So you think about doing yoga for the first time or you might be doing it for some time but still feeling like a beginner and looking for some tips? Amazing! I hope this article will help you with some basic yoga tips for beginners and that you will enjoy your practice as much as I enjoy mine.
So why do I do yoga and want to share some yoga tips for beginners? I have been doing yoga fairly regularly for at least 2-3 years now. I have had some ‘dry periods’ when I wouldn’t do yoga for a month or so, but I kept coming back to the practice.
There is a ton of benefits of doing yoga (especially when you do this daily) and I am going to get to it in a minute, but the main reason why I do yoga is that it created this rare ‘me time’ in my daily schedule.
Don’t get me wrong, I do have a lot of time to rest, I have time (and sometimes even energy!) for my plenty of hobbies, but yoga has this interesting effect of making me feel complete. What I mean by ‘complete’ is that it makes me feel that I have taken care of my physical body (through stretching, gaining more strength, and even a bit of cardio if the practice is fairly fast and I am not a fit person at all), I have taken care of my mental health (through breathing and calming myself down during the practice) and I have also done something which gives me a pure joy.
Score on all fronts.
I think my main point is, that even though I am going to show you the main benefits of yoga and share some basic yoga tips for beginners, the most important is that you find the main benefits for yourself. It is great to hear that yoga gives you strength and flexibility but is this the reason you want to start yoga?
The obvious benefits of yoga are that it improves balance, strength and flexibility. Through trying all the different practices you can make sure that you are improving your overall fitness level and even become out of breath in some cases! ( I mean it in a fun, slightly challenging cardio way – you wouldn’t think that yoga can also give you a cardio workout, would you?).
The important word here is ‘improves’. Do not think you need a certain level of fitness or flexibility to start practicing. Rather than treating yoga like something you will start doing when you can do this or that, just start with a very simple practice today and build flexibility, balance, and strength as you go.
This one is a biggy nowadays. After a year of remote work (who would have thought?) our backs are full of pain and cracking (hello dining room table). Doing some yoga, even 10-15 min each morning can be a perfect solution to this. Even the American College of Physicians recommends yoga as a first-line treatment for chronic low back pain
Research shows that yoga not only reduces inflammation which can lead to pro-inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer but it also improves overall heart health and reduces several risk factors for heart disease.
As I am not a doctor and I don’t have much knowledge around biology, I will let you do your own research on this topic if you want to know how this actually works. For me it is enough to know that there has been research conducted on this topic confirming the benefits of yoga for your heart helth.
This is one of my favourite ones. Doing yoga in the morning or during lunch break might give you an amazing boost of energy. Yes, you might be physically tired and your muscles might hurt, but your overall energy levels will go up.
What I have noticed in myself is that morning yoga usually gives me much better start to my morning. If I wake up and do yoga fairly early (usually before breakfast), I will feel tired right after doing the practice, but once I shower and eat a nutritious breakfast, I feel the energy flowing and I am ready to tackle my work day. Without the morning yoga, my mornings tend to be slower and less organised as I seem to lack the energy (and focus) which comes from the practice.
Yoga during lunchtime is also a great energy booster. Usually, after lunchtime, I have an energy slump and become less productive at work (do not try to book a meeting with me after 4 pm as you will not get anything valuable out of it), but if I dedicate at least 30 min of my lunch break (or even better, go for a full 60 min practice, followed by a healthy lunch) I am becoming super energetic and productive. This way my lunch break may get a bit longer than officially accepted, but if in the end, I am more productive than when I take a shorter break why would anyone have a problem with that? (interesting topic for discussion another time!)
Before we move on to the next point, I just want to clarify one thing – doing yoga doesn’t mean that you will ALWAYS get that energy boost. There might be days when you are tired and getting on that mat will take all the energy you have left. This is not useful and I wouldn’t recommend doing that. Before you hop on the mat, be honest with yourself for a second. Is this what you really want to be doing right this minute, or would you rather grab another 30 min of sleep? Decide to do your practice based on your needs right now.
Relaxing is one of the most amazing benefits of doing yoga practice. You can find practices dedicate exactly to that. If you combine a yoga practice with meditation and mindfulness you can really reduce the level of stress.
There is a scientific explanation to this as well. When we feel stressed, our body produces cortisol, called a ‘stress hormone’. Yoga helps us to reduce this hormone in our bodies. There have been several studies following people who perceived themselves as emotionally distressed. After 2 or 3 month yoga programme (depending on the study) they have shown not only decreased levels of cortisol, but also improvements in quality of life, lower fatigue and reduced depression.
