I get a lot of questions on yoga and how to start practising over on my Instagram, I wrote a blog post last year about why I think everyone should try yoga, but I thought it would be a good idea to write a blog post giving advice on how to start from absolute scratch.
Go to a Beginners’ Class or Retreat
I started practising as a complete newbie by going to a weekend retreat that was designed purely for beginners, and it was so helpful because everyone was in the same boat, and the yoga teacher (my amazing friend Roo Frith) explained everything to us in a way that complete beginners could understand. If you can’t find/afford a retreat, then there are bound to be yoga classes aimed specifically at beginners near you, and if not then there are definitely going to be classes that you can go along to if you’re a beginner it’s just best to let the teacher know you’re a beginner. If you live in London, have a look at Frame, Triyoga and Studio One, as they have dedicated options for beginners. Just have a search on Google and see what you find.
Practising at Home
I would personally recommend starting to go to a class, and then practice at home alongside that, purely because you cannot beat face to face yoga with a teacher who knows how to correct your form and take you through everything step by step. However, this might not be feasible for some people. Luckily there are so many ways you can practice at home. As a newbie, I would suggest using videos, you can get beginner DVDs but I honestly think the way forward is YouTube, as it’s free and there are SO MANY VIDEOS. I recommend Yoga with Adriene, Celest Pereira and Cat Meffan, as they do some lovely videos and I am big fans of their teaching methods. You can get guides and e-books, but because with yoga it’s so important to have correct posture, and have someone talking you through when to breath in and breath out, I would say that I’d hold off on getting any until you’ve got the basics understood.
What To Expect from a Class
This depends on the type of yoga, and there are sooooo many different types out there, but here in the UK and in the Western world we tend to practice Vinyasa Flow (this is stereotyping a bit but I’d say it’s the most popular type at the moment), Vinyasa Flow is using poses (or asanas in Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language that we use a lot in yoga), with the breath, so you do one pose as you breathe in, and move into the next post as you breathe out, you continue to do this throughout the session as you move from one pose to the next using your breathe (it will sound less complicated when you go to a class!). You will usually go through a few sun salutations (a sequence of poses where we salute the sun, sounds a bit hippy dippy but you’ll grow to think of these are your yoga pillars) and then depending on the teacher you will move through the poses they have selected. You’ve probably seen on Instagram some crazy and cool poses that people post, well I would probably expect not to touch on some of those for a while. I am nowhere near most of those poses, and will probably stay far away from them for a while. A lot of the time people go into yoga expecting to learn now to do a headstand or different arm balances or how to nail the splits, but that’s not what yoga is about, if you’re looking for that then you’re getting off trying gymnastics or something similar.
So What Is Yoga About?
Good question, and not an easy question to ask, as the answer is probably going to be different for everyone who practices. For me, yoga is about learning to accept yourself. Yes you get on your mat and you work your way through poses, but the self-discipline and self-love you learn through practising, is so crazy and mind blowing, that you take it off the mat, and I am pretty certain that you will improve mentally just as much as you will physically. Don’t get me wrong, some people just go to yoga for the physical aspect and that’s more than coolios, because you will gain strength and flexibility, but the mental progression is the most important. In short, I feel like a completely different and BETTER person, since practising yoga, and I hope you’ll feel the same too! One major thing I have learnt through yoga is to love my body, love what it can do, and to not look at any limitations as actual limitations. For someone with an injury that means I can’t do quite a lot of things, it’s really helpful in more ways than one.
What Will You Need?
If you’re going to a class, check that they provide mats, which most do, and just rock up in your gym stuff, leggings and a top are fine, and you might want to take a jumper for savasana (the part where you lie down and play dead at the end) in case you get cold. I’ve read online a lot where it says wear loose fitting clothing, but take that with a pinch of salt, as I always wear leggings and a sports bra (a low impact one as you want to be comfy, and I have no boobs), but you can really wear anything sports wear-y, you’re going to be doing a lot of fluid movement and stretching so yeah, wear stretchy clothing that you feel comfortable in and will be able to move in.
If you’re going to be practising at home, you will need a mat, 100%, and a yoga mat at that, sorry but the £5 one you got from Argos isn’t going to cut it. I recommend this Yogamatters mat for beginners, and then here are two more mats, the Lululemon one and the Liforme (basically the ultimate mat ever) one. Once you’ve practised a bit and have decided, ‘yup, I like this weird thing called yoga, I want to carry on practising’ you might want to get some blocks and a strap, to help with some poses that you find harder to get into, I got mine from Yogamatters.
Some Little Yogi Tips
Here are some things I’m glad I was told/wish I’d been told as I started practising yoga:
- You will probably feel like you’re shit at it, but that’s fine, you’re not shit. Yoga is challenging for everyone, even people who have practised for ten years, it’s challenging, because you set your own rules, you do the modification that suits you, at your level, on that day, at that time.
- You might cry, a lot. I cry all the time in yoga, the first time it happened was weird, but get used to it, accept it, and it will help a lot. You also might not cry ever! But I have found I do all the time ahahaha.
- How much you like a class will depend on the teacher. If you don’t like a teacher, go and try a different one. I’ve tried a lot of classes where I’m not a fan of the teacher, but it’s those teachers you completely gel with that make it so much more amazing.
- There will probably be a lot of words said by the teacher that you don’t understand, these are mostly in Sanskrit, you’ll learn what they mean the more you do.
- Getting the breathing right is super important, it takes time, but when you get it you’re just like OH MY GOD THIS IS SO MUCH BETTER I GET IT NOW.
- Fanny farts, and normal farts, are completely normal, especially when you’ve been upside down, just get it out, try to do it quietly, but I doubt anyone will notice, and if they do, blame your neighbour (jokes, just pretend it didn’t happen)
I hope you enjoyed this post, it is bursting with info so if you need to come back to it a few times, no worries!
I also have some other yoga themed blog posts below if you’d like to check them out:
Why Everyone Needs to Try Yoga
Favourite Yogis on Instagram
My Favourite Yoga Accessories