There is never a terrible time to begin practicing yoga and enjoying its advantages. According to a 2017 national poll, around one in seven Americans practice this age-old discipline, which has alternatives for people of all fitness levels. There are many various varieties of yoga that may be accessed by everyone, at any age or physical ability, despite the frightening nature of the challenging inversions and more demanding practices.
According to Ross Rayburn, director of Peloton Yoga and Meditation, “start with a class geared for beginners.” He advises beginners to start off by practicing merely once per week and gradually increase their frequency from there.
Whether you want to take a virtual yoga class from home or join a yoga studio, we’ve assembled all the information beginners need to get started with a regular yoga practice. Of course, our health and fitness experts advise speaking with your doctor before starting any new workout program.
What is yoga?
According to the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, yoga is a spiritual and physical practice with roots in Indian philosophy that has been around for thousands of years. Yoga comes in a variety of forms, from mellow, meditative practices to more strenuous physical workouts. Performing a series of physical poses while using deep breathing techniques constitutes the norm for mind-body exercises.
Trying to describe “yoga” is similar to trying to define a broad notion like spirituality or culture, according to Rayburn. “I’ve always been drawn to a flexible definition that alters according to the context, the person, and the time of day. Yoga can be any internal or exterior activity that weaves purpose, knowledge, and affirmative agency.”
Yoga Health Benefits
The advantages of consistently practicing yoga range from increased strength and flexibility to aiding in stress management, but Rayburn says the particular advantages you feel will vary depending on the sort of yoga you practice. “Alignment-based yoga can aid with strength, flexibility, and functionality, while meditational or devotional varieties of yoga can offer a variety of advantages linked to mental and emotional health,” the author claims.
Some well acknowledged health advantages of yoga include:
- Improved flexibility and balance: A group of male collegiate athletes who practiced yoga twice a week for a total of 10 weeks showed gains in flexibility and balance, according to a 2016 study published in the International Journal of Yoga. Those conclusions are supported by a 2019 systematic study, which also found that yogis’ lower body flexibility had significantly improved.
- Increased strength and muscle tone: In one study, participants in a 12-week Hatha yoga intervention for adults reported considerable gains in their physical strength and cardiorespiratory endurance. In another study of sedentary people, it was discovered that a Hatha yoga routine was just as effective at increasing strength, flexibility, and mobility as a stretching-and-strengthening exercise program.
- Enhanced body awareness: Yoga has a long history of being used to increase body awareness, mostly because of its capacity to link movement and breath via practice. A 12-week yoga session for people with multiple sclerosis greatly increased their body awareness, according to a 2022 pilot trial.
- Stress relief: After just one session, you might experience yoga’s benefits for reducing stress. In a 2016 study, salivary cortisol testing confirmed older persons’ reports of feeling less stressed after practicing yoga daily for eight weeks. In addition, a 2017 study indicated that, compared to resting, 90 minutes of yoga reduced the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) secreted by middle-aged women.
- Weight management: A 2013 study analysis came to the conclusion that regular yoga practice, when combined with a good diet, can help support weight loss and maintenance. Another 2018 study indicated that regular yoga practice supported healthy eating, managed emotional eating, and even enhanced capacity to be active. It was published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
- Injury prevention: Yoga is an excellent technique for correcting muscle imbalances and releasing stiffness that can lead to future injuries since it can increase flexibility and mobility.
- Help with pain management: In a 2017 assessment of studies, scientists identified yoga as one of the best workouts for reducing chronic pain. Researchers concluded that 20 papers indicated beneficial outcomes for yoga and back pain alleviation in a 2020 assessment of 25 randomized controlled trials.
- Manage chronic disease symptoms: In general, regular exercise can help avoid a number of chronic conditions. According to 2015 research from Massachusetts General Hospital, thousands of study participants in a year-long relaxation program that included meditation, yoga, and prayer visited their doctors 43% less than the year before. Another set of UCLA studies found that just 12 minutes a day for eight weeks of Kirtan Kriya meditation, which involves finger poses and chanting, reduced the immune system’s inflammatory response. This finding is encouraging because inflammation levels are associated with almost every serious disease.
The top ten beginner yoga poses
Rayburn advises beginning with any of these popular poses when it comes to the best postures for new yoga practitioners. Follow the sequence below to complete a full yoga workout at home.
1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
This basic pose can be soothing and be a fantastic way to restart a session. You can always return to child’s pose if you ever need a brief break in your flow to collect yourself.
