A Beginner's Guide to Yoga
Today I’m talking about one of my favorite things ever. Yoga. Yessssssss. Seriously, I am such a huge fan of this mental, spiritual, and physical practice that I credit it hugely with pulling me through multiple hard times that I’ve experienced within the past few years. Yoga is a practice for the body, mind, and spirit all at once. It focuses on conscious movement, the breath, strength, and stillness for a truly rewarding self-connection experience. If you’ve never tried yoga before, you may have thought about it and wondered, “Is yoga really for me?” If you’ve pondered that question, but are also drawn to yoga, then chances are high that you will totally love it! Just maybe there’s been a space at your local studio that’s had your name on it for a long time, just waiting for you to show up. Yoga is all-inclusive. Yoga is for everyone. The only reason why it might not be a good fit is if it simply doesn’t resonate with you, and if that’s the case, that’s perfectly okay.
Let’s Talk Yoga, Y’all
One of my absolute favorite things about yoga, and really any kind of physical exercise, is that it can be tailored to you, wherever you are at on your yoga journey right now. You don’t have to mold yourself to some kind of predefined style if you don’t want to. You can pick and choose elements of what you like and what you don’t like and take that which serves you. I’ll lay out a foundation of some of the basic styles.
Restorative - This type of yoga is all about mental, physical, and emotional relaxation with the use of props, calming guided visuals, and oftentimes essential oils.
Hatha - The word literally means “force,” and this is a balancing type of yoga with a focus on holding poses and bringing awareness to the breath. Suitable for beginners.
Ashtanga - Ashtanga yoga features vinyasa sets (featured below) and also an established set of poses that are both physically demanding and meant to create heat in the body. Ashtanga classes can usually be found in varying degrees of difficulty, so they are suitable for beginners all the way up to expert yoga practitioners.
Bikram - This type of yoga is also known as “hot yoga,” one of the many types taught in a room heated to 105 degrees. It consists of 26 postures and is considered more intermediate because of the heat of the room.
Kundalini - This type of yoga incorporates repetitive movements called kriyas, breathing techniques, meditation, and the chanting of mantras to build physical, mental, and spiritual strength. Suitable for all levels, although it is a much more immersive type of yoga.
Vinyasa - Rooted in Ashtanga yoga, many classes are simply titled “Vinyasa,” or “Vinyasa Flow.” This is a flowing, movement-oriented class that is suitable for all levels. Much more aerobic and cardio-driven.
All You Need to Begin Your Yoga Practice
Contrary to the way it may appear when noticing all of the lovely social media yogis out there, you don’t need a thing to begin your yoga practice. You don’t need to be all bendy-flexy, you don’t need to know all the lingo, own a pair of Lululemons, or have your asanas, chaturangas, and down-dogs all in a row. You just need a positive attitude and a willingness to begin. Many people who attend yoga classes in studios are first-timers. Sure, you might walk into a class one time where the gentleman in the front has been holding a headstand for the past 20 minutes (been there), but that’s okay. There are typically people from all walks of life, with all levels of practice that attend the same class.
Yoga is simply about acceptance, awareness, and the joy of moving your body and connecting with yourself on a deeper level. If you’re worried about your skill level, or worried that you’ll never be able to hit a certain pose, don’t stress about it. One of the coolest things about yoga is that you’ll soon realize all of the things that your body can do. It will never be a requirement that you have to be able to touch your toes, or ace that triangle pose to perfection, but you just might go to a class one day and realize you can. And from then on you will never again feel that you can’t, and that transformation from can’t to can is the most exhilarating thing ever.
Recommended Yoga Gear
With that said, while you don’t need a fancy mat or impressive clothes to begin a yoga practice, once you dive in, you may find that you’d like some gear that will last you a long time. So I’ll recommend some of my favorite items that have withstood the test of time, lasted through even the toughest of classes, and just purely make me happy to use them.
Yoga for Tension Release
We often store old emotions and tension in our bodies. The practice of yoga allows the body to create a channel for all that stored up energy to flow outward. It’s a lot like dancing, and in fact I often realize I love yoga because it reminds me so much of dancing. It doesn’t feel like exercise at all, but just an enjoyable and flowing experience. If you feel tense, overwhelmed, or have a lot of emotional feelings stored up inside, yoga just might be the perfect catalyst for a nice release. Don't be surprised if you feel inexplicable emotions arise during your practice, simply honor them and release.
Regardless of whether you are a complete beginner to yoga or have a well-established practice, every class typically ends with one very important word. The word namaste is not solely a yoga word, as a translation literally means ‘salutations to you’, a greeting from one person to another. But it also has a spiritual connotation and meaning that is so much deeper, and used in the practice of yoga to mean equality and seeing the soul in another person. After savasana, a class will typically end just the way it begins, either seated or standing, and the instructor will thank everyone for joining, with hands to heart-center, and end the class with, “namaste.” This holds a deeper meaning of, “the soul in me honors the soul in you, “ and “the divine in me bows to the divine in you.” So, with that said, I’ll echo that sentiment. Wherever you are on your yoga journey… namaste.