Who doesn’t know someone who swears by yoga? In recent years, the term ‘yoga’ has often been listed as one of the most googled words on the internet and numbers of those practising it continue to balloon. Why? Well, the health benefits – think reduced stress and anxiety plus improved heart health and brain function – are pretty life changing, for starters. Then you’ve all the physical gains that practising yoga will have on your performance of whatever other sports you’re doing.
But what if you missed out on the yoga rush and now find yourself the only one in your gang without a clue?
‘Don’t be intimidated or nervous,’ says Yohanna Mannelqvist, yoga teacher and wellness coach.
Sound easier said than done? After all, won’t you having to balance on your head and throw out hand stands?
That’s not quite what yoga for beginners looks like. Keep reading for the WH guide to beginners yoga and find out exactly how to go with the flow.
What is Yoga?
Traditionally, yoga can be divided into eight different disciplines: yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (absorption). Together, these help you to focus inwardly and, if that’s your bag, achieve enlightenment. Most classes in Blighty, however, tend to prioritise physical postures that build both strength and stamina, and detox or purify the body
Read: What’s the differences between yoga vs Pilates?
Who is Yoga Good For?
Often find yourself feeling constantly tired? Or wondering how to smash your 10km PB? Or simply wish you could touch your toes?
Yoga can help with all that.
Mannelqvist, herself, discovered yoga when her physical and mental exhaustion became too much. But you don’t need to be faced with burnout to benefit.
‘We live in a fast-paced world and rarely get the chance to slow down to check in with ourselves,’ says Mannelqvist. ‘Yoga gives us the opportunity to pause and take breath; is a great practice for stress management; and increases flexibility, which prevents injuries and increases the body’s range of motion.’
So basically, everyone can benefit from doing yoga for beginners.
An added plus? Those benefits continue after you’ve left the mat.
‘Yoga for beginners gives us tools that we can apply to our daily lives, such as breathing techniques called Pranayama, while adding a weekly yoga practice to your schedule will improve the performance of whatever other sport you are doing,’ Mannelqvist says.
Which Type of Yoga is Right for Me?
When it comes to yoga for beginners, there are most classes to choose from than types of leggings. Which is a lot.
It is not only the style of yoga that is important but that the teacher is right for the student.
‘I always suggest people try different styles of yoga so that they can get a feel for themselves,’ says Mannelqvist. ‘The most common type of yoga in the West is Vinyasa, where you will learn how to link your breath and movement, and go through sequences as a flow. Hatha yoga is another common style of yoga where you hold poses for longer periods of time. This can be beneficial for a beginner as you have more opportunity to experience and understand the pose.’
What Should I Wear for Yoga for Beginners?
You can’t go wrong with a good pair of leggings and stretchy top. Do avoid leggings and kit with zips and detailing on the back as this will only dig in when on the floor.
What are 5 Good Yoga Poses for Beginners?
One way of taking out any potential fear factor from your first yoga for beginners class is to nail a few of the poses before you get started. This way, says Mannelqvist, you’ll be better equipped to follow the flow of the session – and, we say, less likely to fall flat on your mat.
‘Sun salutation, or Suruya Namaskar, is a sequence of poses linked together in a specific order. We practice this flow to create warmth, strength and alignment in the body, and it is a good place for a beginner to start.’
The most important ones to focus on as a beginner yogi?
1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
2. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
3. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
4. Plank Pose
5. Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)
6. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
How Important is Breath in Yoga for Beginners?
Very. Breath is at the core of all yoga poses and practices. That said, when you’re new to yoga, there’s a lot to take in so don’t stress out if you find it hard to master at first.
‘Synchronising the breath with movements can seem a little difficult at first but it will get easier with time,’ says Mannelqvist. ‘I usually encourage beginners to start by bringing awareness to their breath and then seeing if they can deepen their inhales and exhales. Only when they feel familiar with the poses, would I suggest they start to focus on pairing them with the breath – in a typical Vinyasa class, poses are held for 3-5 breaths, while in other practices such as Yin Yoga, poses may be held for several minutes.’
Can I Do Yoga at Home?
You sure can – even yoga for beginners workouts are plentiful online. However, a quick word of warning:
‘I would advise a beginner to invest in a few private classes, first, if they have budget for it,’ says Mannelqvist. ‘That way, they will have personalised guidance from a teacher and learn the poses correctly from the start – so avoiding having to correct habitual misalignments later.’
Makes sense. When you are ready to work out alone, start with Mannelqvist’s top three home yoga workout.
By Emma Pritchard