Deciding to start doing yoga can be both exciting and intimidating. A lot of first-timers don’t know exactly where and how to start. What workout clothes should you buy? Which yoga classes should you take? How do you prepare yourself for your classes? What benefits will you get from yoga? Knowing the answer to these questions can help manage your expectations so you can take the next step towards finally being a yogi or a yogini.
Yoga provides a host of benefits that cater to physical, spiritual and emotional health. Physically, you will notice that yoga can help improve your body’s flexibility and balance. With the different range of motions in yoga poses, you can gain better mobility in different parts of your body. This is very helpful especially if you have a sedentary lifestyle or are already experiencing the effects of ageing. Through yoga, you will be stretching the muscles in your body which are normally compressed. The exercise also develops proper alignment of your body, which results to better core strength. Yoga also helps alleviate body pains in the neck, back, shoulders and hamstrings. Since yoga is a low-impact physical activity, you can work your muscles and joints without the risk of injuries.
Yoga also improves muscle strength. A lot of yoga poses rely on your body weight for support and balance. Holding such poses repeatedly exercises your muscles, which develops their strength over time. As your muscles become stronger, it also becomes more defined. If you see people who have been doing yoga for a time, you will notice that they look toned and shapely.’
In doing yoga, you will also start to develop better breathing techniques. Although it is a very natural mechanism for you and you don’t pay much attention to it in usual circumstances, your perception about breathing will change once you start with yoga. Pranayama, or the breathing exercises, requires you to concentrate on the quality of how you inhale and exhale as you go through the poses.
Yoga fosters the concept of awareness and mindfulness. You will need to focus intently on your body’s actions as well as proper breathing to make sure that you are doing the poses correctly. As you do this, your mind is required to stay in the present moment and disengage yourself from thinking about past or future events. As a result, you become less stressed when you leave your yoga. The idea of mindfulness that you will learn in yoga is not only helpful while you are on the mat. You can also apply it in real-world situations such as when you are faced with a stressful situation or when you couldn’t sleep due to insomnia.
There are a lot of yoga classes that you will find in your research. However, not all of these classes will suit your level, physical fitness and other preferences. So it is important to know which ones will work best for you.
Hatha is usually a very good foundation for beginners. It is slow-paced, giving you a lot of time and space to learn the basic yoga poses. Hatha is focused on the physical aspects of yoga. Another great introduction class for you is Vinyasa yoga. Here, the emphasis is placed on the synchronization of your breathing to your movements. It is more vigorous than Hatha and is usually composed of Sun Salutation poses, intense stretching and the incorporation of movements that flow from one pose to another continuously. A more intense and fast-paced yoga is the Ashtanga. It is focused on a series of poses which you will be doing in a consistent order every time. It puts emphasis on the “eight limbs” of yoga. Because of the series of movements, it can be very physically demanding and you need to practice it on a daily basis. There are more types of yoga based on the teachings of different yoga masters. Once you learn the basics of yoga, you can move to the other variations such as bikram yoga or hot yoga, aerial yoga, and many more.
When choosing a location, opt for one which is close to where you live or work. Sometimes, even if you are determined to push through with your yoga practice, other factors such as time and distance can be factors for you to lose interest. The yoga studio should have the basic yoga classes, since these will be the ones you will be enrolling in. If your gym offers yoga, you can also sign in one of the classes.
In a typical class, mats are usually laid out in a loose, off-grid facing the front of the room. You can do basic stretches or sit cross-legged on your mat while waiting for the teacher. Your teacher may start the class with a chant, a breathing exercise or a meditation. You will then do warm-ups, a series of poses, and stretches. If you need to rest in between poses, you can take a child’s pose. To cap off your class, you will be doing final relaxation poses and a little bit of chanting.
A few hours before your class, eat something light. Avoid having a big meal 90 minutes prior to a session. Make sure to drink lots of water before and after your class since you won’t be able to do it in the middle of doing poses. It is also helpful if you are already familiar with yoga etiquette so you don’t encounter any boo-boos during class. Yoga studios do not allow students to wear shoes and socks inside. Make sure that your phone is silent and you don’t take any calls or answer texts during the session. It can be very distracting for other students and the teachers.
If it’s your first class, tell your teacher about it. Chances are, you are not the only one. If you have questions or if you need help doing the poses, it is better to ask the teacher about it. Of course, knowing the basic yoga poses prior to taking the class can be very useful so you can easily catch up.