Can you think of something that you used to hate, but now you love?
I can, and it’s called yoga.
I used to despise it. I hated the stretching, balancing in uncomfortable poses, and being unbelievably sore after only an hour of “light” yoga.
Fast forward a couple years later and I love yoga as much as I love lifting, running, and chocolate. (Well, almost 😉 )
I decided to give it a real chance. I practiced weekly instead of semiannually. Gradually, I could see improvement in how I felt, my mobility, flexibility, and strength.
After several months of practicing regularly, I was hooked. It’s now a favorite way to unwind, relax, and move more. I love trying new poses, forcing myself to slow down and get in a more meditative state.
Plus who doesn’t love an excuse to own even more comfy leggings?
For anyone new to this ancient art or those who are trying not to hate on it, this post is for you!
I thought it would be helpful to give a general overview of and my experience with yoga as a student and now teacher.
Yoga For Beginners: The Basics
What is yoga?
“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” -B. K. S. Iyengar
Yoga is more than just stretching and holding poses.
For some, it’s a spiritual experience. For others, it’s a way to move and relieve stress.
A combination of different poses, breathing exercises, and meditation come together to form the practice of yoga.
Yoga isn’t a religion, but a philosophy that originated in India nearly 5000 years ago as part of Hindu spiritual practice. Today, Yoga is practiced and enjoyed all over the world as a means to connect the mind, body, and spirit.
Here’s a fun fact: yoga comes from the Sanskrit word Yuj which means to unite. Isn’t that awesome?
I like to think of yoga as uniting several things. Body with the mind, movements with breath, and even people.
What are the benefits of yoga?
I love yoga because it is the one exercise that seems to combine all of the components of wellness into one practice. It connects the physical with the mental and spiritual which is often ignored.
In a world that is self-image and vanity obsessed, yoga encourages becoming better and doing good, rather than just looking better.
Yoga isn’t about being perfect, but finding what works and feels good for you and your own practice.
Yoga has several physical and mental benefits. Here are just a few!
- Improves posture.
- Increases strength and muscle tone
- Relieves stress
- Reduces pain
- Increases flexibility
- Strengthens immune system
- Boosts your mood
- Reduces blood pressure
- Betters balance
- Injury prevention (strengthens connective tissue/joints)
- Better sleep (activating parasympathetic)
- Boosts digestion
- Increases self-esteem
- Encourages self-love and care
- Builds strong bones
What are the basic yoga moves?
There are tons of different poses in yoga. I could list them out for you, but they wouldn’t mean much. So I found this helpful yoga for beginners basics video from one of my favorite YouTube yogis.
This video is the perfect place to start. It’s simple, not too long, and goes through all the basics and foundational principles of yoga.
What are the types of yoga?
Hatha – Comprised of gentle movements, common in western practice. Deep breathing paired with gentle poses to guide the body into a more meditative state.
Vinyasa– My favorite type of yoga and perhaps the most commonly practiced in studios and gyms, Vinyassa focuses on flows, breath, and transitions between poses. Less holding of poses and more flowy movement from one pose to the next.
Bikram & Hot Yoga– Hot yoga is done in a sauna type room. The air is heated to up to 100 degrees (F) and kept very hot and humid. Some hot yoga studios still offer traditional forms of yoga, but some only offer Bikram which is a strict style of yoga. Bikram is a form of yoga where you do 26 specific poses sequenced in the same way and then repeated twice.
Yin– A slower form of yoga where you hold poses and stretches for 1-2 minutes for a deeper stretch.
Restorative– A very calming and slow-paced. Restorative yoga usually includes 5-6 relaxing poses held for several minutes to encourage a meditative state and to reduce stress. Definitely worth doing if you need some R&R!
Ashtanga- This style of yoga is usually high energy and physically challenging. The classes are always sequenced the same with a strong emphasis on the breath.
How many times a week should I practice yoga?
You can practice as much as you want!
Some people practice multiple times a day, others just once a week. I like fitting yoga into my fitness routine at least twice a week.
My two suggestions here are:
- Ease into it. Like any form of fitness, it’s probably not a great idea to go as hard as you can right away. Take some time to get used to it, see how your body responds, and go from there.
- Stay consistent. Even if it’s only once a week, or once every other week, the more consistent you are the better results and improvement you’ll see!
What equipment do I need to practice yoga?
The beauty of yoga is you really only need yourself!
However, a good mat, blocks, a small pillow or bolster, straps, and other equipment can be helpful. If you’re just starting out some basics I’d suggest are a non-toxic mat, some yoga blocks, and a strap.
If you’re brand new to yoga, try taking a class at your local gym or find a yoga studio. Practicing in person has a great energy to it and you’ll learn quickly. Yoga studios are also more likely to use equipment like blocks and can show you how to properly use them in poses for a deeper stretch or to improve the postures.
If you’re not ready to practice with lots of people just yet, YouTube has TONS of videos from awesome instructors. Some of my favorite yoga channels are Yoga With Adriene, Five Parks Yoga, and Alo Yoga.
Wrapping It Up
If you would have told me five years ago that I’d be getting certified to be a yoga teacher I would have laughed. But I’m glad I pushed through some initial discomfort and gave yoga a chance.
I believe that there is a form of exercise out there for everyone. For some it’s yoga, for others, it may be something else. The trick is to explore and see what you enjoy.
What you enjoy is what you’ll stick with and that’s what’s most important when it comes to physical activity. Our bodies were meant to move!
Have questions about yoga? Drop a comment below or message me on Instagram!