The practice of yoga includes many disciplines aimed at helping you improve your health and life. So as a beginner, it can be a challenge to know where to start. With a little background information, however, you can create a beginner-friendly yoga practice that meets your needs and goals for optimum health. Once you’ve experienced yoga for beginners, you will feel more confident to continue your practice for lifelong health.
What is Yoga?
The practice of yoga originated in India and includes mental, spiritual, and physical practices designed to achieve a state of bliss, enlightenment, and perfection. In this state, we experience harmony between our minds, bodies, and the world around us. A system that includes philosophy, meditation, postures, breathwork, and lifestyle and behavior principles, yoga leads us to union and integration with the divine.
Yoga Styles: Best For Beginners
When starting your own yoga routine either at home or in a studio, it is best to choose classes specifically designed for beginners. This will allow you to get to know the alignment and names of poses, as well as modifications. In this way, just about any style can be appropriate for a beginner. If you can’t find a designated yoga for beginners class, these styles tend to be beginner-friendly by nature:
Hatha: includes a range of basic beginner yoga poses performed at a slower pace. Spending more time in each posture allows you to learn correct and safe alignment, and build mental stamina. Just twenty-five minutes of a Hatha for beginners practice has even been shown to improve brain function and energy levels.
Iyengar: one of the best yoga classes for beginners, Iyengar focuses heavily on precise anatomical alignment in each pose, using props such as blankets, blocks, straps, and bolsters to help you position your body. Like Hatha, poses are held for longer periods to allow for proper adjustments. Yoga teacher Rachel Yellin describes Iyengar yoga for beginners as “...the grammar of yoga. Once you know the grammar, you can write poetry.”
Restorative: while not a physically demanding workout, this healing style is a great gentle yoga for beginners. It can decrease stress, and provide relaxation and recovery, making it the perfect complement to any fitness routine. Props are used to encourage relaxation of the muscles. Restorative postures, such as legs-up-the-wall pose, are meant to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest and digest” system, and can even help improve sleep.
Yin: a restorative-style practice that targets the hips, pelvis, and spine, and focuses on stretching connective tissues. Props are used to keep poses passive, and postures are held for two to five minutes on average to allow synovial fluid to be released in the joints. Yin yoga founder Paul Grilley explains, “The goal is stillness, and Yin yoga is a way to practice stillness five minutes at a time.” He adds, “...after they have grown accustomed to five-minute yoga poses, meditation seems a natural extension of their asana [posture] practice.” Like Restorative, Yin yoga for beginners can be paired with any fitness routine to aid recovery and healing in the body, and is a good match for less flexible yogis.
Kundalini: for a more spiritual yoga experience, Kundalini yoga for beginners combines chanting, movement, singing, breathwork, and meditation. While not as focused on the physical body as other types of yoga, this style will target the mind, soul, and energy centers.
Yoga Equipment: Look Like A Pro
A benefit of yoga is that you don’t need much to get started. With a few tools, you can practice almost any style of yoga you choose and adapt your practice to your level. A few basic yoga for beginners essentials are:
A yoga mat: the most important piece of equipment finding the right mat can make all the difference in your practice.
Yoga blocks: a set of yoga blocks made out of foam or cork help bring the ground closer to you in poses where you might not be able to reach the ground on your own. Books can be used as an alternative.
A yoga strap: can assist you in poses where your flexibility is still developing, and can even help with correct alignment in various postures. A belt can also be used in place of a strap.
No matter where you choose to start, consistency is the key in your yoga practice. When it comes to yoga for beginners, small steps in the right direction over time yield incredible results.