The Beginners Guide to Starting Yoga



The most important question in planning and beginning any endeavor is to know and understand your motivation. As with all sparkling, new ideas that can motivate us to imagine ourselves and our lives different, better and more, once underway the difficulties of the everyday routine will begin to assert themselves. Knowing why you’re changing your routine is the key to long-term success. One of the magical things about yoga is that whether your motivation is a great rear view or ultimate enlightenment, the practice of asana - or yoga poses - will not only meet your needs when done intelligently, but will deepen your motivation over time. The most important thing is to be clear and honest with yourself about your real reason for coming to the mat.

Once you’re clear about your “Big Why,” you can begin to create the how. The first question to narrow your options is to ask whether you’ll be attending regular classes or practicing at home with downloads, podcasts and the wisdom of your inner teacher. Classes have the advantage of outside accountability, knowledge, interaction and community. Home practice can be an excellent way to explore different styles and teachers before committing to just one. Home practice is good for self-motivated types who just need a practice time and a plan, but not the best choice if you’re socially motivated and crave the feedback and energy of a group.

Choose your style of yoga, or choose to explore a range of styles. All yoga pose practices are some form of Hatha Yoga. Different teachers have focused on specific forms of practice to create their own signature styles. Iyengar Yoga focuses on longer holds and strict alignment. Vinyasa Yoga generally means a flowing style of yoga relying the structure of the Sun Salutation to move between poses and build heat. Anusara Yoga uses philosophy and metaphor to align the body organically through spirals of energy. Restorative Yoga aims at total relaxation, while Power Yoga relaxes through a process of rigor and exertion. Your motivation will go a long way toward selecting your style.

Schedule your practice. As with all commitments, the items on the to-do list that actually get done are the ones we create time for. So write it down. If you’re going to take classes, be sure those times are blocked out on your schedule keeper. If you’re going solo at home, decide morning or evening and set aside a determined period of time. Write it down and make it non-negotiable. Decide how you’ll be guided through your practice if you’re going it on your own and choose the podcasts, download sites or DVDs you’ll use ahead of time. Many teachers now teach via webcam and having one session each week or even every month can be a wonderful way to guide your development. There are many websites with multiple videos of yoga classes and these are often quite affordable. Right here on this website there are 38 practices you can print out and use to guide your practice so that you progress safely and with understanding.

Provision yourself. You’re embarking on an adventure, make sure you have the basic supplies on hand. You’ll definitely want a yoga mat, though some people go without. The mat not only creates a portable “space” that once unrolled becomes your visual and tactile cue for practice, but provides resistance in poses like Downward Facing Dog that will make understanding the principles of muscular engagement easier for a while. The routines above have a list of “props” you might want. These include yoga blocks, bolsters and straps and can be obtained for less than a 10-pass class costs at most studios. You’ll want loose fitting clothing that doesn’t bind when you bend. Sweats will do, but you might feel motivated by having special duds that make you feel like doing yoga.

Get the lay of the land. Many yoga studios websites will give you the etiquette of the studio. Read this before you go for your first class. Some general guidelines that will always ease your path include silencing your cell phone, not just putting it on vibrate. Clean the mat you use if you’re borrowing one. Don’t wear scents or perfumes to class. Keep talking during class limited to asking or answering the teacher’s questions.  Go to best class for you: don’t go to a class labeled Advanced if you’re not ready for it, and don’t bust out your one arm balances in a Basic class while the teacher is instructing Warrior II. Come with an empty stomach, having eaten your last meal at least 2 hours before class. Let the teacher know if you have any injuries or don’t want to be touched to adjust your pose. Finally, always stay for final resting pose and don’t disturb the class during this important time for integrating the practice.

Planning is everything, plans are nothing. Now that you’re prepared, let go of all your expectations and enjoy your adventure. Remember there will ups and downs and just stay true to your commitment. Adjust when you are faced with an obstacle, but don’t give up. And always remember the feeling you had after your last yoga class; it will get you out of bed in the morning, through traffic after work and help you make do when you forget your favorite tank top.

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