10 yoga tips for beginners

Yoga has become an increasingly popular form of exercise around the world. If you have never tried yoga, you may be wondering if it is the right exercise for you, how to prepare for classes, what to expect during class, and which type is best for a beginner.

This is more than physical exercise. Practicing yoga means practicing meditation and yogic breathing to strengthen both your mental and physical well-being and improve concentration.

As Yoga Six explains, it has been performed in India since approximately 3000 B.C., as a way to achieve harmony between the heart and soul while on the path to divine enlightenment. Through the years, practitioners have discovered that this practice also helps with many and eases chronic pain and pain from injuries.

This article will review ten tips for beginners to get you started your journey to mind and body wellness.

10 Yoga Tips for Beginners

Prepared for Your First Yoga Class

Verywell Fit recommends that you research the beginning poses and pranayama (yogic breathing) so that you are at least a little familiar with what the instructor is talking about in class. You can also read books or watch videos beforehand to get an idea of what to expect.

Arrive to class 10 to 15 minutes before the start time. This will allow you to find a spot where you feel comfortable and can hear the instructor. Gaiam suggests finding a spot where you can watch the people in front of you to help you learn the poses.

You will need to remove your shoes and socks before entering the yoga room. Some studios provide cubbies right inside the room. If you are unsure, ask at the front desk.

It is a good idea to let the instructor know you are a beginner and if you have any injuries or health conditions before class starts. The instructor can then suggest any modifications to certain poses that may be helpful to you.

Women’s Health Mag notes that it is important to stay hydrated and to fuel your body properly. They suggest drinking a full glass of water one to two hours prior to class.

An image of people practicing yoga lesson with instructor, sitting in Sukhasana exercise, doing Easy Seat pose

A light snack 30 minutes prior to class is ok, but you should wait one to two hours after consuming a large meal so that you don’t feel sick to your stomach.

Pick a Class That Is Right for Beginners

An image of a woman practicing yoga, doing Garudasana arms exercise

There are many different types, but not all are appropriate for beginners. Ekhart Yoga says you need to realize that you are a beginner and start so you don’t injure yourself. They suggest you even take one-on-one sessions with the instructor before joining a class.

Yoga International recommends you look for a beginner or gentle class so that you learn the basic foundation poses, proper body alignment, and proper breathing technique. Your local studio can help you determine which class and which instructor is right for you.

Vinyasa flow class is good for beginners because it teaches the postures and basic fundamentals of yoga says Women’s Health.

Daily Burn advises either Hatha yoga or Bikram yoga for beginners. Hatha yoga teaches the basics and is a slower moving class where you hold poses for a few breaths.

Bikram yoga is a set routine of 26 poses and two breathing exercises. They note that it is practiced in a heated room so you should be sure to hydrate beforehand.

Wear Comfortable Clothes

You definitely need to wear something that is comfortable, breathable, and allows for a full range of motion. Moisture-wicking clothes are a good choice because you will be sweating a lot. You may want to wait until you have done a few classes before you purchase any specific yoga wear.

You should wear any comfortable pants or shorts, and most people opt for yoga pants or leggings. VeryWell Fit suggests a shirt that is somewhat fitted because a baggy or loose-fitting shirt will slide down when you bend over.

You may also want a sleeveless top that allows for freedom of movement in the arms and shoulders.

A top view image of Yoga outfit on wooden floor

Shoes are not worn. Most people simply go barefoot, but you can also invest in yoga socks with non-slip grips on the bottom to keep your feet from sliding on the mat.

No Need for a Lot of Equipment to Practice

You don’t need to invest a lot of money to practice class. Most studios will rent a mat for one or two dollars. The studio will also provide any blocks, blankets, or straps that are needed during class.

You definitely want to bring a towel. Yoga is an intense workout and you will sweat a lot during class, especially as a beginner. You may need to stop periodically and wipe off so you don’t slip on your mat.

You should also bring a water bottle. There are no water breaks during class and many students never stop for a drink, but you should drink as often as needed. Book Yoga Retreats says that you could be overheated if you start to feel dizzy or nauseous, and one of the best ways to cool down is a cold drink.

Good Mat Is a Must

There are many things to consider when choosing a mat, including thickness, texture, material, stickiness, length, the type you will be practicing, and budget. Some people may also prefer a mat that is eco-friendly.

The standard yoga mat that works for most people is ⅛ inch thick. If you are slim or have sensitive joints, you will probably be more comfortable on a mat that is ¼ thick. YogiApproved notes that it will be harder to find your balance on a thicker mat so suggests the standard size as longs as it is comfortable.

You need a mat that is the right length. It needs to be long enough for your entire body in Savasana position. If your legs extend beyond the mat, the difference in body temperature may make it difficult to relax. The standard mat is 68 inches long so look for a longer one if you are taller.

Good traction and sweat absorption are both important. The smoother the mat, the more slippery it will become as you sweat. A texture will provide grip or be sticky.

Some forms of yoga will cause you to sweat more, so if you practice one of these, look for a map with good sweat absorption. YogiApproved recommends a cotton, jute, or rubber mat with a textured pattern for beginner and gentle classes.

If you are looking for an environmentally friendly mat, choose jute, organic cotton, or recycled or natural rubber. Avoid PVC mats are they are not biodegradable. Check the glues used to make the mat for any harmful metals. YogiApproved says that yoga mats brands disclose all of these details.

An image of a pile of different color and size yoga mat

Mats can range from $10 to $120. Make sure the mat you choose is of a good quality. Brands recommended by VeryWell Fit and YogiApproved for their quality and service include Manduka, Liforme, Yellow Willow, and Jade.

