Have you been thinking about mixing up your fitness routine? Maybe adding something to it that complements what you are already doing. If you aren’t already practicing yoga as part of your physical lifestyle, it is a great practice to add into the mix! Yoga has been around for centuries and focuses on strength, flexibility, mobility, and mental clarity, boosting physical and mental wellbeing in our bodies. You don’t have to be a workout junkie or an extreme athlete to enjoy the benefits of yoga because yoga is suitable for anyone, even beginners!
We spoke to Kyriane Miller of Prana Yoga in Oxford for some tips for yoga for beginners and some beginner-level exercises that you can try at home.
I wouldn't say I'm a yoga expert, but yoga is a part of my lifestyle and general fitness routine. Below I would like to share seven tips with you that helped me when coming to yoga classes as a newbie.
- Kyriane Miller, from Prana Yoga in Oxford.
Just turn up
The first step to starting anything new is simply just showing up. Once you are there, on your mat, it gets easier, so why not take the plunge! Starting something new can be intimidating but can also be incredibly exciting. Leave judgement and expectation at the door and experiment with what your body can actually do – it may surprise you. Remind yourself that the hour or two that you set aside in your schedule to do yoga is your time. Respect your mat, respect the time you have on it and watch what unfolds.
Beginner Friendly Classes
Once you have decided to take the plunge and start your yoga journey you’ll need to find a studio, gym or teacher that offers beginner friendly yoga classes. Hatha and restorative classes are a good place to start with yoga for beginners. Level 1 Vinyasa classes can also be beginner friendly with a little bit of yoga knowledge under your belt (see 5 commonly used yoga poses below). These are usually faster paced classes that focus on the flow of movement and breath.
Familiarise yourself with some foundation poses
Perhaps you have taken a yoga class in the past, or maybe you are coming to yoga for the very first time. If yoga is an alien concept to you, it is helpful to have an idea of what some of the most commonly used poses may look like. Even in a beginner friendly class, there isn’t always the time or space for a teacher to give you a step by step tutorial on every single pose, so having basic knowledge will help you stay on track during the class. Most teachers are more than happy to answer questions, show you correct alignment and give you helpful adjustments if you speak to them afterwards about a pose you need more help with. There are also thousands of online or printed resources on the subject of yoga and a quick YouTube or Google search will reward you with photos and videos of any posture you may be curious about.
Here are five yoga for beginners' poses to get you started on your yoga journey:
1. Mountain pose (Tadasana) – This is the foundation for all standing postures in yoga.
2. Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) – This pose is used quite often in many different forms of yoga to move between other poses and is great for strengthening and stretching the entire body.
3. Warrior I, II, and III (Virabhadrasana) – These poses strengthen the legs and open the hips and chest while building core power. Done correctly, warrior II will work almost every muscle in your body, and warrior III develops balance and stability working hard on concentration and groundedness.
4. Standing forward fold (Uttanasana) – This pose begins in Tadasana (Mountain pose) and is usually the start of most flows, folding down towards the ground and then reaching up towards the sky. It is also an excellent resting pose in between other, more challenging poses if you feel your body needs a little rest. Forward folds release the hips, hamstrings, calves and cervical spine stretching the entire back of the body from the heels all the way through your spine to the top of your head. Folding your body forward also stimulates your internal organs increasing circulation which in turn improves digestion and aids your metabolism. How great is that!
5. Child’s pose (Balasana) – This is a true resting pose. I love moving through a series of heat inducing poses and then coming to rest in child’s pose. You can also come to rest in this pose during a particularly difficult moment in class when you feel like your body needs a little rest. Coming into this pose gently relaxes the muscles in the front of the body, while gently stretching the muscles of the back torso. Child’s pose is also great for beginners to feel the benefits of a deep forward bend if their hamstrings are too tight to fully appreciate the bend in a standing forward fold.
Hold each of these poses for 10 – 15 breaths, allowing your body to move deeper into each posture and gain the physical, mental and emotional benefits of the practice.
Props are friends not foes
Seriously, don't be shy or afraid to use props! Blocks, bolsters, blankets or straps can help you in a pose if you are not yet flexible or strong enough to achieve it without assistance. There is no cheating in yoga and if you need a prop to be in a pose correctly, or to truly let your body relax and let go, then definitely use one! When I first came to yoga I was determined to achieve all of the postures “on my own.” I have since learned how amazingly beneficial using a prop can be and would much rather have their assistance than compromising my body and potentially injuring myself.
A yoga mat is also a nice investment if you plan on continuing your practice at home and is nice to have in case your studio or gym doesn’t have one you can use. Also, remember to wear comfortable clothing that you know you can move, sweat and relax in without revealing things you don’t want to share or restricting your overall movement.
When it comes to taking your yoga accessories to a class with you, it’s useful to have a ready-packed back that you can grab as you leave the house. To keep your yoga accessories like a block, belt, and blanket in one place try the Boudavida Cushty Bag with front straps designed for your yoga mat and internal compartments to meet all your requirements.
The importance of breath
That sounds easy enough right? We do it all day every day, but one of the most common things you will hear in a yoga class is “remember to breathe”. A phrase usually directed towards you while you are holding a certain pose that takes a great deal of concentration, possibly causing your limbs to shake a little with fatigue. Often the very last thing we think to do after following all the cues to achieve a posture is to remember to breathe. I, for one, know I am a terrible culprit for holding my breath while attempting to hold a pose or move through a vinyasa flow. Breath and yoga go hand in hand and the more you connect the two, the more in tune you will become with your body. Breathing in yoga is done in and out of the nose and into the belly. The control of your breath allows you to reach a whole new level of your yoga practice – helping you move deeper into a stretch, holding a pose for longer, or emptying your brain (if you can) of too many cluttered thoughts. The advanced practice of breath control in Yoga is called Pranayama - with prana meaning the “breath” or vital energy in the body and ayama meaning “control”.
Leave judgement and expectation at the door
Try not to be too serious when coming to yoga for the first time. This is an opportunity to learn something new and to see where your body takes you. If you approach it with excitement and openness you will benefit far more from the practice than if you limit yourself with rigidly set expectations. Yoga is more about practicing progress rather than perfection and every single person who comes to practice yoga is different, with different bodies and different abilities. Comparing yourself to others only inhibits your own personal yoga growth. I try to remind myself that my mat is my little island and that what I achieve and accomplish on it is purely for me and no one else. Each new day that you show up to practice yoga will reward you in some way and the more you practice, the more poses and concepts will begin to click in a way that makes sense for you.
Keep on coming back!
Dedicate some time to your body and reconnect with it through this ancient practice. We were all beginners once, so just keep coming back! Set yourself smaller goals to begin with, such as attending one class a week or looking up and practicing a few new yoga poses a month. Once you have the basics under your belt you can begin to customise your own home yoga flows, which can be great fun! Practice gratitude for what your body can do and accomplish and smile when a pose becomes difficult, because all that means is that you have something new to learn.
So there you have it. Yoga for beginners isn’t a scary addition to your fitness routine, but should instead inspire you to add something new to the mix and just go with the flow!
To Find out More about Prana Yoga, visit their website and social media pages below:
Prana Yoga: www.pranayogaoxford.com