So you’ve decided you want to try yoga. You have your leggings on and your yoga mat in hand. However, something is still holding you back.
Perhaps you are confused on where to begin. There are a lot of yoga postures after all. How do you know which ones are best for you?
Or walking into a yoga studio full of advanced students sounds intimidating. These are perfectly natural feelings to have. Each and every yogi once sat where you are now.
Think of this as a new beginning. The start of a wonderful journey, along which you will have plenty of guidance and support. Once you begin to build your personal practice the positive effects of yoga will appear.
What is Yoga?
Let’s begin with the basics before we even step onto the mat. Having an understanding of exactly what yoga is will lead to a deeper appreciation and a stronger practice. Simply put, yoga is a mind-body practice.
Yeah, sure, yoga exercises have taken over the western world, and your yoga instructor sure does look fit…
…but to practice yoga means to embody all eight limbs of yoga.
This ancient practice originated in India and has spread throughout the world. Yoga combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation. Traditionally, the yoga asanas (poses) were developed to prepare the body for long periods of meditation. While most of us may not meditate for long periods anymore, the benefits received from yoga are plentiful.
And if you’re not into all the other stuff that yoga has to offer, then you can for sure enjoy these benefits:
- improved strength in the core muscles
- a better night’s sleep
- stronger wrists, knees, and ankles
- weight loss
- seriously improved flexibility
The best part?
Yoga is for everyone. You just have to find the right yoga sequence for you.
Yoga Health Benefits
I touched on a few of the physical benefits of yoga above, but science has now proven that yoga can show significant improvements to your health in a plethora of ways(although us yogis didn’t need science to tell us that 😉).
There are so many medical benefits that yoga can give you, but I’ll list a few for you here:
- Alleviates stress/lowers anxiety
- Improves cardiovascular function/lowers blood pressure
- Increases muscular functionality
- Activates the autonomic nervous system
- Improves endocrine function
- Improves moods and mental state
- Better body awareness
Why wouldn’t you want to start practicing yoga if you can reap all of those rewards?!
How To Practice Yoga
Now that you know what yoga is and how it can help you I’m sure you want to know how to practice yoga. Here is the basic information you’re looking for so you can start to build your yoga practice…
Types of Yoga Classes
There are so many different types of yoga you can choose from:
- Hatha: A gentle and foundational yoga style that focuses on postures and breath control.
- Vinyasa: A dynamic yoga style that synchronizes breath with a continuous flow of postures.
- Kundalini: A spiritual and energetic yoga style that aims to awaken dormant energy within the body.
- Ashtanga: A rigorous and structured yoga style with a set sequence of postures and controlled breathing.
- Aerial: A unique yoga style that incorporates the use of suspended hammocks or silks for added support and flexibility.
- Yin: A slow-paced yoga style that targets deep connective tissues through long-held, passive postures.
- Fusion: An eclectic yoga style that blends elements from various yoga traditions and other fitness disciplines.
- Buti: A high-intensity yoga style that combines yoga with tribal dance and plyometrics for a challenging workout.
- Somatic: A mindful and therapeutic yoga style that focuses on re-educating the body’s movement patterns and releasing muscle tension.
This list might be overwhelming, don’t worry, I’ll get into which types I think are best for beginners. It’s important to know all of the different types so you can explore and play around with what’s best for you.
Beginner Yoga Tips
My top 5 tips for beginners in the yoga space?
This is a tough one but very important. You’ll want to judge yourself when you feel like you can’t touch your toes in a forward bend or lift your hips very high in a bridge pose. DON’T! Everyone has to start somewhere and everyone has a unique skeletal blueprint (I talk about this a lot in my 200-hr training). You may not be able to go as deep in a pose as someone else, and that’s okay. As long as you are honoring your body you are doing it right.
Listen To Your Body
As I just said, honor your body. If something feels really yuck in your body don’t do it! If it is painful or so uncomfortable you can’t take a breath, back off. Yoga is all about connecting with your innate wisdom and that means listening to your body’s cues.
Sometimes you have to regress to make progress. Trying to do too much too soon can lead to injury. Start off slow and see how that feels in your body first. Progress from there.
