If you search the internet for information related to yoga for beginners you will no doubt find A GAZILLION posts with poses, must have tools or accessories, and the latest yoga fashions.
These articles make it look so easy and often imply that in 6 weeks you will be an enlightened yogi with six-pack abs and inner peace.
I know. I was a beginner not so long ago. It can be a little overwhelming, to say the least!
Well, I’m not here to share the latest fashions (mostly because I am not at all fashionable (although I do wear yoga pants almost every day….), promise a tight rear-end, or show you how to find a peace that flows from within, but I can give you some basics and help you get started.
Quick question: If you find inner peace so abundant that it just flows right out, could I stand next to you for a while and soak some of that in? 😀
Anyway, if you’re looking for the benefits of yoga, helpful tips, and how to start, you’ve come to the right place!
Let me show you all the basics a beginner needs to know 😉 (From someone who was a beginner not too long ago!)
What Is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient practice that dates back over 5,000 years.
Even though the origins can be traced back thousands of years, it has changed and evolved over time.
Because of the popularity of yoga today, you can find people that enjoy the practice, but not all subscribe to the spiritual aspect.
People from all religions and walks of life choose to focus on the mind-body connection, their breathing, and increasing flexibility and overall well-being.
Benefits Of Yoga
The benefits of yoga are numerous! Here are a few that you might find interesting:
- Relaxing for the mind
- A sense of peace or calmness
- Mental clarity
- Increased flexibility
- Increased muscle strength
- Better posture
- Increase in bone strength
And So. Much. More!! Doing yoga can be seriously amazing for your health!
Yoga is a great exercise for almost every person, no matter your fitness level. It is very easy to customize and even doing just a little can have big benefits!
An Effective Workout For Beginners And Advanced Alike
Ok, so this is one of my favorite things about yoga- it is great for everyone no matter your fitness level.
For people who have never stepped foot on a mat to professional athletes and everyone in between, yoga can be an effective workout.
The reason that this can work for so many is that modifications can be made to poses if needed.
As you progress and gain strength and flexibility, you can tackle some of the poses without modification, then add even more advanced poses.
But don’t forget- there’s no competition or need for comparison.
This is your practice and your fitness journey!
Now that you know what yoga is, the benefits, and how effective it can be, let’s move on to learning the lingo, equipment, and poses for beginners.
Yoga Lingo For Newbies
If you are going to a yoga class for the first time, or even if you are trying it at home with a video, you’re probably going to hear some words that might be new.
Have no fear!
I’ve got 11 words and their meanings so you can start your new class or practice with confidence!
In a class, you will probably hear this word used in place of the word pose. Example: “In this asana we will want to hold it for 3-5 breaths.”
A sequence of poses where you coordinate movement with breath.
A sound or phrase that is repeated (out loud or to yourself) and can help deepen concentration.
The life force or energy
Breathing exercises, often at the beginning of class, that help to free your breath and remove any obstacles creating a free flow of your life force. If you don’t subscribe to this belief, some see it as breathing exercises that help them release tension, get centered, and help them get into a good mindset. Some use this time of breathing to pray and open themselves to God. Whatever you believe will work just fine. Just remember to breathe! 😉
This basically means a specific place you look while concentrating in a pose. A point of gaze can be really helpful when trying to hold balancing poses so you might hear this word used then.
Sit bones can be found on the bottom of the pelvis. You can definitely feel them if you are sitting on something hard.
Not sure where your sacrum is? No worries! It’s just the triangle-shaped bone on the back of your pelvis. (AKA- the area of your behind where there is a crack 😉 )
The core is the midsection of your body. Some think of it as just your abdominals but really, the abdominals work together with other muscles in the front, back, and side to stabilize your body.
These are internal locks that, when activated, provide strength, lift, and balance to muscles in the body. There are three main bandhas- the Mula Bandha (pelvic floor muscles), Uddiyana Bandha (abdominal muscles), and the Jalandhara Bandha (the throat).
This has kind of become a general term and often describes a yoga class that is slower with an emphasis on practicing poses and breathing.
Equipment And Accessories
There is very little that you actually need in order to start your yoga practice.
The only real essential is comfortable clothes.
This one is really important because if you are wearing restrictive clothes, you probably won’t be comfortable and it could make some of the poses more difficult.
Tip: Don’t wear a shirt that is too baggy! A baggy shirt will irritate you through the whole class (or video) by slipping up and showing parts you might not want to share with a class. Don’t ask me how I know but, trust me on this one!!
Helpful equipment you may want to consider would be:
By no means do you need all (or any) of the products listed above.
Many yoga classes have equipment that you can borrow. This gives you a chance to try out different yoga accessories like mats or blocks to see what you like before buying.
Just be sure to call ahead to see what you need to bring or if the equipment is supplied.
If you are starting at home you really just need comfy clothes, a video or print out of poses, and the desire to begin.
You can improvise at first by using a towel instead of a yoga strap or a rug instead of a mat, for example. Then, if you like yoga and want to stick with it you can invest in equipment.
Best Yoga Poses For Beginners
So, you know what yoga is, some of the lingo, and are ready to get started. At this point, you may be wondering what poses are best for a yoga newbie. I’ve got you covered.
Here are 6 poses that are great when you’re just starting out:
Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
This one is just like how kids sit on the floor in school. It is often called “criss-cross applesauce”. Be sure to sit up straight and even on those sitting bones. A pillow or folded blanket can be helpful with this pose. This is a great stretch for the knees and ankles and helps open the hips.
