How To Begin A Yoga Practice
So, you want to get into yoga, but have no idea where start. Keep Reading.
Yoga has the capacity to change your life. My favorite thing about the practice of yoga is that it fully integrates the mind, body, and spirit - all 3 of which are essential elements towards living your healthiest, happiest life. The yogic philosophy incorporates all 3 of the elements, not just the asana - or physical postures - that we are all so familiar with here in the west. The great thing about this physical practice of yoga, though, is that it is a gateway into all of the other life-changing things that yoga offers including: the Yamas (ethical standards), Niyamas (self-discipline practices and spiritual observances), breath control, the ability to see ourselves from a higher perspective, enhanced focus, mindfulness, meditation, and fleeting moments of pure bliss. Yoga is MAGICAL and if beginning a yoga practice has peaked your interest I think, no I KNOW, that it is for a reason!
So, here are a few things to consider when beginning your yoga practice.
#1 What interests you about yoga? What are you looking to get out of your yoga practice?
Are you looking to bring more mindfulness in your life? Are you looking to relieve stress and anxiety? Are you hoping to get stronger, or more flexible, or alleviate back pain? It is important to have a clear idea of what is drawing you to yoga before beginning.
#2 What kind of yoga will best serve you according to your answers to question #1?
There are many different types of yoga today. Many styles are more physical practices that focus primarily on the asanas, but there are also more spiritual and meditative practices too. I recommend figuring out and beginning with the one will best suite your current needs.
Here’s a breakdown of the most common types of yoga:
HATHA - When you see Hatha on a studio schedule, you will find the class to use basic yoga postures that you will, typically, hold for a longer period of time. This is usually a slower-style class and is great for beginners who want to focus on proper alignment of the postures and tuning into their breath.
VINYASA - This type of yoga is the most common in the West. The term Vinyasa means “to place” “in a special way”. It is usually a very physical practice, characterized by “flowing” or moving in a specific sequence of poses in accordance with your breath. Because of the focus on movement and breath, Vinyasa can be very meditative and is often referred to as a “moving meditation.” Look for a level 1 or beginner’s class when first starting out.
ASHTANGA - This style of yoga is based on ancient yogic teachings. It is rigorous, follows a specific sequence of postures, and is similar to Vinyasa in that links movement to breath. This is a great practice for someone looking for more discipline and structure in their yoga practice.
BIKRAM - Bikram is a popular heated style of yoga that has gone through some controversy in recent years. It is similar to Ashtanga in that it has a specific set sequence. and you will definitely get a good sweat when you go to a class.
IYENGAR - This is a meticulous style of yoga that uses a variety of props to focus on finding proper alignment. It is a slower style of yoga, but is still mentally and physically challenging.
RESTORATIVE - This relaxing style of yoga will help to melt your stress and worries away. Restorative yoga uses props to bring the body into supported poses where you can completely relax and allow your body to switch from the stressed out “fight-or-flight” response to the peaceful “rest-and-digest” response.
KUNDALINI - This magical style of yoga combines breath work, chanting, meditation, and a few physical postures to awaken the kundalini energy and balance out the chakras. It is incredible for those looking to find a deeper spiritual and energetic connection.
YIN - This is a slower style of yoga that targets the deep connective tissues of the body to release tension. While many of the postures are more passive, they can be intense as they are held for extended periods of time, allowing the muscles and their surrounded fascia to release. It’s great for athletes and those who work out a lot and have a lot of tightness in their muscles.
#3 It’s better to start out slowly.
It’s better to start off practicing one or two times a week, than to try to force yourself to go every single day right off the bat. Your body will probably feel sore and tired, especially if you choose a style like Vinyasa or Ashtanga. You don’t want to burn yourself out and quit after a couple of weeks because you didn’t ease into it.
#4 Remember that it can take time to find the right style and studio for you.
What I love about the variety of yoga offerings that we have today, is that there is a style to fit anyone’s needs. Just remember that not every style, teacher, or studio will work for you. So, be patient and try different teacher, studios, and styles out until you find what works for you. That’s the only way to ensure that you will stick with it!
#5 Yoga doesn’t look like one specific thing
Remember that as you grow and shift and change, so will your yoga practice. Yoga may not always mean going to a studio to take class. It may mean rolling out your mat at home and lying down for an hour in Savasana. It could also mean strictly meditating at home for a month or switching from a vinyasa practice to a yin practice or doing both. Yoga teaches you to tune into your physical, mental, and emotional state and to honor it, but to also do what you need to do to continue to grow. Try not to label your yoga practice and allow yourself the space to try out different elements of yoga when you feel the need for something new. Over time you will learn how to keep your practice strong all on your own.
I hope that this helps you on your journey towards a yoga practice that benefits your mind, body, and spirit. xoxo