re a newbie we recommend you to start with Hatha because it incorporates all yoga styles. It includes slow movements and static posture holds to help bring peace to the mind and body. It’s great to begin with this style to get to know the basic and classical approach to yogic breathing exercise and postures.
2. If you want to sweat it off- Bikram and Forrest
Both yoga styles were created for those who love to sweat. The yoga poses are done in a sauna-like room to facilitate the release of toxins.
3. For alignment- Iyengar and Yin
Iyengar and Yin are both known for their precise focus on alignment. These are less dynamic yoga types, poses are held for a longer time to develop inner awareness and serenity as you ease into the positions.Effective alignment can then help to achieve balance between body, mind and breath.
4. If you’re an intermediate
After a few months of practicing yoga, you can up the intensity and move on to one of the intermediate difficulty yoga styles. These types of classes are not only relaxing but physically challenging too. Let’s see the most common ones.
Ashtanga: Very dynamic yoga, flowing from one pose to the next with each inhale and exhale. Each series of poses linked by the breath Vinyasa flow: An athletic, very active style of yoga where you flow from one pose to the next without stopping. The idea is to come away with a satisfying workout as well as a yoga experience. Power Yoga: Fast paced yoga focusing more on building strength than flexibility
5. For experienced yogis: Rocket and Yogasana
These two are for those who are really experienced in yoga and looking to deepen their knowledge. Both are very intense practices that link movement and breath while strengthening your whole body.
Other than above, sometimes you can find other ‘hybrid’ types of yogas in the studios such Aerial, Acro or Crossfit yoga. On these classes you may utilize weights, dance or dynamic movements—each adding an additional layer/depth to your practice
Alright, now that you have decided on your prefered yoga style, let’s see what to wear.
So many big brands such as Adidas, Nike or Lululemon have a line for yogis with awesome sweat proof wear. The truth is that you can wear just about anything that makes you feel comfortable.
In general following these golden rules can help you find the best outfit for your first class:
Try wearing more layers and removing it during intense sections of the class Leggings are always a good call.
Make sure wear clothes that won’t get in the way when you are stretching
Must have yoga practice aids
Most studios will provide you with their own equipment but if you want to practice at home too, here are the essentials that you will need.
Mats-The most obvious of all but it is something you will need to practice yoga and it’s better to choose a higher quality one. If you sweat a lot, you will most definitely need a non-slippery mat for a better grip.
Yoga Straps- You will use these straps to deepen your stretches and achieve a wider range of motion.
Towels- Waterproof microfiber travel towels are the best. Most studios won’t provide you with a towel so it’s better to invest in a good one.
Blocks- Made out of foam, bamboo, wood or cork, blocks are used as support for your back, head and hips during the exercises.
Commonly used terminology
Here are some terms that you will probably hear on yoga practices and what they mean.
Third Eye: It’s your inner eye, your mind’s eye. Vinyasa: Typically used with the word flow. It is a form of coordinated moving in between poses, linked with mindful breathing.
Pranayama: Slow and steady breathing exercise where you typically breath through your nose and into your belly.
Asana: General term to describe a poseture
Drishti: It’s a specific spot to direct your gaze while maintaining the pose
Yoga Online Resources
Gaiam provides both products and a constantly expanding APP, Gaiam is also available on AppleTV.
Check out - www.gaiaim.com
Great Yoga App for all levels, simple clean interface, change many aspects of the routine from the music to speed and more.
Check it out: www.downdogapp.com
Great App with experienced instructors and a wide variety of classes, Glo is a great choice for yogis who can rarely make it to a studio class.
Check it out: www.glo.com