Beginning any new form of exercise can be daunting but when it comes to yoga, it’s important to remember that every yogi was once a beginner.
It goes without saying that you will probably feel rather clumsy and uncoordinated to begin with, this is completely normal but you will soon start to see your practice develop and improve as time goes on.
Here are three steps to beginning yoga.
Choose Your Class Wisely
There really is a yoga style to suit all and when it comes to choosing your yoga class, it is important to consider your goals and the benefits you expect to take out of practising. If you are looking to use yoga for weight loss or to quickly improve muscle tone, a power or heated class such as Ashtanga yoga will get your heart pumping and burn through the calories.
On the other hand, if you would prefer to concentrate on vyour mental wellbeing, perhaps with the aim of reducing stress or improving focus, a slower ‘flow’ class will put more focus on meditation and breathing.
Whichever style you choose, it is important that you let your teacher know that you are new to yoga and also that you position your yoga mat where you can see them. It may be tempting to hide away at the back of the room but you’ll regret your decision when you’re craning your neck to see or relying on following other participants because you can’t see your teacher.
On the subject of other students, don’t be afraid to learn from them, rather than feeling inexperienced in comparison. They were new to yoga too, once!
The great thing about yoga is that you need very little in order to practice. A small towel is handy, as is having your own yoga mat.
Many yoga studios will provide yoga mats for those who don’t have one, however you will usually find that you look to purchase your own once you find yourself practising yoga more regularly.
A bottle of water is a must but it is important not to drink too much water during your class, unless of course you are practising a heated style.
When it comes to clothing, yoga calls for comfortable gym wear that isn’t too restrictive nor too loose. Little interrupts focus quite like your top riding over your head midway through the downward dog!
Similarly, yoga demands that your manoeuvre your body in various positions, so it is important to avoid clothing that could restrict your movement.
Good quality leggings are a popular option and you may also wish to bring a hooded top or sweatshirt to keep you cosy during the warm up and cool down segments of your class.
Finally, leave your favourite trainers at home. In yoga, it is considered both best practice and good etiquette to remove your shoes at the door. Working with bare feet allows better and more balanced contact with the floor, something which is essential for standing poses.
Socks may be comfortable but they’ll make it nigh on impossible to grip the mat and effectively perform poses, so slip them off before the class begins too.
Ease Yourself in Gently
As a newcomer to yoga, it can be tempting to try and force your body into poses that you aren’t yet flexible enough or strong enough to perform. It is important to take it slowly and allow yourself time to get into poses at your own pace.
Yoga is great for improving flexibility but it doesn’t happen overnight; bear with it and the changes will be worthwhile.
Take on board the advice of your instructor and don’t be embarrassed if they adjust your pose. As your teacher, they are responsible for making sure you perform each pose as it was intended and they’ll make the same adjustments to more experienced participants too.
And finally, a few do’s and don’ts to help you ease in your first yoga practice
- Read up on the various yoga styles available before signing up to your first class
- Leave your mobile phone in the car. Nothing obliterates focus like somebody’s phone ringing at the back of the room!
- Expect to ache a little the following day. You’re working muscles that ordinary exercises wouldn’t touch.
- Stick around for savasana. The final asana of yoga practice sees you adopt what is also known as the Corpse Pose for around five minutes, bringing you to a state of total relaxation. Collecting your belongings and dashing off midway through savasana will not go down well with the rest of the class
- Be tempted to keep your socks on. Slippery socks and fast-flowing poses do not a good mix make
- Glug water before or during your class – you’ll get the best possible benefits if you practice with as little food and drink in your system as possible
- Give up if you don’t quite get it the first time. Give it time and the poses will become second nature