Thinking about trying yoga for the first time?
You are full of wonderful ideas, and starting yoga is a big one.
That is, beginning a yoga practice is a wonderful idea.
Not to be confused with some of your less-than-perfect decisions.
The bangs you chopped into your hair in middle school, for example.
(Don't worry. We've all been there.)
You are ready to live your best life, leaving drama and stress in the dust.
Sayonara, self-doubt and sleepless nights!
Yoga is a great place to start.
Millions of people around the world have turned to yoga for happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives.
But if you're not sure exactly how to introduce yoga into your day to day life, here are some easy tips to get started.
1. START WITH ACCEPTANCE
Yoga is more than just a form of exercise.
It's a way of existing in the world.
A way of being, so to speak.
The word yoga itself means "union" in Sanskrit.
Union among all aspects of your life.
When you live in a state of union, or yoga, there is no separation between your thoughts and your present state.
That means, no whining and wistful thinking about the way things should or ought to be.
While this mindset can take years to cultivate, you can get started before ever stepping foot on a yoga mat.
Take a moment to appreciate your body, your life, and your circumstances.
Exactly as they are. Right now.
2. RELEASE EXPECTATIONS
The moment you begin to practice gratitude, you will feel expectations start to slip away.
Expectations such as "I should be able to touch my toes already..."
"This looks so easy on Instagram - why can't I do it?!"
"If I'm going to practice some yoga postures, it is essential that I own a Lycra wardrobe rivaling that of Jane Fonda."
(Cue eye roll.)
Try to focus on the core of what you're doing, not the extraneous fluff. Though you may be here to try to find the best way to start yoga physically, I’m here to tell you that it’s most important to start with it mentally.
Get yourself into the right mindset and then the practice will evolve naturally, beautifully, and safely.
3. UNDERSTAND THE CORE OF YOGA
Yoga is not about extreme flexibility or contorting your muscles and spine into fancy shapes.
It's about breathing, finding inner strength through meditation, and creating freedom in the body with basic yoga poses.
It's truly that simple.
So don’t worry about losing weight or bending over backwards (those will come soon enough).
4. NOTICE YOUR BREATHING
While a teacher at one yoga class may instruct students in a completely different style of breathing to the yoga studio next door, it's really all the same.
While the breathing exercise itself may seem important, the most important thing to learn is awareness of breath.
Whether you are taking a forceful exhale out the mouth in a Kundalini yoga class or filling your chest with fresh oxygen in a relaxing yoga pose, the connection between awareness and breath is one of the most beneficial aspects of yoga for beginners.
Simply starting to notice your inhale and exhale can yield better sleep, reduced stress, and more present moment awareness.
So even if you can’t do some of the more complex poses, making the effort to notice the breath and to carefully guide it will have equally profound effects on your practice. Way more profound than being able to throw your foot behind your head.
5. GET COMFORTABLE IN STILLNESS
Most of us find it very challenging to sit still.
We would rather run around, keep busy, and check items off our to-do list than just be.
Even when we are chilling out, our hands drum on our knees, our thoughts wander to the past or future, or our eyes hungrily scan an iPhone or T.V. screen.
(Sometimes all at once.)
So before you try to bang out the most advanced yoga poses you can find on the pages of Yoga Journal or Instagram, try the most basic tenets of yoga of all, being present.
The next time you're waiting in line, riding public transportation, or (heck!) perching on the toilet, notice the temptation to whip your phone out for distraction.
Try to observe the urge rather than immediately give into it.
6. LEARN BASIC YOGA POSES
Once you feel ready for the physical side of your yoga practice, you can start to mindfully experiment with yoga poses for beginners.
There is no need to try to jump into the more complex poses (um, hello inversions) or to try to be as bendy as the person next to you.
Wherever you begin, whether in a local yoga studio or with an online yoga video, there are a few basics to start with.
Start with postures, or yoga asanas, such as downward-facing dog, child's pose, and savasana.
In each pose, focus on pressing your hands or feet into the floor, lengthening your spine, and relaxing your hips. If you keep this in mind as you practice, you will be working with each pose exactly as even the most devoted practitioners do.