Yoga is challenging. Don’t make it any harder than it has to be. With this practical set of yoga tips and tricks, beginning yoga can be easy.
1. Start at the foundation – Many studios host “introductory to yoga” or “yoga basics” classes. As a beginning yoga student, it’s best to start with the fundamentals. At Yoga Union, we offer FREE Yoga For Beginners classes to learn the basics first. Classes are held twice per week: Tuesday at 2:00 and Saturdays at 12:30. These beginner yoga classes are optimal for introducing new students to easy yoga poses and breath awareness. This is also a great practice for any student wanting to revisit postures through a clear and straightforward practice.
2. No pain, no pain – Don’t push through pain. If you hurt yourself doing yoga, you’re not likely to return to the mat. Go slow and make yoga easy on yourself. Over time, you’ll build trust in your body and your body will build it’s trust in you too! Yoga is meant to be practiced consistently over a long period of time. Don’t rush it and DON’T push through pain!
3. Ask for help – Most yoga teachers have a genuine interest in helping their students. If you find yourself struggling, raise your hand and ask the teacher for help. Let them know you’re just beginning yoga. You’ll be surprised how willing most teachers are to work with you individually.
4. Try a yoga studio – Your ability to minimize distractions can make or break your practice. Do your best to get away from your phone, your kids, and your dirty dishes. Get out of your house and get to a yoga studio. Yoga studios are specially designed for focused, YOU time. They get you closer to here-and-now presence from the moment you walk through the doors.
5. Wear flexible clothes – You don’t necessarily need to wear high-end yoga pants. Just wear clothes that are flexible and move with your body to provide ease and comfort throughout your practice. Additionally, remove your socks. Practicing bare foot allows you to stick to the mat so you aren’t sliding around like Bambi on the ice. What’s important is that you’re comfortable and your movement isn’t inhibited. You’ll be surprised how easy yoga can be with the right cloths.
6. Use props – Do you know it’s not cheating to use props? Actually, there’s no such thing as cheating in yoga because yoga is not a competition. Props are especially helpful for balancing poses and forward bends. If you don’t know how or when to use them, go to a yoga studio that can show you, or look up some beginner yoga videos online. When purchasing a yoga mat, avoid mats that are too thin; consider the support and padding that it will provide for your joints.
7. Community – One of the most challenging things about yoga is maintaining consistency. Choose a studio that feels like a second home and if they host social, go. Introduce yourself to others. Become a part of a yoga community. Integrating with the culture of a studio makes it easier to maintain a consistent practice.
8. Don’t go it alone – Everything feels easier when you’re in good company. If you can talk someone into going with you, bring a buddy. Plan your class schedule together and encourage each other not to miss class.
9. Breathe – Your breath is intimately tied to your nervous system. If your breath is short, sharp, and shallow, your nerves will be on high alert. If your nerves are shot, this will also limit your range of motion. When practicing yoga, it’s important to monitor your nervous system to ensure you’re not activating your sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system. Breathe slowly and deeply to ensure that you’re not getting anxious. This type of breathing also has a soothing effect on your mind, making it easier to focus and invoke a harmonious state of being.
10. Relax your jaw – If you’re struggling, chances are your jaw is tense. Inversely, if you relax your jaw, you won’t struggle so much. Next time you’re having a difficult time on or off the mat, notice your jaw and relax it. It’s that simple. Try it. It works.
11. Hydrate – Hydration means water, not water supplements like sports and energy drinks. Get plenty of high quality H20. It is recommended that you drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces daily. So if you weigh 140 pounds, you should be drinking 70 oz per day.
12. Eat well – What you put in your body matters. Your diet can either increase or decrease inflammation. When your body is inflamed, your range of motion will be inhibited and your mind will be less focused. Consider minimizing foods containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, sugar, white breads and pasta, animal fat, MSG, and gluten. Alcohol also has an inflammatory effect on the body as well as many other substances, some more obvious than others. For more specific, individual dietary guidance, visit Prema Health.
13. Learn easy yoga poses first – It’s tempting to get caught up trying to achieve advanced yoga poses like handstands and back bends. We see these images and we’re naturally drawn to the grace they convey. Stay focused on what you can do and try not to get discouraged by what you can’t. Starting with the easy yoga poses will teach you how to safely approach the more advanced poses down the line; and it will ensure that you are making yoga easy on yourself. Here are some easy yoga poses to try: Mountain Pose, Downward Dog, Chair Pose, Plank Pose, Cobra Pose, Warrior Pose, Lunge Pose. An understanding of these basic yoga poses will make beginning yoga much easier.
Remember that you have to start somewhere. It’s natural to feel a little frustrated or lost when trying anything new. The same is likely to be true when you’re beginning yoga. Try to meet yourself with compassion wherever you are. Showing up really is the hardest part, so if you if you find yourself on the yoga mat, you’ve already done the major work. From there it’s easy to get hung up thinking about your restrictions. Try to relax from and enjoy what your body is capable of.