I don’t mean stretch so deeply that you can feel your muscles pulling. No, see the first three tips for that. I mean, often yoga can not only release muscle tension but emotions as well. Don’t shy away from any feelings that come up, whether that be anger or an intense urge to cry. Fully feel them and let them move through your body. You’ll be amazed at how much better you will feel.
Don’t forget to BREATHE! In yoga the breath is just as important, if not more, than the postures. I’m not saying to do a deep dive into pranayama right away. What I’m saying is, if you can’t take a full complete breath in the posture you’re in you need to back off or come out of it completely. You might find that you even forget to breathe when in certain poses. That happens! Always bring your awareness back to your breath, it’ll get easier the more you do it.
Yoga Gear for Beginners
NOTHING!! Yep, you read that right, there is really nothing you need to purchase to get started with yoga. You can use items around your house as props if you need to, and if you go to a studio they should be able to provide you with all the gear you need.
However, if you wanted to have a couple of items to start with this is what I would recommend:
That’s it! That’s enough to get you started practicing yoga. And all of these can be found low cost at your local Wal-Mart or Target.
Now, let’s build your yoga practice…
With various styles available it can be hard to know which one to choose. Hatha yoga, kundalini yoga, ashtanga yoga, restorative yoga(oh my!); what are these and how are they different? Some styles focus on meditation and relaxation, while other yoga workouts are more physical.
I believe there is a place for each and that a combination of styles makes for a well-rounded yoga practice. Explore all of them. Find out what resonates with you. Listed below are a few styles that are most suitable yoga for beginners…
…but if you’d like a little guidance then definitely check out my yoga calendar with daily yoga routines.
I like to think of hatha as the mother of all yoga. It is out of hatha which all other styles were born. This is the true foundation of all yoga practices. As a beginner, this is what you want to focus on.
In fact, it is recommended that a yogi practice hatha for several years before moving on to a more advanced style. In hatha yoga, the poses are held longer which is helpful in learning the proper alignment. This can be really important with poses like Warrior II and Extended Side Angle Pose.
In the beginning, you will want to find a yoga teacher that explains each pose in detail. It is very important to learn them the proper way. Having the correct alignment will give you the full benefits of each posture and reduce your chances of any injury.
Try this beginner Hatha yoga class to get started:
Yin is a more passive style of yoga, suitable for all fitness levels, which targets the deep connective tissues of the body. To get into the deeper muscles, yin yoga poses are held for a longer period of time. You are likely to do more passive seated postures in a yin class.
Those just beginning a yoga practice are more likely to have tight muscles. Starting with yin can help soften your muscles and increase your flexibility. This gentle practice will not only make you feel better, but it will serve you well throughout your yoga journey.
Try this beginner Yin yoga class to get started:
Perfect for someone of any age or activity level, restorative yoga is exactly what the name might suggest. It is intended to relax and restore the body. In a restorative class, you will be performing passive poses and relaxing into them.
For someone who also wants to begin a meditation practice, I would recommend trying a restorative class first. This will help you to release tension in your body and clear your mind in preparation. Before going to bed is also a great time to do some restorative poses.
Try this beginner Restorative yoga class to get started:
Best Beginners Yoga Poses
Starting a beginner yoga routine is a bit like building a house. You have to start with a strong foundation. Focus on some basic yoga poses and get comfortable with them. From there you will build strength and be ready to move to more advanced poses.
Remember that it’s not all physical movements. You need to focus on your breathing. Use each inhale to see where you hold tightness. Each exhale will help you relax deeper into the posture. In more physical practices, you will link your movements to your breath.
Listed below are some of the best yoga poses for beginners. For more hands-on guidance you may choose to attend a beginner class at a studio. If practicing at home suits you better, find a yoga DVD you like or look up one of the many yoga videos available online.
Remember, no judgment, it’s important to release any expectations you have. Don’t force yourself into a pose. Think less about the shape you are making and more about the sensations you are creating.
Sit on your feet with your knees apart and toes together, pad the knees with a folded blanket if needed. Extend your torso forward and reach your arms long. Rest your forehead on the ground and relax down. Keep your arms active to feel a gentle stretch in the shoulders.
Think of energetically reaching your tailbone back behind you. This will lengthen the spine and help to release the low back. Hold for 5-10 breaths, relaxing down more with each exhale.