If you are looking for a way to relax after a busy day, this might be your answer, however, this is not something I personally do. Funky fact, I have noticed that if I try to relax after work or before sleep this doesn’t really help me and seems to be stressing me out more rather than relaxing. What works better is a private dance session (Michael Jackson tunes recently) or cleaning house. A bit of movement which gives me pleasure (either dancing which is one of my favorite activities) or the look of the clean house after the cleaning session (again – pleasure feeling) works so much better to put me at ease. I definitely prefer the relaxing activities in the first part of my day, but again – try to do yoga at different times of the day and stick to what works best for you.
I couldn’t believe this benefit of yoga when I first found out, but a study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found out that 20 minutes of yoga improves the brain’s ability to quickly and accurately process information. It is apparently better at doing so than running! ( I don’t say you should swap running for yoga, but maybe a quick practice after your morning jog?).
I wonder if the main cause of this is that through relaxing and more awareness it is easier to process information and connect the dots.
I have gone through some of my personal favourite tips already, but here is a summary of them and a bit more explanation behind each of them.
We are all different and have different needs. If you feel better practicing yoga in the morning – go for that. If you prefer afternoons or evenings – choose this time. You will probably not figure it out in one week. Give yourself time and observe how you feel after each practice.
There is so many types of yoga as well that you might discover that you prefer doing certain types at different times of the day. Look into what each type of yoga looks like and what it can give you (new post idea alert!) and try it out. You might be surprised how different yoga can be, it’s not all Downward Facing Dog and Warrior 2.
I was talking with my friend few weeks ago and she said ‘I do yoga everyday, even if I don’t feel like doing it’. We talked more about it and she admitted that sometimes she just does a 5-10 min session, doesn’t feel good while doing it and afterwards rewards herself with a treat for doing it to feel better.
However, consider this… When we are stressed, our body produces cortisol. If we are pushing ourselves to do yoga, the cortisol spikes and the 10 min yoga session is not long enough to bring it right down. Then, we reward ourselves, for example with our favorite ice cream, which increases our insulin… Cortisol + insulin = fat stored in abdominal area. (this is my understanding. If you want to go deeper into understanding how it actually works, there are plenty of articles and YouTube videos explaining cortisol and insulin relations better than I can do).
I would argue, then it is actually better not to do yoga and just eat that ice cream if you want to. Or don’t and do something else that you actually need right now, like maybe some more sleep or reading a good book.
Having a group around you and a good teacher is an amazing benefit and a great tip for yoga beginners. Practicing n a group, especially in a regular group, gives you a sense of motivation and belonging. You are all connected through a shared interest. You can find yoga teachers and their classes right here.
Adding a good yoga teacher on top of it, helps you to understand what adjustments you need to make your practice more comfortable and efficient (not sure if this is the right word when talking about yoga, but hey, I’m just gonna run with it). A good teacher will approach you and give you tips if you need to adjust your stance or will give you pointers on how to get into each position to make it easier to arrive where you want to be. I was surprised myself many times that once the teacher explained how to get step by step to positions which I felt were simple, that once I followed their instructions I was able to achieve deeper stretch or more aligned position.
At this moment it may be difficult or even impossible joining a yoga group where you are due to the many restrictions we are facing. But Internet is here for the rescue. Many teachers have moved online and are offering regular group practice. Choose your favourite teacher and practice and make sure you show up regularly. Seeing the same faces on videos might give you a similar sense of belonging as a real life group class would.
When it comes to yoga YouTube is your friend. You may already know this, but here is my tip for yoga beginner: try out different yoga teachers! For many, many years I was sticking to one and one of my friends (an aspiring yoga teacher) said ‘I would never be able to compete with her, why would anyone try other teachers since she is so good?’. So I have decided to check what other teachers on YouTube are offering and I was amazed. Each person has their own style and is great for my many, many different moods. I still return to the first yoga teacher I was following, but now have much wider options and enjoy trying out new teachers to find new styles of practice.
If you haven’t realised it by yourself yet – yoga is absolutely awesome. You don’t need anything to start practicing and you don’t need to be a certain level of flexibility or fitness to start. Don’t have a yoga mat? You can easily order one from Amazon – here is a list of my favorite yoga gear available nice and quick from them – or just use a towel. You can also just do it on the floor, or try chair yoga.
See you on the mat!