Updated: Jan 3
10 tips for beginners starting yoga
People often have told me I would like to practice yoga, but they fear it’s too esoteric, too difficult, they think they are not flexible or strong enough, think it’s only for Hippies to do yoga etc. etc. – the list goes on. Let me assure you don’t have to be flexible, strong, and a vegan to start with a journey of self-discovery and love to yourself and others. Of course, the constant marketing and sales efforts of not only yoga schools, but also banks, airlines etc. can put us off, we see lean bodies in Handstands or Headstands or other difficult postures, but this is not yoga (in my modest opinion), at least not for most people.
Here are 10 tips for beginners starting a yoga practice:
(this list was written spontaneously by myself, so if you can think of anything to add, please let me know).
1. Do some research. Go and try a few classes. Every teacher teaches differently and is at a different mature stage of his or her path. Who speaks to you? Who do you feel has integrity in action? Who do you feel comfortable within this personal discovery? Read about the experience of the teacher. There is nothing wrong with a newly qualified teacher who has plenty of years behind them, but yoga teacher training has become a big profit for many schools and studios and often the quality of their training is poor.
2. The physical practice of yoga is only a small part of yoga's whole philosophy, so does your teacher focus on this physical aspect only? That's ok if that's what you want and especially in the beginning, it might be more than enough. Slowly, with time; thus, you will see that there is so much more to it and how practice influences your whole world perspective.
Often people say it’s not about looking good, it’s not about being flexible, but you see them in constant good-looking difficult postures (photoshopped pictures) on Instagram? For myself, I need a teacher who is down to earth, does not confuse yoga is such with business and gives me more on a physiological level than only a good workout. I want to work out but also to work-in.
Exercise can influence you on a physiological level. A yoga practice can make you strong and flexible, but depending on how it is taught also affects your emotions, sensitivity, nervous and other bodily systems.
3. Yoga is a kind of challenge to any cultural dogma, your perceived world and vision. It’s a path of self-inquiry and evolution step by step to be hopefully more content and loving. If you feel the practice makes you anything else but content, change practice. Begin where you are and be open-minded.
4. Be aware of your limitations and move with a feeling of wellbeing, rather than force. Any signs that you switch on your sympathetic nervous system (the flight and fight response) sign that you move away from “yoga”.
5. Be aware that most of us are not naturally flexible people anymore, we sit too much on chairs or stand still and don’t move fluidly enough, so bend your knees, use props and be safe (kind) yourself. Don’t’ be stubborn. You will be surprised by how many people I have observed bending, stretching too much. Even thus, I told them to bend knees or take a block, moving back into a potentially “dangerous’ posture again once my attention drifted to somebody else. Ultimately this care and kindness you will give to yourself will hopefully extend to the people around you. Make sure your teacher offers you choice and teaches the shapes safely.
6. Listen to your body takes time. We are ignorant of what is happening and often unconsciously move other areas than being told when exercising. We are not aware that there are associated movements, that is, if you raise your arms, be aware of what happens in other parts of your body, such as, e.g. the lover back. A good teacher will help you to awaken this awareness.
7. Don’t be put off by Sanskrit names and all the instructions. As mentioned before it takes time; it’s a step by step progression, be grateful for what you have learnt. Sometimes this wisdom comes spontaneously, and you will notice it, it feels good!! A release of tension, a clearer mind, more vitality etc. – however be patient and try not to overanalyse and therefore overstimulate yourself.
8. Often, beginners and other practitioners breathe too much in class. Don’t copy!! In fact, be careful as it is our natural tendency to copy, but we may copy unwholesome patterns. Read about hyperventilation and hypoventilation and what it does to your brain. It really can change a lot of bad habits and increase the often-cited benefits of yoga if you focus on natural breath, especially in the beginning, before learning complicated pranayama (breath control) practices that may lead to over-breathing.
9. Be kind to your teacher. He or she is a human being. Being a yoga teacher means to struggle for many people unless you are wealthy and making it to the next month. Do not be needy and demanding. If you found a good teacher, show gratitude! Maybe outside classes, support your teacher by mentioning them, posting their retreats and workshops, and recommending someone good to others. Please don’t keep it for yourself! More and more teachers are out there, and often long experienced people are deciding to quit teaching.
10) Enjoy the beautiful art of yoga!
Have you got anything else to add to my tips for beginners yoga? Please follow me on Facebook, where I will post blogs such as this one. I also offer a beginners yoga course online. You can check this on my website or here: Check out the next course and see you on the mat. Learn the foundation of a joyful practice.