Beginner Yoga Tips Everyone needs to know

My mission in life, and certainly over the last 18 years teaching yoga, is to be inclusive not just to beginner yoga students but to all.

Making yoga accessible to everyone is important to me.  I actually prefer it when there are people of all ages and abilities in one class. I love how yoga teacher Eoin Finn describes his classes: “All levels. All good.”

The list below was originally drafted for beginner yoga students. But really, this is what every yogi needs to know. It is my hope that these tips are of benefit to you. Please let me know in the comments if there are any tips you want to include!

 

21 Tips for beginner yoga to advanced students

 

1- There is no right or wrong way to do yoga. Yoga is an art, a healing science, a lifestyle, and mindset. ANYONE can do yoga, regardless of age and ability. {See Why Practice Yoga}

Socks are fine in yoga if sweat a lot or just prefer to keep them on.  (This is Koji, my son, practising his “Yoooooga”!)

2- Ask your doctor if you have pre-existing medical conditions or are pregnant. Consult your doctor before practicing so you understand what kind of things you must be careful doing. Then, tell your yoga teacher. She/he should be able to offer you modifications so that you can still enjoy your practice. This is very important for beginner yoga students!

3- Please turn off your cell phone or place on ‘do not disturb’ mode in another room. “Real life” will still be there after your yoga practice. You may actually be better prepared to handle things after a little deep breathing and yoga.

4- Practice on an empty stomach. Meals should be taken at least 90 mins prior to practice, so you digest fully and avoid eating heavy food. A small snack before practice is ok, especially for diabetics, hypoglycemics or pregnant women.

5- Simplicity: You don’t need a $400 yoga outfit… All you need is comfortable clothing that will allow you to move without restriction or distraction and bare feet! So no need to spend a fortune on “high tech stuff.”

6- Stuff you need to get started:  a sticky yoga mat & possibly a towel or a cotton yoga mat if you sweat a lot. Other props like a chair, a strap, yoga blocks, pillows, and blankets are used for some postures and practices.

7- “Don’t make and Asana of yourself,” said David Swenson, Ashtanga Yoga Master.  The original intent of the yoga practice has little to do with yoga postures (‘asana’). Yoga postures are meant to build strength, stamina and increase flexibility so that the practitioner can maintain a steady pose for long periods of time without discomfort. So as senior yogi Hart Lazar says: “Let go of competition, especially with yourself at a younger age!”

Beginner yoga students often feel pressure to do what their neighbours are doing. Let go of competition and comparison. Listen to the instructor. Seek stability and work on the edge between comfort and discomfort!

8- Breathe! The breath is the MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE PRACTICE. In yoga, we breathe in & out through the nose during regular asana practice. We never hold our breath. Basic rule: if you can’t breathe in a pose, you are in too deep! Breathing exercises (known as “pranayama”) may require other methods or practices.  {More about Breathing}

9- Don’t worry about the names of the poses. Names of yoga postures are often taught in English & Sanskrit (ancient Indian language). I hear beginner yoga teachers stress about this all the time. Don’t worry, in time you will know all of them. {Check out my Introduction to Ashtanga Yoga book. It features both the English & Sanskrit names of each pose.}

10- Work on the edge between comfort and discomfort. If you feel a sharp pain in a joint, ease out of the posture, ask your instructor for advice and/or use a prop for support. {More about Finding a Comfortable Posture}

11- Seek stability before flexibility. Be sure that you are stable & grounded in a pose before seeking depth or a greater “stretch”. Buildings need a solid foundation, so think of your postures in the same way.

 


CLICK HERE to access my Yoga Basics Breath & Alignment 20 mins yoga video on YouTube – perfect for beginner yoga!

 


 

12- Water bottles are for the gym. Drinking too much water during your yoga practice fills your stomach making it difficult to practice, so it is recommended to drink water after the yoga practice, but not during. Of course, if you are thirsty, you are welcome to take a couple of sips.

13- When not to go upside down. Inverted postures, like shoulder-stand, are not recommended during menstruation as there is a natural downward flow of energy during this time and reversing this flow can disrupt the cycle. (It can also cause a flood!)

14- Keep the potpourri out of the studio. Refrain from wearing perfume, cologne or essential oils when practicing with a group, because these smells will only get stronger the more you deep breathe and sweat.

15- Beginner yoga students must ask questions.  Don’t be shy to ask your instructor for a further explanation during class or after class. (Sometimes you may need to schedule some time with the instructor if the inquiry is complex or personal.)

Enjoy your yoga practice and the process. Yoga isn’t always fun, as it can be challenging, but it is rewarding. Approach yoga with curiosity.

16- About chanting… Most classes begin and/or finish with OM chanting. “OM” isn’t a word. It’s a vibrational sound that helps release tension from the body and helps to connect to the breath and the body. Ashtanga classes traditionally start with an invocation in Sanskrit which pays tribute to the lineage of teachers past & present.

17- Better out that in. It’s possible to feel a little sensitive or emotional after your practice. This is normal, as yoga and meditation dislodge deep tensions from the mind and body. Clear the residual tension by resting, drinking a soothing tea/water, eating good food and practicing again tomorrow!

18- Find what’s right for you. There are many different types of yoga and many different teachers. It’s important to discover what and who resonates with you, and this may change over time.

19- Become sensitive to your needs. Whether you are a beginner yoga student or not, kindly remember that yoga is a process of going deeper inside and connecting with what’s happening within and also, understanding the world around you. {See Why Practice Yoga}

20- What’s “Namaste”? Most yoga classes finish with a gesture and the saying “Namaste.” In Sanskrit, this means: “I honor the divine spirit within you and recognize that this is the same spirit that is in me.

21- Have fun and enjoy your practice. That’s the most important part! Allow your practice to change with you, so that it will always suit your ever-changing needs.  {See Postures for Freedom}

{If you think I missed something, please post your additions in the comments below.}

 

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