Balasana is an important restorative yoga pose. You can return to this during any yoga class. If you ever feel out of breath or like you need a break during a class, come into child’s pose and do some deep breathing.
From standing, step your left leg forward and keep the right leg back. Point your left foot straight forward and keep your back right foot on a 45 degree angle. Square your hips to the front of the mat. Try to keep a micro bend in the left knee so it doesn’t lock.
Lean your torso keeping the spine straight, gaze forward. Lean down as far as you can keeping the spine straight. Press your fingertips into the floor on either side of the foot. If touching the ground is not possible you can use yoga blocks.
Feel this deep stretch in the hamstring and breathe into any tightness. As you gain flexibility you will be able to bring your torso closer to your leg. Hold for 5 – 10 breaths and then repeat on the other side.
You will probably not attend a beginner yoga class without doing a downward-facing dog. It is one of the foundational postures and a key part of sun salutations. In this posture, the body takes the shape of an inverted “V”.
Root the palms of the hands and the feet into the earth. Think of evenly distributing your weight between your hands and feet. Keep your arms straight with the crease of your elbows facing forward. Square your shoulders to the earth and broaden through the collarbone.
As you press into your hands, slowly raise your sitting bones up to the sky. Your neck should be relaxed with the crown of the head pointing towards the earth. Keep your gaze down and slightly forward.
Work your heels towards the ground. Yogis with tight hamstrings can lift the heels slightly off the ground or keep the knees bent. You should feel a stretch in the shoulders, hamstrings and calves.
Stand on the mat with your feet hip width apart. Bend forward at the crease of the hip with the spine long. Relax the neck and the crown of the head towards the earth. Allow the weight of your head to stretch and elongate the spine.
Keep your feet rooted evenly into the ground and your legs active. Lift the kneecaps up to engage the quadriceps. The chest and thighs should aim to touch. Think of lifting your tailbone up towards the sky.
Rest the fingertips onto the ground. If your hamstrings are tight place a small bend in the knees. Breathe deeply here feeling a stretch in the hamstrings and a lengthening in the spine.
Start with these basic yoga poses and observe the changes you feel in your body. Enjoy this time as you explore and build your practice. Once you have this strong foundational pose, your practice will blossom.
If standing poses prove to be difficult at first you can always take this to the floor for a seated forward bend too.
See more yoga poses: Yoga Pose Directory
What yoga should a beginner start with?
There can be many different paths when you start practicing yoga. What looks the most interesting to you? It might be nice to start with a slower hatha yoga flow to get more familiar with the poses(give this Hatha Flow For Beginners a try). But, if you enjoy something a bit faster paced give vinyasa a try, like this Beginner Vinyasa Flow. Just make sure to take a beginning yoga class where the teacher will give you plenty of cues so you can practice safely.
I have an entire Find Your Style Challenge that lives in the Uplifted App that can help you too.
How do I start yoga for the first time at home?
Starting yoga at home is a breeze and a great way to start a daily practice! Just find a nice spot to roll out your mat. Maybe you have a separate quiet room you can do that in or maybe you have to do it in the living room while the kids play around you. Either way works! Then you just put on your Uplifted App or favorite YouTube Channel, choose your video and go!!
How often should you do yoga as a beginner?
As often as you’d like! Listen to your body and judge from there. Start with a couple of days a week and see how you feel. Are you longing for more? Or feel like you’ve overdone it? Tune in to your body’s cues to determine how often is right for you.
How do I start learning yoga by myself?
I encourage you to work with a certified instructor to start your yoga journey. This doesn’t mean you have to go to a studio if you don’t want to. There are plenty of AMAZING online yoga instructors that can help you. Like my friends, Sarah Beth or Kassandra. I have a large resource for beginners as well! That said, working with someone in person, whether at a studio or in a private session, can be invaluable. They can assess your form, help you make adjustments and answer any questions you may have. Do your research to find reputable instructors in your area.
- If you’re interested in practical kriya yoga as a way to improve your daily life and relationships, check out my Yoga for Self Mastery course.
- Order my Yoga Life book for a practical guide to creating balance in your life through yoga.
- Check out my YouTube channel and find some yoga classes that you can try out for yourself!
Learn how to do 11 of the most popular yoga poses correctly. Free video + PDF download.
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