Are you thinking about trying yoga for the first time? Starting a new exercise routine is a great way to practice self-care so, bravo! Despite being a centuries-old practice, yoga has become a trendy way to exercise. But, there are some misconceptions about it that sometimes intimidate newcomers. So, we’re going to try and clear some of that up, and hopefully make you feel more comfortable as you downward-dog into your new practice.
While the contortionist and crazy handstand poses you see on Instagram are enough to alarm just about anyone, yoga is suitable for everyone! You don’t need a certain level of flexibility or specific body type to practice. A good yoga instructor will always ask if there are any newcomers at the beginning of each class, and will provide instructions on how to modify poses so that they’re still challenging, but well within your newbie abilities. Here’s everything you need to know before your first yoga flow.
Preserving the Past
Yoga is a set of practices that originated in ancient India as a way to enhance the wellness of one’s mind, body and spirit. Today, ‘Westernized’ yoga focuses on the physical aspect, which consists of postures called asanas. These postures, or poses, are often connected by a flowing sequence — vinyasas — to move from one pose to the next. Yoga practices often include pranayama breathing exercises, and meditation, which round out the mental and spiritual side of things.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, yoga can lead to greater strength, flexibility, and improved balance.¹ If that wasn’t enough to convince you of its benefits, yoga has been shown to positively affect body image and mood.² And it gets better. Research has shown that yoga can help boost your mental and emotional well-being, too. One 8-week study, found practicing yoga reduced stress and anxiety, and enhanced calmness in 83% of the participants!³
The great thing about yoga is that you can do it pretty much anytime, anywhere! The only thing you really need is a yoga mat, and even without one, you can still hit a number of poses in your bedroom, living room, or local park. Other props like blocks, straps, and pillows may be helpful for support in certain poses, but aren’t mandatory.
What (Not) to Wear
What you wear is completely up to you, as long as you’re able to move through the postures comfortably. Clothing that has some stretch and is fitted works best. But, don’t worry about buying expensive brand-name yoga pants. You can find affordable (and fashionable) activewear without breaking the bank!
Mind Your Manners
While you can do yoga in the privacy of your own home, going to a class as a beginner will help you get the most out of your practice. An instructor will show you proper form, and can provide modifications, both of which will help prevent injuries. When going to a yoga studio, make sure to arrive 10-15 minutes before the class begins. You’ll need a few minutes to find a place for your mat and get settled in, and you don’t want to be disruptive to others if you arrive late.
Learn & Grow
Be open to the learning opportunities that yoga can provide, from introspection and mindfulness, to letting go of anger and fear, or allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Everything from practicing patience, to breathing through the tough poses, is a transferable skill you can bring to your everyday life. And often, these are the most valuable benefits yoga can offer.
If you’re open to it, yoga can transform your life in ways you never imagined. Give it a try, you’ll be grateful that you did. Are you new to yoga or are you a seasoned yogi? Let us know in the comments below.
Remember to always consult your physician before starting any new exercise program.
¹ACSM (2011).Selecting and effectively using a yoga program. Retrieved April 23, 2019, fromwww.acsm.org.
² Halliwell, E. et al. (2019). Body Image. 28:119-127.
³Alexander, GK. et al. (2013). Complement Ther Med. 21(1):14-28.