I have been on my fitness journey for almost 5 years now, and yoga is something I began to incorporate in April of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic was getting really bad at that point, and we were all stuck in our homes. One day, a family member introduced us to a program that had a variety of fitness videos to try, including yoga. After seeing this, I thought that maybe I could give it a try. I mentioned it to a couple of my family members, and we have been doing 20-30 minutes of yoga every day since. We have not skipped any days whatsoever, and that is something I am very proud of!
Yoga is both challenging and relaxing, and I have seen and felt the many benefits from very early on. I think it is important to let people know that you do not have to be flexible or into fitness to get started! Literally anyone can do yoga because there are ways to modify almost every pose, and this allows you to grow throughout your practice. We all start somewhere, so please don’t let the idea of being a “beginner” scare you off or make you nervous. I never thought that I would be interested in doing yoga because I have always enjoyed lifting weights, but I have come to love it! I definitely recommend experimenting with different forms of exercise until you find what works for best for you! If you want to get started with yoga, remember to start slow!
I have realized that there are certain things that yoga instructors in the program I use have been encouraging me to do, but I never really understood how. After months of practicing, I’ve noticed significant changes and improvements, which has been very exciting and motivating! I have gotten much better at balancing and activating my core, and I am starting to do a few more advanced poses!
Please keep in mind that I am in no way a professional or qualified to teach yoga, however I feel that due to my own experience with the practice, I can share some valuable tips with those of you who are just getting started! It took me some time to learn these things, and I am continuing to learn as I go! I am sharing this in hopes that you can start practicing these skills even sooner!
Here are my tips for beginner yogis:
- Go into your practice with an open mind
Sometimes, when you are trying something new, you may have preconceived ideas on what you will be doing. When it comes to yoga, you may think it’s simple and easy, or that it doesn’t do anything for the body. It’s also common to simply say “I can’t do that” or “I’m not good at this” when starting out. You have to remember that in order to see progress and gain strength, you need to get started. It’s ok to lose your balance, to fall over, and to get frustrated when you can’t do a certain pose, but as long as you keep at it and practice frequently, you will get better! It’s important to have an open mind and to think positively all the time, but especially when trying something new or challenging. You are most likely starting yoga to be active, to get healthy, or to try something different, so honor that and honor yourself by getting out of your comfort zone!
- Get centered and let negative thoughts go
When you go into your practice, you may not always feel your best. Maybe you’re stressed about work or your feeling down about a personal situation. Whatever it may be, when you get to your mat, it’s time to let it all go! It can be really difficult to let these thoughts go and to simple be, but you have to try. Some days, I am just a bit more distracted or I have a lot on my plate, and that’s ok. But you have to remember that you’re allowed to take a few moments out of your day to focus on you and your overall well-being. Working out can really give you that time, and you will also reap the benefits as time goes on! Try to think about your breathing and how you’re moving your body rather than bringing all of that negative energy to the mat. Working out has always been a time for me to focus on my mental and emotional health, it’s definitely not just about the physical.
- Focus on the breath
This may seem like such a simple tip because of course, we’re always breathing, and you would think that you would be breathing even better during a workout. This can actually be a challenge. When I first started weight lifting, it took me a bit of time to realize that breathing will actually help you perform better, and you will be able to do more reps. The same is true for yoga. Keep in mind that whenever you are exerting the most energy, that is when you should breathe out. For example, if you are in three legged dog, and you want to bring your knee in toward your nose, you breathe in as you lift your leg up, and breathe out as you pull that leg in. Really think about your breathing when working out, and you truly will notice a big difference! Never hold your breath, even when your practice is getting difficult.
- It’s all about lifting and lengthening
When practicing yoga, one should never focus too much on height, but rather focus on lengthening and lifting your body. For example, if you are in warrior three, you should be lifting your chest and leg, however you don’t need to be doing a standing split. The height of your leg really isn’t as important as how you’re lengthening your body. Another example would be when you are in sphinx pose or upward facing dog. It’s not about bending back as far as possible; it’s about lifting up out of your lower back and feeling a stretch across your chest. While it is impressive to see advanced yogis lifting their legs super high in the air, it isn’t necessary in order to feel the benefits and to gain strength. Length over height, always!
- Relax the shoulders and don’t collapse
This next tip goes along with the previous one. It can be very easy to lose focus and forget the point of certain poses. There are many poses which require you to use some upper body strength. For example, when you are in a side plank, you have to remember to lift up out of that bottom shoulder. The same is true for triangle pose. It all goes back to lengthening the body! You want to rise up and reach for the sky, rather than collapsing back down into your shoulder (this could cause injuries or discomfort over time).
- Keep a slight bend in the knees
There are going to be quite a few poses where you are meant to straighten your legs such as downward facing dog, triangle pose, and any kind of forward folds. When your instructor tells you to straighten your legs, please remember not to lock out your knees; keep a slight bend in them instead. You should do this to avoid any injuries or discomfort. It is not going to hinder your growth at all, and it’s always better to be safe and to listen to your body. During any form of exercise, if you feel any discomfort or pain, you should stop and modify or skip that pose/exercise for a little bit.
- Square off the hips
Again, it is so easy to forget what you are doing, and your body may naturally want to move a certain way when doing some poses. For the most part, when you are in three legged dog, any of the warrior poses, or any twisting pose, it is important to square off your hips. This means that whatever way your core is facing, that’s where your hips should face too. When facing your left in warrior two, you only want your head to move and look over the hand in front of you, however your hips should stay in place, facing the left. When you are lifting a leg in downward facing dog, your hip may want to open up, but you have to do your best to keep it from doing so (there will be times when your instructor may want you to open up your hip in this pose, but unless they say so, keep the hips still). When twisting, make sure that you twist from your core; your hips shouldn’t be twisting with you.
- Activate your core
It took me a long time to figure out exactly how to do this. This is something that you will need to practice, and it can take time, but you’ll know you’re doing it right because you’ll be able to really feel your core working. Yoga truly is a full body workout, however the core is a very important part of it. Throughout each and every practice, you should be holding in your stomach (while breathing properly). You don’t want your gut to sag as you are doing these movements and getting into different poses. If you suck in your stomach and at the same time, continue to breathe properly, you will feel your core working the entire time.
- Challenge yourself
I understand that some days, you just aren’t going to feel very motivated, and you may want more of a relaxing practice. These days are needed, so of course, I encourage you to have a couple of these practices throughout your week. However, you shouldn’t get too comfortable relaxing, because if you want to improve and see results, you’re going to have to put in the work. You can do this by staying in poses longer than you normally would, or as you progress, you can try to do more advanced versions of different poses. For example, instead of planking on your knees, you should eventually try to lift them up, or try to get off of your tippy toes and lift up a foot or leg when balancing. You won’t get better at something by staying comfortable.
- Enjoy the practice
Yoga is meant to be enjoyed. Whether your practice was all about the core or it was a relax day, by the end of your workout, you should feel strong, confident, and even relaxed in the end. Make sure to throw in some resting poses in the middle and at the end of your session such as child’s pose or savasana. This will give your body a chance to cool down, and you can take a moment to appreciate all of the work that you just did. Use this time to better yourself, and trust me, your body will thank you!
I hope that my beginner yogis out there found this blog post helpful! Like I said, I never thought I would enjoy doing yoga, but I think it was because I didn’t understand it, and I just didn’t see it as a real workout. Well, sometimes you can surprise yourself, and all it takes it one step outside of your comfort zone! Thank you so much for reading!