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April 18, 2018

Does the thought of yoga make you anxious?

You shouldn't be afraid.

First and foremost, yoga classes are meant to be welcoming. There are almost always other beginners in a class, so you will not feel alone or intimidated.

Yoga practice can help you connect your body and mind through breath and movement. You can use yoga as your daily physical exercise.

Some people view yoga as a spiritual practice, because of its roots in the ancient Hindu philosophy. However, western yoga is typically not affiliated with any religion, and you don't need to be religious to be a practitioner. 

Read on to learn about the health benefits, as well as some helpful tips to know before you begin your first class.

A Beginner's Guide to Starting a Yoga Practice

What is Yoga?

Yoga is a practice of both body and mind. It is a discipline involving breathing techniques, physical postures, relaxations, and meditation. People all over the world practice yoga for its health and relaxation benefits.

Why do Yoga?

To achieve a peaceful mind and body. By mindfully practicing the different poses, you can increase your muscle tone, you balance and mobility and bodily awareness. Yoga enables you to relax and better manage anxiety and stress. It  increases your flexibility, body tone, and muscle strength. Yoga will improve your energy levels, vitality, and respiration. It also builds your confidence.

While yoga is very different from aerobics, research has shown that it is equally good for improving your health. The amount of energy and muscle strength required to hold a pose can be quite demanding.

In fact, research has revealed that yoga outperforms aerobics at improving body balance, strength, flexibility, menopausal symptoms and pain levels amongst seniors, while also increasing social and occupational function.

Other physical benefits include: weight reduction, a balanced metabolism, protections from bodily injury, and improved athletic performance.

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How do you start yoga?

There is a lot to learn, explore and discover in Yoga. As a beginner, it can be overwhelming. So how do you ensure that this doesn't happen?

Start with the simplest aspects of yoga:

Breathing exercises

Learning how to breathe properly while moving through postures is fundamental to yoga. Known as 'Pranayama', which means 'to extend the vital life force', there are several different types of breathing to learn, and lots of exercises that you can practice.  

Meditation and Intention

Sit in a comfortable position, focusing inwards, and trying to calm your mind-- this is how you begin with meditation. There are lots of apps and guided meditations online to help you on your journey.

Begin with simple postures

It's a good idea to read over these General Practice Guidelines before attempting any yoga posture.  Always start with a warm-up sequence, then a primary yoga pose sequence, before going on to explore other yoga poses.

It is advisable to always to end your yoga practice with a relaxation pose. Laying on your back, relax your body for 5-15 minutes while you transition back into your day.

What gear do you need for Yoga?

To begin with yoga, you need very little. Comfortable clothing that is easy to move in and bare feet will do to start, though experts recommend shorts, so that you can see knee alignment. 

Of course, there is other gear that is useful for your practice. Yoga mats give your feet a good grounding, as well as providing a little padding. As a beginner, you may need a form block to extend your reach- it should be dense enough to support your weight.

A yoga blanket or towel can provide you with extra padding for a variety of postures, and a yoga belt can help to support and align your back, while extending your grasp. 

Where do you do Yoga?

When starting yoga, its best to find a studio that you find comfortable in. Before developing a home practice, its best to learn proper alignment and breathing from a professional. 

There are four easy poses a beginner can do to start.

Mountain Pose

The mountain pose is the most basic pose for beginners. By grounding your feet in to the floor, you start to develop an awareness of your body and posture.

Downward Facing Dog

The most easily recognizable yoga pose, downward dog stretches and energizes your whole body.

Plank

Plank pose involves balancing on your hands while using the entire body to support itself. It strengthens your abdominal muscles, and trains you to use your breath to help you stay in the pose.

Triangle

Triangle pose stretches your hips, legs, shoulders, chest and spine while strengthening your legs and opening your lungs. 

Dos and Don’ts? 

There are many dos and don’ts when practicing yoga. Its a good idea to read and understand the General Practice Guidelines before you begin.

Dos

-Always warm up before your yoga sessions and stay within your limits

-Use mat or blankets when doing your postures.

-Lay on your back after your practice for a few minutes.

Don’ts

-Practice yoga on a full tummy. Give yourself 2-3 hours after a heavy meal

-Shower or drink water right after completing your yoga practice for the day

-Practice yoga under direct sunlight

When you start practicing yoga, it may feel awkward and intimidating. However, if you go slowly and don't strain yourself, you will soon reap the benefits of yoga practice throughout your life. 

 

Looking for more ways to deepen your yoga practice? Check out our list of the 6 best yoga poses for men here


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