How to Begin Practicing Yoga
Yoga can provide many mental and physical benefits for your body by increasing flexibility, reducing stress, and building strength. If participating in a class is too daunting at first or you do not have time to go to a studio, it is possible to start to practice at home.
Steps to Starting a Yoga Practice
Choose the type of practice
There are a number of forms of yoga. Do a little research and determine which type will work for you. Some types of practice may be more fast-paced than others. Check out yoga DVDs that explain how to do the postures correctly.
Wear appropriate clothing
Some poses require bending over or twisting. Clothing should not be so loose that it gets in the way. It should hug the body without being too tight and be breathable.
You do not need special gloves or shoes. With practice, you will learn to grip your mat properly with your bare hands and feet.
Use additional tools
Use a yoga mat with a good grip and some cushioning to support your body. Check out other tools such as straps for stretches or blocks that can assist you in your practice.
Beginning a Workout
Practice on an empty stomach
Do not eat for at least an hour before your practice. Keep water on hand to keep hydrated. Yoga practice on a full stomach will make you uncomfortable and will interfere with your body’s ability to twist and hope into poses. Eat one hour or more before, or have a small snack such as a banana 20 minutes before the practice. Keep water with you and make sure you are hydrated during your practice.
Start at a beginner's level
Set up space in your home or in your yard on warm days where you have ample room for your practice. Start with some easy stretches and breathing exercises. Do simple postures such as the forward bend, cat, downward dog, cobra, and the seated twist. Poses may feel awkward and strange at first, but will feel more natural with time and practice.
Start slow and pace yourself
Set aside regular time for practice that works best for you. Start with 15 to 20 minutes and slowly build up to 45 minutes. In the beginning, you may find that your body is tense. Take some time to calm down and center yourself. Learn breathing techniques and stretches that can help you de-stress. Pace yourself during your practice and rest when needed. Doing the child's pose can both stretch and relax you.
End with a time of relaxation
End your practice with five to 10 minutes of deep relaxation. Lie on your back and rest in the Shavasana pose. You can also use this time for reflection or meditation.
Consider taking a yoga class
There are a number of benefits to taking a yoga class. An instructor can ensure that poses are done properly while leading the class and also can provide one-on-one corrections to your technique. Pick a studio that is close enough to be a convenient commute from home or work. Become familiar with basic poses before taking your first class.
Preparing for Your First Yoga Class
There are many ways to learn yoga such as books, videos, and TV programs. There are a number of advantages, though, to learning yoga in a class setting. Here are some tips on preparing for and getting the most out of your first yoga class.
Wear appropriate clothing
You do not need to wear special clothes for yoga but they should be comfortable. Yoga involves a lot of bending, twisting, and stretching your body downwards, so clothing should stay put and hug the body but not be too tight. The instructor should be able to check that your body alignment is correct during the poses.
Remove your socks beforehand so you can do your postures in bare feet. Sticky yoga socks and gloves are not needed and give a false sense of security. The ability to be grounded with bare hands and feet comes with time. Practice distributing your weight evenly over your feet, correct positioning, gripping with your hands and feet, and spreading your toes.
Ask what accessories are needed
Check if the studio provides or rents mats if you do not have your own. There are other props such as straps or blocks that can enhance or deepen a pose. Bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated. You can bring in a towel or blanket to help with the poses or for cushioning your head during relaxation time.
Talk to the teacher
Let the teacher beforehand know that it is your first class. Ask her any questions you may have. If you have concerns such as a lack of flexibility or limitations because of previous injuries, ask her how you can modify your poses accordingly. Talking during the class itself is discouraged so that people can concentrate on their practice.
What to Expect at your First Class
Certain elements may be present in the room to provide a soothing, relaxing atmosphere. It will be quiet and the lights may be dimmed. The teacher will play soft music while leading the class from a platform at the front.
At some point in the class, a yoga teacher may walk around and make corrections. This may involve a verbal correction, moving an arm, or re-positioning feet. The teacher may touch you to facilitate movement into the right position. These actions are intended to help you do the posture correctly. If you do not want a yoga teacher to touch you, let the instructor know before the class. Discuss any problems you may have had with the teacher after the practice.
Modify your poses
Some poses take time to master. Do what you can and rest when needed. The child’s pose can help you stretch out. Work on becoming aware of signs that your body is stressed such as clenching fingers or toes, and try to calm down and release tension. Focusing on breathing more deeply can help calm you down.
Enjoy meditation and relaxation time
At the beginning and the end of the class, your instructor may take time for deep relaxation, breathing exercises, or chanting. The teacher may also lead a guided medication.
Participation in meditations is optional. This time can be beneficial as a time to re-energize your mind and body. Yoga classes can provide opportunities to relax, built strength, and increase flexibility in a calm, non-judgmental atmosphere.
Starting a yoga practice may be challenging, but it can be done by setting up a time and space at home for practice and using resources such as videos and books to ensure that poses are done correctly. Classes are also a great way to learn new poses and how to do them through the guidance of a trained teacher.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.