If you’re new to yoga, you might not know where to start. Should you try Hatha, Vinyasa, or Hot/Bikram yoga? Should you begin in the comfort and privacy of your own home, or should you embark on a free trial at your local yoga studio? At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way to practice yoga. It’s all about doing what works for you! But if you’re new to yoga and feel a little overwhelmed, keep these nine useful tips in mind to improve your flexibility, posture, and fitness.
1. Start Slow
If you’re new to yoga, remember that this form of physical activity is not about racing to the finish! You have your whole life to practice yoga, so take your time. Learn to breathe and to be at ease with your body. I realize that some yoga poses can seem pretty scary and intimidating at first. Don’t psych yourself out or think you need to be an advanced yogi right away. It can take months and years of practice, so take your time and start slowly!
2. Work with a Teacher
If you have the time, money, and are genuinely interested in practicing yoga, consider hiring a yoga teacher to get you started. Many teachers will come to your house so that you can practice in the privacy of your home. Your yoga teacher won’t judge you, even if you feel like you’re making a fool out of yourself. If you’re worried about costs, some yoga teachers offer a discounted rate if you purchase several classes in a package. You could also work a deal out with a friend who wants to practice yoga as well and split the cost!
3. Attend Yoga Classes
If getting a private instructor is out of your budget, yoga classes are also a great way to start practicing yoga. In classes you’ll learn basic yoga principles like breathing exercises, basic posture names, and simple sequences like sun salutations. Many yoga studios offer a free trial for a few weeks to let you get a feel for the studio and the instructors. Yoga classes are an affordable way to start practicing yoga if you’re new to it.
4. Invest in a Good Mat
A good mat can easily take your yoga practice from mediocre to magnificent. When I first started practicing yoga, I purchased a pretty cheap mat that was rather thin and didn’t have too much of a grip to it. After getting a better quality mat, my practice improved enormously. Investing in a quality mat might cost a little more at first, but this mat will last you through many years of practice and training.
5. Find a Peaceful Space to Practice
If you enjoy practicing at home, be mindful and find a quiet and peaceful space where you can practice yoga without disruption or interference. I personally recommend a room free from TVs, computers, cell phones, or other electronic devices. Over time you can develop your yoga space into a peaceful meditation room. Some yogis like to light candles or burn incense when they practice. Ultimately, it’s all up to you. Just keep in the mind the importance of having a space where you can devote yourself freely to your yoga practice.
6. Warm up Your Muscles
When practicing yoga, your muscles benefit tremendously from light, gentle heat. This heat can be through a quick 10 minutes of cardio to get your blood pumping. You can also achieve this through other methods like a heating pad or even taking a quick lukewarm bath/shower to improve circulation and blood flow. This is part of why Hot/Bikram yoga classes practice at hotter temperatures. The warmth of the room helps loosen muscles and improve flexibility!
7. Find the Perfect Time of Day for Yoga
Some people enjoy practicing yoga first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and use it as a meditative moment to get them in the right mindset for the day. Others prefer to practice yoga at night as a way to wind down and get a restful night of sleep. Regardless of your preference, find a time that works for your body, career, and schedule. This will help you stick to a routine and practice yoga on a regular basis.
8. Be Consistent
No one ever became a yogi on their first try! We yogis often say that no matter how long you’ve practiced, everyone is still a beginner. If you want to improve your practice and achieve more advanced postures like headstands or handstands, you must be consistent. Practice at least two to three times a week to ensure you’re reaping the physical and emotional benefits of yoga. Over time you’ll definitely notice an improvement!
9. Strive for a Moving Meditation
You might be attracted to or start practicing yoga for the physical benefits. Who wouldn’t want long, lean muscles and a yoga booty to match? While you may like how your flexibility and fitness improves from yoga, often it’s the mental and emotional benefits that keep you practicing. My first yoga teacher told me, ‘Yoga is not an exercise. Yoga is a moving meditation.’ Keep this statement with you as a reminder for why you’re practicing yoga!
Yoga is an exercise unlike anything you will ever do. The mental and emotional gains I have personally made through practicing far exceed any of the physical benefits I have noticed. Don’t get discouraged if it’s harder than you think! Yoga is a much more difficult exercise than anticipated and it can take a while before you really feel comfortable. What are some of your favorite tips to ensure you have a good yoga practice?