So you’re ready to begin a yoga practice?
But where do you start? Where do you go? What kind of yoga should you take?
These questions may be flooding your brain as you think about trying out a local yoga class, and you may even feel a little bit on anxiety or stress just trying to motivate yourself to leave your house and try it!
Whether you are just beginning a yoga practice, or coming back after a long sabbatical, this guide will help guide you to the right place and the right style to benefit you the most.
Step 1 | Choose a style of yoga
Before you begin any new sport or exercise program, most likely you are going to thoroughly investigate which classes or styles would be best for you. In yoga, you should do the same thing. There are many different types of yoga and they all focus on completely different aspects of the body and mind. Here are a few:
- Iyengar - Named and developed by B.K.S Iyengar, this practice is a form of Hatha Yoga that emphasizes detail, precision, and alignment in the form of posture (asana) and breath awareness (pranayama). This helps you develop strength, mobility, and stability. Unlike more experiential approaches where students are encouraged to independently to “find their path,” an Iyengar class is highly verbal and precise, with misalignments and errors actively corrected.
- Bikram - This system of yoga was named and developed by Bikram Choudhury synthesized from traditional hatha yoga postures. All Bikram classes are 90 minutes long and consist of the same 26 postures, including two breathing exercises. Bikram yoga is a hot-yoga style, practiced in a room typically 95-108 degrees with 40% humidity.
- Ashtanga - Ashtanga means “eight Limbs” and this practice focuses on the 8 limbed path as mentioned in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. This practice focuses on repetitive sequences and series and is taught that you must master one pose before advancing on to the next. Typically taught with minimal alignment instruction and each individual leads their own practice.
- Vinyasa - The name “Vinyasa” means “to place in a special way.” This type of yoga is typically sequenced to interlink postures to form a continuous flow. It creates a movement meditation that reveals all forms as being impermanent and for this reason are not held onto. This type of yoga can be influenced with traditions of iyengar alignment or ashtanga traditions, and is meant to help you drop in more deeply to your breath and body.
Step 2 | Get a good quality yoga mat
Those sticky mats that you can get at Target and Wal-Mart will only last you so long, and in fact, you would have a better experience if you just went for the more expensive option. I know what you are thinking "Why spend the money on a mat if I am not sure I will even like the practice?"
Well, there's a couple reasons here: 1. when you begin your yoga practice, a more expensive mat will help keep you from sliding all around and you'll be able to focus more on your alignment and 2. if you choose the more expensive mat now, you will force yourself to be consistent and give your all to your yoga practice.
So which mats are some of the best? Check out these to get started:
- Manduka - Manduka mats are known for their quality, environmental consciousness, and durability. These mats have a great grip and tend to compliment a practice in a heated room. The downside? They can cost you up to $130.
- Lululemon - Lululemon became a standardized fitness store back in 1998 and their mats are a great quality. These mats are rubber and feature a great grip and fun style. They offer a variety of variations to choose from, short, regular, or tall people get excited! The downside is that they can be heavy and quite bulky to carry. Oh and they might run you $120.
- Jade - Jade yoga mats are eco-friendly, environmentally conscious, and philanthropic by planting a tree for every mat they sell. Not only does the rubber provide you with a great grip, but it is porous enough to dry out quickly. These mats do begin to wear away after 5 years or so, but they will only cost you about $75.
Step 3 | Sign up for a Beginner’s class or series
Now that you have the perfect mat and know which style of yoga you want to practice, it's time to map out your local yoga studios to see which one will be best for you. A great yoga studio will offer you so much more than just a physical yoga practice, they will accept you into their community.
For instance, at our studio in Cedar Park, we offer a variety of classes to meet the needs of each individual that feature a fun-loving environment. Every class includes an aspect of mindfulness, detailed attention from your teacher, and a little revelry to build community.
So take a look at your local studio's website and read through their About page to make sure that what they stand for truly resonates with you and then...
Choose a beginner’s class or series
Beginner’s classes can vary among studios. Sometimes the class is a great step for someone who has never practiced yoga before, and sometimes it can be a little too challenging. Look for beginner’s classes or series that state the class focuses on detailed alignment and is appropriate for the absolute beginner/newbie. This way you can be sure that you aren’t jumping into a class that will move too quickly and will help you find the correct form and modifications for your body.
Step 4 | Establish a routine
Something that you may not have thought about is how often you are going to attend yoga classes. It may seem silly, but thinking about a routine beforehand can really benefit your practice and help you establish some consistency. When you are starting out, it may be best to practice 2-3 times per week, leaving a day between to rest and recoup. After a month or two, you can begin to practice more frequently.
Give yourself time to rest!
As you see changes in your flexibility, mobility, and strength you are going to want to do nothing but yoga. But your muscles do need time to rest, so make sure to save that anticipation for the next day at class. Spend your resting day noticing how you feel when you don’t practice yoga vs how you feel when you do. Most of the time, that comparison sticks in our brains and provides us with motivation when we just don’t have it.
Step 5 | Pace yourself for the long haul
Once you begin a yoga practice, it is never ending. There will always be a new mountain to conquer, a new pose to work on, or something new to learn. So don’t burn yourself out! Stick with your practice frequency and pace yourself for the long haul.
With a consistent practice you may begin to see several changes in your mood and body such as: decreased stress, muscle mobility and flexibility, improved muscle balance, calm brain function, improved memory, better blood flow, etc.
Once you get started, share your progress with your friends and family on your social media pages and motivate them to get started in their yoga practice too! Everyone can benefit from this practice and deserves to feel more peace, happiness, and community.
What type of yoga did you decide to go with? Why is that your choice? Share in the comments below!