When it comes to Yoga, it can be slightly intimidating and challenging to know exactly where to start. With many different types of yoga from Ashtanga to Zen, it can feel slightly overwhelming. However, it doesn’t have to be. The benefits of yoga are plentiful and great for overall wellbeing. Here is our beginner’s guide to yoga to help you get started.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient form of Ayurvedic exercise, steeped in history, involving a series of movements that are specifically designed to build strength and increase flexibility. The aim is to integrate the mind, body, and spirit to feel a sense of oneness. The practice of Yoga originated over 5000 years ago in India, and over time has evolved into many schools and practices, and is now performed in schools, medical facilities, gyms, leisure centres, and more.
What types of yoga are there?
While there are countless types of Yoga, it is a deeply personal practice and has been adapted in many ways depending on the goal. Each style is a little bit different and will vary depending on the teacher. Whether you fancy something to stretch the body or expand the mind or are looking for a more relaxing class, there is a type of yoga out there for you.
You may want to try a few different types before you find one that suits you and your ability best.
Here are some of the most common and popular types of yoga
Vinyasa Yoga- Vinyasa means “to place in a special way” and is considered one of the most athletic types of yoga. The movement is coordinated with your breath and movement to flow from one pose to another.
Hatha Yoga- Hatha is an umbrella term for all physical postures of yoga. Hatha yoga classes can be a great option for beginners as they are usually slower-paced, making them a great entry point.
Ashtanga Yoga - in Sanskrit, Ashtanga translates to “Eight limb path” It involves quite physically demanding sequences of posture, making it something more suited for those of advanced ability.
Bikram Yoga- Includes a set of poses in a sauna-like room which typically has a temperature of 40% humidity. Hot yoga is becoming more popular and is beneficial for many reasons, however, this may not be the best choice for beginners due to how strenuous it can be.
So, which is best for beginners? If you are currently quite inflexible and a bit out of shape, you should start with gentle practices until you have built up some strength. Once you have done this, you should be able to start Hatha yoga classes. After you have become familiar with the basic postures, you may want to move onto Vinyasa classes. Ashtanga and Bikram should be avoided at the beginning until you have built up sufficient strength and knowledge of yoga poses.
Is yoga right for me?
One of the best things about yoga is the fact that virtually anyone can do yoga in some form, regardless of their weight, fitness level, or age. The inclusivity of yoga is just one of the benefits of this exercise. Whilst you may still be able to do certain yoga postures if you have a medical condition or injury, yoga can be challenging or even dangerous; so ensure you receive professional medical advice before starting. There are usually ways to adapt and modify the exercise to ensure you are doing it safely which a professional will be able to talk you through.
It is important to remember that although some of the exercises and strength can be intense, you should never feel pain whilst doing a yoga pose. If you feel a strong pain this is your body telling you to stop and take it easy.
What do you need?
To start practicing yoga you don’t need a huge amount of equipment. Grab a yoga mat that has sufficient grip and ensure you are wearing comfy, preferably loose-fitting clothes as this can help allow yourself to move freely from one pose to another. Whilst some classes may require additional props such as blocks, straps, and blankets, you won't need these straight away, or can easily find a household substitute. Plus, if you go to a class, many instructors provide you with this equipment.
What are the benefits of yoga?
There are almost limitless benefits to yoga. Here are just a few:
• Reduces stress
• Promotes relaxation
• Boosts your immune system
• Help you lose weight and change your body shape
• Help heal aches
• Improve the quality of sleep
• Improve flexibility
• Prevent conditions such as diabetes and heart disease
• Improve balance and stability
Top Tips for yoga
• Find a quality teacher- Whether this be an online class, video tutorial, or class at your local gym, it is important to discover a teacher that is experienced and that you like learning from.
• Wear comfortable clothing
• Don’t compare yourself to others- A journey of one thousand miles starts with a single step. Yoga is about your journey so there is no point comparing yourself to other people. People learn at their own pace and you may initially struggle with different poses.
• Modify poses if necessary- If you are struggling with certain poses, don’t give up. Try and modify the pose to suit you. Over time you will improve at the poses but there is no point putting yourself at risk of hurting yourself.
• Get a non-slip yoga mat- It is worth spending money on a quality mat that has grip. It will make the exercise so much easier.
• Stay hydrated- Always have a bottle of water at hand and continue to drink plenty throughout the day.
• Learn some breathing exercises- Breathing correctly is an essential part of yoga. It can help circulation and reduce stress.
• Practice regularly- As with anything, the more you do something, the better you will become. Frequent short yoga sessions can have a major impact on your well-being.
As you can see there is a lot to yoga and this beginner’s guide to yoga merely scrapes the service. This is an exercise that almost anyone can enjoy and reap the benefits of. The first thing you must do is start with some gentle stretches and once you have built up strength and confidence, you can continue building on your knowledge and improve over time.