A Beginner’s Guide to Yoga

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So, you’re interested in yoga? You’re not alone, over 20 million adults practice yoga on a daily basis in the United States alone. It provides a low impact alternative to running, with less stress on the joints.

Aside from being an exercise that builds joint strength, lean muscle, and increases flexibility, yoga also builds mental strength while reducing stress and anxiety. This all sounds great, and probably makes you want to jump right into the studio!

Slow down there, future yogi! Yoga is a great exercise, but it also involves a lot of practice and determination to master. Be sure to consider the following tips prior to joining your first yoga class.

Do Your Research

Open your web browser on your smartphone or tablet to start researching to see what types of yoga are offered in your area. Try looking on HealingRadius.com, the holistic health search engine to help you find the best wellness centers nearby. There are actually many different types of yoga that range from slow moving beginners poses to high intensity poses.

For example, Bikram is actually hot yoga, thats practiced in a room that’s heated to 104 degrees, while Hatha is a more relaxed yoga with introductory poses. Pick the class that will meet your specific needs.

While comparing yoga classes and teachers be sure to pay attention to the class reviews, to find the right professional to go to. Plus, while researching you might discover that the local gym you’re a member of offers classes.

Obtaining the Right Gear

Wait, if there’s one thing you know about yoga is that it involves a mat! So, what do you do if you don’t have one? Panic and rush out to buy one?! No, don’t worry! Most studios have yoga mats that you can use. Don’t worry about buying a mat until you’ve gone to a few classes. Maybe it can be your reward for joining a studio and sticking with it.

Now, what about tights or ‘yoga’ pants? You don’t necessarily need to go out and build a whole new wardrobe for yoga. Clothes that are comfortable and allow you to move around will work. Also, consider getting athletic clothes that whisk away sweat and moisture.

Be wary of baggy fitting clothes that will raise during upside down poses. If you don’t want to expose your tummy or chest to the room then wear a tighter fitting shirt.

All you really need to take with you to class is a positive, open attitude, a bottle of water and a towel. The water is to stay hydrated during class, and the towel is to wipe away sweat from your body and mat.

How to Properly Arrive to Class

Be sure to stay hydrated during the day to prep your body for a workout, and avoid eating a big meal 1 to 2 hours before class. Whatever is sitting in your stomach could twist and turn when your body does, leading to stomach pain, flatulence, and maybe even throwing up. For a boost of energy 20 to 30 minutes before class eat something light and simple like a banana or orange.

Remember to use the restroom before class starts. When nature calls it can cause extremely distracting urges in your body. Plus, leaving the room to find a bathroom is often distracting to other students.

As soon as you arrive to class remove your shoes and socks. Leave them in the designated shelves or cubbies, or by the wall. This way you won’t look like a total beginner. Also, silence your phone and leave it with your shoes.

Arrive 15 to 20 minutes early to ask for a mat and to introduce yourself to the instructor. Tell them that you’re new so they’ll pay you extra attention to help you with your form. This is also the time to mention any body pain that you have, concerns, or to tell the instructor that you’re pregnant, so they’ll give you special instructions based on your needs.

Lay your mat down and face the right direction. You should be facing the instructor, not fellow students. Avoid this embarrassing mix up by looking around the room for a single mat on the ground. A lone yoga mat usually belongs to the instructor, and you should face towards it.

Avoid being late at all costs. Usually the beginning of class is spent relaxing and meditating, so if you stumble through the door late and start setting up your mat in a rush you’ll risk disrupting your classmates.

What to Do in Class

First, what we can’t stress enough, is to breathe. Inhale long deep breaths and exhale slowly. Most people lock up and hold their breath during poses, which can inhibit oxygen from reaching your muscles.

Don’t compare yourself to the students around you. Every class has a few experts, and the only difference they have from you is that they’ve had more time to practice. Keep it up, you’ll be an expert before you know it.

Go with the flow. Your class may start meditating or chanting, but don’t feel nervous as these are relaxation techniques. Join in and feel your body connect with the rhythms of the universe. Focus on your breathing and relieving any tension from your body.  

It’s perfectly fine to take breaks. Yoga can be strenuous for beginners. Simply take a rest when you need to, and avoid pushing your body too hard.

If you need to leave early, do it before the end of class. Usually at the end of every session instructors tell their students to meditate or practice savasana, the corpse pose, where you lay flat on your yoga mat and relax your body and mind. It seals and completes the practice, so most instructors strongly discourage skipping it. Plus, leaving during this period could rudely distract others from relaxing. Only leave early if it’s an emergency, or you absolutely have to.

Say namaste back! Namaste is a respectful greeting that translates to ‘I bow to the spirit in you’, or ‘I bow to you’. Your teacher will place her hands together over their heart, bow their head and say namaste to end the class. When this happens mirror your instructor’s actions to be polite and humble.

Still Nervous?

If you still aren’t ready to go to class prepare yourself at home, by practicing a few poses for 15 to 30 minutes on your own. You can get an instructional DVD or look up tips on YouTube to prepare yourself for class. Give it a shot, we promise that you’ll be a pro in no time!

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