Yoga is becoming more and more popular as time ticks along. Originating from ancient India, yoga is said to control the mind and help the body.
In more recent years, yoga has become a huge industry with brands offering classes, clothing, books equipment and a host of other things. It also boasts many celebrity endorsees such as Jennifer Aniston, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, Alessandra Ambrosio, LeBron James, Madonna and Adam Levine.
So, if you are sold on the idea of freeing the body, giving your body a workout and calming the mind then yoga might just be for you. If it all seems a bit alien and you’re wondering where to start, then we’re here for you. Here is our guide on how to start practicing yoga.
It can be daunting when you first start to research anything yoga related, especially reading or listening to all these odd terms that are used so casually. However, stick with it and you’ll learn them quite quickly. The main terms you’ll come across are:
Asana – this translates to ‘seat’ but is used to refer to the different poses in yoga.
Meditation – this refers to freeing your mind and having no agenda. People often believe you aren’t supposed to think about anything when you meditate, which is not true, and probably not possible. Instead try focussing on your breathing. When thoughts come to your mind, acknowledge it then focus on your breathing again.
Pranayama – these are breathing techniques, there are different types of pranayama with each one having slight differences. You’ll get to know them and find ones you prefer as you continue your yoga journey. Pranayama is pronounced ‘praw-nee-yaw-mah’.
Savasana – this is typical the final pose when practicing yoga and translates to corpse pose. It involves lying on you back with arms to your side and legs stretched in front of you. Savasana is pronounced ‘shaw-vah-saw-nah’.
Namaste – usually used at the end of the practice or class. You say namaste, pronounced ‘nah-mah-stay’ as you bring your head towards your heart. The ritual is seen as honouring yourself, those around you and your commitment to your practice.
Not all yoga is the same, there are now a wide range of different styles with varying degrees of difficulty. The best thing to do is try a few and find what suits you the most. Here are a few common ones you might see.
Hatha – probably the most common yoga. It’s a yoga that will likely be both poses and breathing exercises. It tends to focus less on the philosophy of yoga and more on the physical side.
Bikram – also known as hot yoga, Bikram involves a set of 26 poses performed in a warm room often around 35 degrees. The heat is said to help create a cardio workout too and deepen the stretches.
Yin – this sort of yoga has more emphasis on stretching. It focuses on the spine, pelvis and knees aiming to improve flexibility. You will hold the poses for longer than other classes, around two to five minutes.
Ashtanga – a style of yoga that focuses on progressive yoga sequences. It can be a tricky class for a beginner, so find a good teacher. However, it can provide a great body workout.
Vinyasa – like Ashtanga, Vinyasa often has a yoga flow that can include some very advanced movements. It usually is an energetic type of yoga and normally has music accompanying the class.
Part of the magic of yoga is that you don’t need much equipment if any to get started. If you are serious about yoga then a good place to start would be with a good yoga mat. A towel and yoga block could also be useful. Some styles of yoga use other types of equipment, but you should find yourself able to do most with a mat and a block.
In terms of clothing, there are many brands offering specific yoga clothes, but really you just need to wear some clothing that isn’t too restrictive. Some sports shorts and a t-shirt that aren’t too tight will allow you to practice yoga.
The best thing to do is just start practicing yoga and then decide what you need as you go through your journey. Nobody will judge you for not having the right top on or not having your own mat.
Breathing is a huge part of yoga it helps you to relax, calm the mind and reduce stress. It’s also the first step towards the meditation aspect of yoga, if that’s something you want to get into.
There are different types of breathing in yoga such as abdominal, interval, alternate nostril and ujjayi. Don’t let all the different sorts put you off, you’ll learn them as you progress. A good start is just to practice taking a deep breath in for a few seconds, hold it briefly, exhale slowly and hold it briefly again. You shouldn’t feel out of breath or like it’s hard, it should feel natural and relaxing. Starting to just focus on your breath for a short time is a great place to begin and will set you up for other types to come.
So, you know a brief history, you know some of the terms, you’ve done a bit of breathing and your ready to go. We’d suggest going to a few classes and finding a yoga you like and then learning it there.
If you feel a bit self-conscious there are lots of beginner yoga videos on the internet that you can follow along with at home. If even that seems daunting we’d recommend looking up the following moves and giving them a try.
Don’t worry if they seem hard to start with or if your flexibility is poor. As with most things you’ll improve with practice.
Hopefully that’s given you enough information about yoga and getting started now go and enjoy your journey. There is a friendly and welcoming community out there, go and meet some people and see why so many people enjoy practicing yoga regularly.