Marichi’s Pose (Marichyasana III)
Start sitting straight with legs out in front of you, then bend one knee and cross over the other straight leg. Twist toward your bent knee and use your opposite bent arm to help you twist it out. Great for strengthening and stretching the spine.
Half Pigeon Pose (a variation of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
A wonderful hip opener that can also help stretch the psoas muscle. Start in downward facing dog pose, go into a low lunge and lower your back leg to the ground. Then lower your front knee down and turn it in. Put your hands down in front, sit up straight, and make sure your hips are pointed forward. This is a great pose to try a block or folded blanket if extra support is needed.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
If you’re looking to stretch the abdomen, shoulders, and strengthen the spinal column, this pose is for you. All you need to do is lay on the floor on your belly, make sure the tops of your feet are pressing against the floor, put your hands under your shoulders, and bring your elbows into your sides as you push up.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
A great stretch for your hands, shoulders, calves, and hamstrings. It also helps to strengthen arms and legs. For this pose, start on your hands and knees, push your knees off the floor and then send your thighs back, bottom up, and stretch your feet down to the ground.
Triangle Pose ( Trikonasana)
The triangle pose stretches hips, knees, spine, shoulders, thighs, and more. It can help build strength in ankles, knees, thighs, and core muscles. Start standing with your feet somewhat apart and arms out wide. Turn one toe out slightly and the other faces front. Bend down toward the out-turned toe and at the same time, push the opposite hip out. Slide your hand down toward your feet and the other will be pointing up. It is ok if your hand does not reach the ground, having it on a comfortable spot on your leg is just fine.
Helpful Tips For New Yogis
Starting a yoga practice can be really fun! After just a short time you will be able to see changes in how your body feels, flexibility, and maybe even in your mood.
Even though I am convinced that once you start yoga you will love it, I have a few tips to keep in mind that I think will help you if (when) you come across a challenge.
1. Keep Going
It’s not just you, we all feel challenged at times in some way! While modifications are certainly helpful, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be difficult poses, days that you feel unmotivated, or downright discouraged, especially at first.
(If you need help with motivation check out my post. There are 13 reasons to workout that will help you when you get in a slump!)
2. Modify As Much As Needed
Don’t feel shy or embarrassed. We’ve all been there! Heck, I still modify poses all the time. Do what feels right for your body!!
3. Don’t Compare Yourself To Others
It isn’t always easy to do but try not to compare yourself to others. We all have our strengths and weaknesses in life, and yoga is no different. Just keep working on your practice and soon you will look back and be able to see how much progress you’ve made.
4. Focus On Breathing
Instead of comparing yourself to others or worrying about looking silly, why not keep your focus on your breathing and how your body feels. Start strengthening that mind-body connection!
5. Let Thoughts Come And Go
There may be times when you are doing yoga (or meditation) and your mind wanders or seems to be bouncing all over the place. That’s totally normal. Just because you are trying to cultivate a peaceful state doesn’t mean it always comes easy. If you find your mind wandering or thoughts bouncing around in your head like a bouncy ball, take a slow deep breath and bring your thoughts back to where you want them to be. After some practice, this will get easier.
6. Yoga Is A Practice
I always used to think it was strange that people would talk about yoga as a practice, but that’s exactly what it is. No one is perfect, you have good days and not so good days on the mat (and in life). Some days you leave a yoga class feeling like you are a peaceful, stretched, and strengthened yogi. Other days, not so much. We’re all human. Accept where you are that day, love yourself, and move on. The next time will be better.
FAQ About Yoga
After a little reading and consideration, you may find yourself with a few questions. That’s awesome! It’s great when people take the time to make informed decisions. Let me see if I can help!
Here are a few commonly asked questions:
1. What happens to your body when you start doing yoga?
Ok, so we know all of the health benefits of yoga and have read that changes are almost a certainty, but you may be wondering what in the world that really means. Well, not only could you feel centered and stretched out after a class, many people report:
- less stress
- better sleep
- more body awareness
- emotional release
- digestive improvement
In addition to all of that, many actually begin to crave yoga. I know, it sounds super weird, but it really does happen!
2. Can You Tone Up With Yoga
Absolutely! With yoga, you are lifting your body weight, maintaining balance, and working many muscle groups at the same time. It’s a whole body exercise!
3. How Many Days Per Week Should I Do Yoga?
You can do yoga every day if you want. Just make sure that you’re mixing it up and not doing the same thing every day. If you don’t want to or can’t do it every day, start with 2-3 times per week or whatever feels good to your body.
4. Do You Need Rest Days From Yoga?
That is a question that I can’t give you a straight answer to because that really depends on you and your needs. I don’t think you absolutely have to take rest days, but you may want to for various reasons.
Personally, I don’t do yoga every day, probably 4-6 times per week. I do make sure to change it up though. Some days I choose a longer, more challenging class or video, and other days I just do a short video or sequence before bed. It really depends on how you feel, how much time you have, and your goals.
A Few Final Thoughts….
As you can tell, I think yoga is awesome! If you are thinking of starting or are just beginning, I hope this info has been helpful. 🙂
I know it isn’t easy, but I just want to encourage you to get out there and try something new. Remember- we have all been beginners before!
You might just find that a more centered, stronger, and flexible you awaits!
Good luck my friend 🙂