Yoga for Beginners
What is yoga?
Yoga is a spiritual, mental and physical practice that dates back thousands of years to where it first originated in India. In western culture, we tend to focus on the physical practice of yoga, as well as some of the mindfulness elements, such as meditation. As a physical practice, yoga is made up of asanas (or poses), which when put together allow us to flow through movements which incorporate all of the body, and ultimately leave us feeling amazing (if not a little hot and sweaty). Let's have a look at some of the benefits of yoga and how to get started!
Who is yoga for? Everybody! No matter your age, gender or ability, yoga is something that everyone can enjoy. Adjustments can be made to poses to make them more accessible for things such as injury, disability and pregnancy – meaning that there really is no reason to not begin your very own yoga practice right away.
The benefits of yoga
We all know that yoga is good for our health, but the benefits really are endless, here are a few of the things that your body and mind can gain from regular yoga practice and just some of the reasons as to why you might want to consider investing in that monthly pass to your local yoga class.
Flexibility – if you're looking to improve your flexibility through yoga, you won't be disappointed. One of the main things that draws people to yoga is the promise of increasing flexibility. Not only will this allow you to lift your foot over your head (we can all dream!), but it can also help in preventing injury and strain to your body
A way of healing – there are many who claim that through yoga they were able to rid themselves of health problems and pain. Just don't expect miracles to happen overnight, these things can take time and you'll need to be strict with yourself!
Increased strength – all forms of strength can be developed through yoga: muscular, joint and bone strength are all things that will start to develop naturally the more you practice. For the elderly, strength can be found in the balance that they are able to work on through yoga, enabling them to easier prevent falls and the injuries that can result from this. Mentally, your inner strength and self-esteem will start to thrive when you learn to love your body by treating it to some compassion and appreciation on the mat.
Improvement to posture – bad posture is an issue for the majority of us. And personally, if I don't practice yoga for just one week I start to notice my shoulders becoming increasingly rounded. This is one of the fastest physical changes you will notice from yoga, you'll leave class feeling one foot taller and all the more confident for it.
Spinal health – yoga incorporates a lot of spinal movement twists, bends and stretches are the baseline of a lot of yoga classes. This kind of movement can help to protect your spine from injury by increasing spinal flexibility.
Heart health – a yoga class, especially those taught in a vinyasa style can leave your heart racing and your active-wear dripping. But this only serves to remind us that we've just spent the last 60-90 minutes increasing our heart rate and blood flow, improving heart health and providing our organs with fresh, healthy, oxygenated blood.
Relaxation – if you're looking to find relaxation through yoga, opt for a yin, or restorative class to take your body away from the 'fight and flight' mode that the stresses of daily life can leave us in, all the way back to a calmer 'rest and digest' response. Resting poses, including Savasana and Child's Pose can help to relieve anxiety, improve sleep, and encourage a more still mind.
Happiness – practicing increases serotonin levels and alleviates depression. It also encourages a healthy lifestyle; by treating your body well on the mat, you're going to want to continue this off the mat! And we all know that a healthy lifestyle does wonders for our mentality and happiness.
Focus – yoga can require a lot of focus, this focus will be a tool that you'll take away with you without even realising!
Healthier breathing – yogi's don't breathe very much, and that's not a bad thing. Yoga encourages full, deep breaths through the nose – keeping our heart rate down and our lungs working more effectively. Nasal breathing also prevents pollen and dirt from going into our lungs and warms the air before it enters our bodies – a great benefit for people with asthma
Awareness – last, but not least, awareness is one of the most important things that you can take away from yoga practice. Improved awareness means that you will experience less anger and hostility, be better able to step back from the drama and put things into perspective before insignificant things really get you down.
How to get started
The great news is that it is really easy to get started, yoga can be practiced on a towel whilst wearing your pyjamas, it's that simple. Saying that, if you're hoping to get serious with yoga and need a few more props to help motivate you, here are the things we would consider purchasing to get things going.
Classes – you're likely to find a few yoga classes that are local to you. Try out a few to find which style and teachers you prefer, then invest in a class pass to start.
Apps – there are some great apps for yoga, Down Dog and Gaia being just two that offer a huge range of accessible yoga classes. A great option if you're hoping to build a home practice!
A mat – yoga mats come in a variety of sizes, colours and materials. You may want to have a chat with your new yoga teacher to find out what they recommend. But otherwise, a basic yoga mat is a great place to start.
Clothes – treat yourself to a couple of pairs of leggings with matching tops. You'll get hot during most yoga classes so it's better to start with layers that you can remove instead of going for long sleeves and melting into a flexible puddle.
To help you get started there are some helpful tips in The Yoga Journal. Yoga really can be a life-changing addition to your routine, give it a go and see the benefits for yourself!