As a yoga teacher, I get asked all the time, ‘is yoga for beginners?’ Our answer is always a resounding ‘yes!’
Yoga is for everyone. No matter your age, background, or fitness level, yoga has the (scientifically proven) power to calm the mind and strengthen the body, and then some.
In this complete guide to yoga for beginners, I’ll answer the most common questions I get asked by people at the start of their yoga journey.
So, don’t be intimidated by yoga terminology and complicated-looking poses. Instead, follow our guide, book your first class, and you’ll soon see that yoga is for you too.
Yoga For Beginners: A Complete Guide to Yoga To Get You Started
What is yoga?
Let’s start with the low hanging fruit, what exactly is yoga? While many might think of yoga as a type as a workout, in its purest form at least, it’s actually an entire lifestyle.
In fact, the physical poses (or postures) are just one small part of the 5,000 year old Indian tradition. Overall, yoga encompasses various practices that foster physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.
Besides yoga poses what else is involved in yoga?
So, if yoga is more than just complex-looking poses, you might ask what other elements are involved in a yoga practice? A classic yoga practice incorporates physical postures (asana), breathwork (pranayama), mantras, mudras (hand gestures), and meditation.
The practice also promotes moral, ethical, and spiritual guidelines. These are offered as blueprint through which we can live our lives, outside the studio and off the mat.
Does that mean yoga is a religious practice?
While does encompass spiritual aspects, and has roots in both Hinduism and Buddhism, it is not thought of as a set of religious beliefs. In fact, yoga can be practiced in a completely secular manner. Today, yoga is practiced by people of all faiths, as well as people who are agnostic and atheist.
So if its not just another workout, what is the true purpose of yoga?
In the western world at least, yoga is most often understood to be a system of exercises designed to build strength and reduce stress. However, the true aim of yoga isn’t solely to reap the (wonderful) mental and physical health benefits.
In fact, rather than being an activity that you can ‘do’, yoga is better described as a state of being that you strive to achieve. It’s said that the various practices help us uncover our true selves and achieve a state of ‘yoga.’
I’m not into spirituality whatsoever, can I still practice yoga?
Absolutely. People have different goals coming into yoga. Some practice for the contemplative or meditative aspects, others see it as primarily a form of exercise.
What’s more, you’re not the only one! More than 90% of people start practising yoga for the incredible physiological and psychological benefits alone.
However, it’s shown that of the people who continue to practice consistently, the primary reason for maintaining a practice changes. They discover yoga’s potential to encourage self-awareness and self-reflection and realise their yoga journey is just getting started. So, stick with it and you never know where yoga will take you.
Over time, if you do find you want to explore the more contemplative practices, you can seek out particular classes, workshops, teachers and studios. There’s also wealth of literature, YouTube videos and websites that discuss these aspects.
What are the mental and physical health benefits?
Besides the core spiritual benefits, there are many incredible, science-backed mental and physical health benefits to be reaped.
In a nutshell, the mental benefits span from a calmer mind and stress relief, to better sleep and concentration. While physical benefits include stronger immunity, increased flexibility and strength, and protection against disease.
When do you start feeling the benefits or yoga?
There’s a spectrum of positive changes that every yoga practitioner can expect to notice a day, week, month, or several years into their practice. In fact, you’ll feel a difference from your very first class, I promise!
Are there different types of yoga?
There are so many different types of yoga out there, there’s a style to suit whatever your mood or temperament. These includes Hatha, Ashtanga, Yin, Iyengar, Vinyasa and Kundalini.
To summarise, each type of yoga places a different emphasis on the various physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines that make up yoga.
More traditional forms of yoga tend to encompass physical poses, but also breathing exercises, chanting and meditation. While, modern styles of yoga often focus mostly on the physical aspect.
What type class is suitable for beginners?
In yoga studios today, you will often find classes titled ‘Hatha Yoga’, ‘Vinyasa Yoga’, or ‘Ashtanga Yoga.’ In general, these are physical practices that can be quite challenging. Added to that, the exact makeup of each class will vary from teacher to teacher, studio to studio.
If you’re just getting started, look out for classes such as ‘yoga for beginners,”slow flow’ or ‘level one yoga.’ Whichever class you chose, always let your teacher know your level of experience beforehand. They can adapt the class for you in certain ways, and offer variations on certain poses.
I’m not very fit/I have an injury, can I do yoga?
Yes! If you have an injury or other physical ailment, again, always let your teacher know before taking a class.
You can also seek out classes online that are tailored to different fitness levels and injuries, for example ‘yoga for beginners’, ‘yoga for sensitive knees’ or ‘yoga for lower back pain.’
However, a rule of thumb is to always listen to your body first, and the teacher second. While its normal to experience a level of difficulty and mild uncomfortableness, you should never be in pain.
How and where can I get started?
Practising yoga is always only a breath away. In fact, you can begin practising, right here, right now. Simply bring attention to your breath and you’ll begin to connect to the present moment.
Of course, if you want to want to experience a class guided by a teacher you can visit a local yoga studio, book a one-to-one class, or take a class online. Now more than ever before, there’s a wealth of online resources to help you build a practice from the comfort of your own home.
Overtime, you might find you like to practice without a teacher guiding you. You’ll be able to roll out your mat, put on your favourite music, and just breathe, move and meditate however feels good to you.
What do I need to start practising yoga?
Have a body? Then you’re all set. You don’t actually need anything to start a yoga practice, your body, mind and breathe are your tools.
But, of course, you may want to add some props as you progress for comfort, and to assist you in certain poses. Firstly, while you can do yoga on any firm surface, a yoga mat will cushion your knees and help with grip.
As well as a yoga mat, other props like blocks, bolsters and straps can be useful. What’s more, you can save yourself forking out on specialised equipment. Try a dressing gown tie as a strap, a book in lieu of a block, and a firm cushion as a bolster.