As a Yoga Teacher I am constantly asked what tips I have for beginners, or where to start when getting into yoga. To me, this question is a complicated one. There are so many different limbs to Yoga. Over the centuries yoga has expanded and evolved into a variety of styles. There is always something new to learn so it’s no wonder yoga can be intimidating to new students!
Since I am frequently asked about advice for beginners, I’ve created a list of My Top 10 Tips for Beginner Yoga Students:
Your breath comes first. Before starting a class set the intention of remembering to breathe. As you begin to practice you will start to synchronize your breath with your movements. Allow the breath to guide you through the asanas (poses). As long as you are breathing, you are practicing yoga.
2. Find an Experienced Yoga Teacher
There is a lot to learn when it comes to yoga, and learning is much more enjoyable when you have someone who you can connect with face-to-face. Having a teacher’s presence invites you to be more confident in knowing that someone is there to assist and correct you.
Teachers are also the perfect resource. Ask questions before or after class. Let the teacher know you’re new to yoga. There are also lots of online articles and blogs to answer questions as well! If you ever have any questions you can ask me here!
3. Keep a Practice Journal
Most yoga classes have alignment cues, thoughtful insights, or interesting quotes that will resonate with you. It’s important to write these down to remember them later. You never know when you will need a little inspiration, and you can see how your awareness in classes, and your yoga practice evolves over time.
4. Choose a Style & Define your Practice
As I mentioned before, there are many different types of yoga. Research different styles and try them out for yourself. You’ll never know what kind of yoga you like unless you try it first! You might also find that your preference will change, or that you like the variety of styles.
It’s important to define your practice before you begin. Decide, how much time you have available, the style of yoga, what you want to focus on (breath, flexibility, balance, etc). Whether you’re setting an intention before the class, or doing your own self-practice at home, you can decide what your practice will be about that day.
Building a collection of yoga CDs, DVDs and books will provide you with a lifelong source of priceless information. You can listen, watch, and read these sources at your own pace, and begin to build your own at home practice as well.
You also might want to take some time getting to know some of the basic poses and their Sanskrit names. It’s a beautiful language, but can be confusing when you are first introduced to it.
Yes, yoga is a sacred and quiet practice. However, we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously! It’s perfectly okay if you aren’t able to touch your toes, or if you’re having trouble getting into a pose. Come back to your breath, smile, and be gentle with yourself. All experts were once beginners, so take your time and avoid any pain, or injury.
7. Invest in a Good Quality Yoga Mat
Using a proper mat in yoga makes a huge difference to your practice! I can’t tell you enough how many times I see people slipping all over their mats, just waiting for an accident to happen. A proper mat will provide you with enough grip and stability to avoid sliding, even in a sweaty yoga class, and it will also provide you with a thick enough cushioning to protect your knees in certain poses.
Most studios will provide other equipment. Although, if you have an at-home practice, you may also want to purchase: 2 blocks, 1 strap, and perhaps a bolster. While we’re on the topic of props, please consider bringing your own water bottle and towel to class, especially if you are practicing hot yoga. It is also important to eat about 1.5-2 hours before class. You should have enough energy for the class but you do not want to practice on a full stomach.
8. Respect Your Body
You know your body better than anyone else does. So when you’re practicing yoga, and a pose doesn’t feel right, modify! All yoga poses start from the ground up, so build your foundation in your practice, as well as each pose. Start with the beginner levels of the poses, or use props to assist you. There is alway a modification or variation to the pose. The yoga pose should feel good, it doesn’t matter what it looks like. Remember: everybody and every body is different!
So respect YOUR body! Make that mind-body connection and listen to the messages your body is telling you. Some days we might be more open, while other days there might be more tension. Know that this is okay. Respect yourself!
9. Create a Frequent Practice
Most teachers and studios will recommend practicing yoga three times a week for the best results in improving your body, mind, and practice! This doesn’t mean you have to be at a studio three times a week, perhaps make a space in your home, away from distractions. A place where you can comfortably practice, and make that mind-body connection without interruptions.
10. Let Go, & Relax
Yoga is about YOU. Not other people, not the voices in your head. It’s a practice of quieting the mind, and being present in the moment. No one is judging you, and you shouldn’t be judging yourself or others. Be kind to yourself. You are just starting out, and it’s called a practice, you’re only going to improve. Trust this process, and trust your heart.
This is a great pose for arm, shoulder, and oblique strengthening! It also has many modifications and variations for ALL LEVELS! Make sure to use your obliques to help reach your hips up higher in any of the variations.
beginner modification: place your top leg on the ground in front of you for balance support, an other option is to keep your top hand on your hip instead of reaching
intermediate variation: stack your feet, legs and shoulders. turn your gaze to look up
advanced variation: “play" reach your top leg up, and keep pressing out through the heel. you can also try coming into a side plank tree variation! (no photo)