- Get down on your knees and touch your big toes together. Knees should be wide apart when you sit on your heels.
- Fold forward and place your body between your thighs as you exhale.
- For an extended child’s posture, you can either rest your hands on your thighs or extend your arms out in front of you.
2. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Downward facing dog may be one of the first poses you’ll learn in any yoga class, since it is an important part of many yoga practices. It’s one of the main poses during sun salutations and something you can return to throughout class, as well.
- Start by kneeling on the floor with your knees aligned with your hips and your wrists beneath your shoulders.
- As you dig your hands into the mat, spread your palms and fingers out.
- Exhale as you softly lift your knees off the ground while curling your toes beneath.
- Keep your attention on stretching your tailbone and lifting your pelvis upward. As much as you are able to without locking out totally, gently straighten your knees. Pull your hips toward your shoulders.
3. Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Different Yoga Classes
There are numerous yoga types to choose from, whether you want a challenging workout or something more peaceful. In the past, yoga was frequently depicted as a tree with six branches: Raja (path of concentration during meditation), Karma (path of service), Bhakti (path of devotion), Jnana (way of knowledge and wisdom), Tantra (path of rites), and Hatha (path that focuses on mastery of the body). Even while you might be drawn to one branch in particular, you should be aware that there are many others that naturally intersect.
There are many different kinds of yoga classes available, but here are a few you might encounter:
- Ashtanga yoga:A dynamic and athletic style that employs breathing to connect a number of poses.
- Bikram yoga: A particular series of poses practiced throughout the course of a 90-minute class, usually in a heated space.
- Hatha yoga: A style of yoga that incorporates Vinyasa, Ashtanga, and other positions with breathing techniques.
- Iyengar yoga: A kind of yoga that emphasizes alignment, timing, and sequencing while holding poses for prolonged periods of time.
- Kripula yoga: A mild practice emphasizing spirituality, breath control, and meditation.
- Kundalini yoga:Repetitive postures combined with meditation, chanting, and breathing exercises to awaken energy at the base of the spine.
- Power yoga:A demanding fitness regimen made of of yoga positions with a lot of impact.
- Yin yoga: A slow-moving style that focuses on the body’s deep tissues by holding positions for a prolonged period of time.
- Restorative yoga:A meditative style of yoga that makes use of equipment to promote complete relaxation.
- Vinyasa yoga: A series of positions that are vigorous and energizing that are connected by synchronized breathing.
Beginner Yoga Tips
In order to learn appropriate form at the very beginning of your yoga experience, Rayburn advises choosing a session that is especially tailored for beginners. As the practice is meant to be thoughtful and intentional in movement, you should generally take your time and move slowly.
Don’t lose heart if your first class doesn’t go as smoothly as you had hoped. It may take a few times to find an instructor that connects with you and motivates you to practice frequently, he advises, so don’t fall into the trap of believing that “yoga is not for me” simply because your first class wasn’t the best. You’ll begin to feel more in control of your life once you select the best class structure and instructor.
While you might initially be tempted to push yourself to your limits, it’s important to pay attention to your body. Rayburn advises, “Notice if you’re not able to breathe deeply.” “The breath can be an excellent indicator of whether to change, slow down, or take a break.” Additionally, attempt to distinguish between discomfort and sharp pain or discomfort. Whenever you need to reset during class, simply go back to downward dog or child’s pose.
Yoga Gear for Beginners
The majority of yoga studios provide equipment, but make sure to inquire in advance to see what you’ll need to bring. For hygienic reasons or if you have a particular preference for style and thickness, you might wish to bring your own mat. Some yoga facilities can supply you with accessories, but if you’re practicing yoga at home using an app or online session, you should think about having the following items on hand:
- Yoga mat: Your yoga practice can be greatly improved by using the correct yoga mat. You should think about a few things, including firmness, thickness, size, and materials. If you’re looking to buy a new yoga mat, Yeocat’s scientists and health specialists have tested many to determine the ideal yoga mat for every practice.
- Yoga blocks: When performing specific poses, props like yoga bolsters or blocks can offer support and help you keep your alignment correct. To accommodate for the level of support you require, you can set them in low, mid, or high positions.
- Yoga strap: Straps are a highly adaptable yoga item that can help with stretching and flexibility while supporting you in various positions.
Rayburn claims that what you wear depends on how comfortable it makes you feel. Generally speaking, he advises wearing loose-fitting yoga pants. Although yoga is traditionally practiced barefoot, our experts advise wearing grip socks if you’d like.