Your First Class

Most classes are 45 to 90 minutes long, although many beginner classes are shorter.

An image of a woman practicing proper breathing

Classes begin by preparing your mind and body for yoga with a few minutes of relaxation and meditation, which may be deep breathing exercises and a chanting of “om”.

Chopra.com explains that “om” is Sanskrit for the sound of creation, and it is used to unite energy and bring sacredness to the practice.

There is no talking other than the teacher instructing how to transition from one pose to another.

Spark People notes that you may hear the teacher using Sanskrit names for the poses, but most beginner classes will use English names.

So as not to interrupt the concentration of others, you should wait until after class to ask about any words or instructions you don’t understand.

Proper breathing is very important. The traditional breath is called “ujjayi”. It is an audible breath and a slow, even inhale and exhale through the nose. Spark People explains that focusing on the sound and rhythm of the breath will help calm the mind and build endurance, especially during difficult poses. Because breathing is essential, you shouldn’t do a pose if you can’t maintain proper breathing.

Instructors are trained to adjust students’ postures to keep them in proper alignment during poses. If you are not comfortable with being touched, let your instructor know before class begins. Class ends with meditation, first in the lotus pose, and then transitions to Savasana, the corpse pose where you lie on your back, arms at your sides and palms facing up, and relax. Savasana is an important part of yoga.

Focus on Your Mind and Body

Yoga is more than simply learning breathing and concentration. Because you work the full range of motion in every joint of your body, it helps build strong and long muscles, increases flexibility, and strengthens the core.

Yoga uses your own body weight instead of machines or free weights to target arms, legs, glutes, the back, and the core. The placement of your hands and feet are critical to holding the correct posture. There are many types, and the intensity of the work-out depends on which type of yoga you choose.

The core is the center of our bodies and almost every move we make involves the core. You are less likely to suffer an injury if you have a strong core.

Ekhart Yoga notes that the stronger your core, the more you will focus on relaxing your mind during class instead of focusing on your body. 

An image of a man practicing yoga in a office dress

Ekhart Yoga also explains that focusing on your mind and body during class can make you aware of everyday bad habits you may not even have realized. They say if you hold your breath, grit your teeth, or hunch your shoulders during class, you are probably doing these things in your daily life.

If you need to take a break during class, assume the child’s pose. This is the most common resting pose. You begin on your hands and knees, then sit back on your heels and put your forehead on the floor. Your arms should be either stretched out in front of you or wrapped back around your legs.

Don’t Skip the Yoga Studio

Beginners will benefit from a studio and instructor. An instructor can make sure you are doing the poses correctly and that your body is properly aligned. An instructor can advise you on which poses are good for you, how often you should do each pose based on your body structure and any health conditions, and offer modifications for any poses that you are not able to do as a beginner.

Studio classes do come with an expense. The average cost for most classes is between $20 to $30 dollars. It is worth the cost to ensure that you are practicing yoga properly.

If for some reason you are unable to find a studio or class schedule that works for you, there are online and other video classes that you can do. Find a video that is made for beginners and that features an instructor who speaks clearly and uses many verbal instructions on performing poses correctly.

VeryWell Fit recommends trying online streaming services such as YogaGlo, Grokker, and YogaDownload that have high-quality videos if you choose this method over a studio class.

Yoga Is Good for People With Arthritis

Many people are concerned about exercising when they have a health condition. Yoga is good for people with arthritis, heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, and for those who are pregnant. As with any activity, you may need to make adjustments based on your condition.

WebMD says if you suffer from arthritis, it can help improve your strength and flexibility without putting too much stress on the joints. They recommend talking with your doctor if you have heart problems, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Your doctor may recommend you avoid poses where you are upside down or that require too much balance.

If you are pregnant, WebMD says yoga can keep you relaxed and strong throughout your pregnancy, but you should avoid poses that put pressure on your belly or lower back. They advise against any poses where you lie on your back after your first trimester.

Things to Remember

Yoga is not something you will learn in one class, but rather it is an ongoing physical and mental journey. There are some things you can do to make yoga a positive experience and to incorporate it into your everyday life.

Goalcast recommends that you track your progress by writing down what you learn after each class, including the names of poses and any relevant terms your instructor uses in class.

It is important to practice meditation daily as this will help clear your mind and improve your mental well-being. You should also practice pranayama or yogic breathing on a daily basis. As Goalcast notes, proper breathing oxygenates the body and reduces stress, helping you reap the holistic benefits of yoga.

VeryWell Fit offers these tips to improve your experience. Proper body alignment is key so watch the instructor’s alignment during class. Sometimes you may not be able to see minor movements and adjustments so listen carefully to the instructor’s verbal cues. As long as you are comfortable with being touched, allow the instructor to physically correct your posture.

Most importantly, listen to your body and don’t try to do something that you are not physically able to do just yet. Over time, the poses will become easier. Yoga International says to use your breath as an indicator of your physical ability. If you are holding your breath or have uneven breathing, you may be exceeding your ability, so stop and take a few deep breaths.

Yoga is great exercise for people of all ages and all stages of physical ability. Other than a good mat, you don’t need a lot of equipment nor do you need prior experience. You should try out different classes and instructors to find one you like, and depending on your exercise goals, you may want to try different types of yoga.

Practicing is a whole mind-body lifestyle. You will not only become stronger physically, but by practicing meditation and yogic breathing, both your mind and body will become stronger, healthier and calmer.

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