Many people feel intimidated just thinking about yoga; they imagine lithe bodies twisted up into pretzels and balancing on one hand. But yoga really is for everybody (and every body), and even the greatest yogis were once absolute beginners. Beginning your practice can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.
There’s no reason you have to dive in head first and start eating, breathing and living yoga from day one. Use these 5 yoga tips for beginners to get you started incorporating yoga into your life at your own pace. The most important thing is to just take that first step.
- Pick a type of yoga
Believe it or not, there are many different varieties of yoga. Maybe you’ve heard of hatha or vinyasa yoga, or seen Bikram yoga studios in the city where you live. There are also highly specialized forms of yoga, like prenatal or restorative yoga. Most beginners will be most comfortable with a traditional hatha yoga class, which focuses on postures and breathing, or a vinyasa or “flow” yoga class, which links a series of postures together into sequences that are repeated several times.
- Find a yoga class
There’s no substitute for learning yoga from a real live teacher who can help you find the correct form for a position and answer any questions you may have. You may also find the social environment of a yoga class motivates you to practice more regularly. Yoga classes are often offered at community centers like the YMCA, or if you belong to a gym with group classes, they probably have a yoga class on the schedule. Yoga studios are becoming more common, and you can even find yoga classes that meet to practice in a park or at the beach! Beginners will feel most comfortable in a beginner’s or introductory class at first, and will probably be ready to join an “all levels” class in just a few weeks.
- Create a yoga library
If you can’t make it to your yoga class for some reason, it’s good to have a small collection of yoga DVDs to help guide your practice while at home. Try out a few and find the ones you like best. Yoga books can also help guide you through the meditation, spiritual and philosophical aspects of yoga, and CDs with breathing exercises or guided meditation are a great supplement to your yoga library as well.
- Make a space at home
Many people enjoy taking their practice home with them and applying what they’ve learned in class in a more private environment. Solo practice is good for personal reflection and introspection, and is especially helpful if you are distracted in class by comparing yourself to other students. If you have room, set up your yoga mat in a special area that will be dedicated to your yoga practice and leave it out all the time, along with any other props or equipment you are using. This will motivate you to practice more often.
- Stay positive and have fun
Most importantly, stay open-minded and positive, and always maintain a sense of humor. If you don’t click with the teacher in your first yoga class, it doesn’t mean that yoga isn’t right for you; it just means you need to find a different teacher! Don’t give in to negative thoughts that may bubble up in an “all levels” yoga class. If there are other students who are more advanced than you, take it as an opportunity to see how more experienced yoga practitioners work through their poses rather than beating yourself up about not being good enough. Don’t be embarrassed if you fall out of a pose; just laugh it off and try again. Smile and breathe through the tough poses, and if you’re not having fun, try a different kind of yoga class!
Yoga practice can benefit your body, mind and soul, and it’s something that anyone can do if they want to. The key is to take things one step at a time, at a pace that you are comfortable with, and to keep experimenting until you find something you like. Remember, there are many different types of yoga; if you give up after trying just one, you could be missing out on something you really love! Use these 5 tips to help start your practice, and enjoy all the benefits yoga has to offer.