A few times now, I have been asked to offer advice on how to start yoga and healthy living. Today I will be focusing on the former, to help any of you budding yogis out there to get started. If you have already started a practice, you may find some of these tips useful to expanding your practice. Yoga really is a fantastic way to look after your body and mind. With a little practice, you may surprise yourself in watching your skills and confidence grow, on and off the mat. Remember to always speak to your teacher or a professional if you have any injuries or sensitivities to avoid hurting yourself by learning proper adjustment.
1. Find a class and attend regularly
The first and best thing that I will say to anyone wanting to try yoga is to join a live class. There really is no replacement for a qualified teacher being in the room with you to make sure that you practice safely and effectively. You will have access to classes that change each week and should have an atmosphere that you enjoy. Shop around, looking for dedicated studios, gym classes and independent sessions run in community spaces. Prices vary greatly depending on where your class is being hosted and whether you are in a city or town. There are many styles of yoga, and every class will be unique, so don’t be afraid to try a few. Most classes should provide you with a mat if needed, but check beforehand. Do try each class three times before moving on though, as first lessons are always a challenge whilst you get to grips with the teacher’s routine. Commit to getting to a class once or twice a week to start building good habits.
2. Get online
The internet has granted us access to a wealth of opportunity, and there are thousands upon thousands of classes out there. You Tube is the most obvious to look for, but can be a bit of a minefield, Start with simple key words and you should get a selection of popular hits from the likes of Tara Stiles and Kino Macgregor. Do check in the description to see if the person in the video is fully qualified, and maybe avoid the video of the ten year old posting a tutorial on how to do the splits in a day!
Otherwise, there are some great subscription websites out there. I personally use The Yoga Collective, and can also recommend Grokker. These subscriptions usually work out much cheaper than going to a class, especially if you get into the habit of practicing a few times each week. For a more bespoke experience, Yoogia offers an online class where the teacher can see you as you practice. If you haven’t got many classes on offer in your area, but still want support, this is a great option.
3. Do it yourself
Although building up to a home practice can be a daunting prospect, it really is easy to start. Learn some key sequences such as sun salutations and the warrior poses, and start to build them up together like building blocks. You don’t need to improvise an hour of flowing on the mat; start with just a few minutes at a time and don’t be afraid to jot down your poses on a piece of paper beforehand! Many yoga teachers bring a lesson plan to their class to reference, or have learnt one beforehand. If a class runs through a sequence or pose that you like make a note of it and practice it at home.
4. Don’t push yourself
Yoga has (unfairly, I feel) has a reputation for being easy. Far from it! Poses can be really challenging, but don’t over exert yourself just to satisfy your ego. Over-stretching before your muscles are ready can take you off the mat for weeks. Listen to your body and never be ashamed to take a break in Child’s Pose.
5. Just here for the Shavasana
Many teachers will tell you that Shavasana, Corpse Pose, is the most important asana. However, it is also the one that most people are tempted to skip or improperly utilise. Ideally, you want to be lying prone for a good 5-10 minutes at the end of your practice so that your body can relax and take in all that you have worked on during the practice. And don’t let your mind wander to making dinner, or shopping! Try to keep your mind still, or focusing on an image or word. If you have never meditated before don’t expect your mind to be silent -our brains are made to be busy! Cultivating stillness of the mind is something that needs to be trained for in itself.
I hope these tips help you to get on the mat and enjoying yoga!