Everything You Need to Know To Start Yoga
Yoga has changed and steered my life in directions I didn’t even dream of when I started out. Yoga has the capacity to transform people’s bodies and minds – I’ve seen it countless times. Recognising the universal appeal and potential of yoga, in 2014 the United Nations declared the 21st June the International Day of Yoga.
Have you tried yoga yet? Is there something stopping you? Questions you’re perhaps afraid to ask?
Is yoga for me?
Why bother – how could yoga even help me?
What happens in a class?
What if I make a fool of myself?
I can’t even touch my toes – they’ll all laugh at me!
What’s the point of sitting naval gazing? I’ve got things to do!
Yoga doesn’t have to be this complicated. I too couldn’t touch my toes when I started!
Do any of these questions sound familiar?
I put off trying yoga for a long time. And even on my first try, I was kind a bit “meh” with the experience and didn’t return. A couple of years later there was still a kernel of curiosity as to what the fuss was all about. So after seeing Hot Bikram Yoga on a reality TV show (remember Queer Eye for the Straight Guy anyone?), I jumped in to Bikram Yoga the first week it opened in Adelaide. And I haven’t looked back. My tastes in yoga have changed considerably since then, but my passion for yoga remains.
Here’s what you need to know to prepare you to take that first step toward that first class.
Terminology: Hatha vs Vinyasa Yoga
The term “Hatha” apparently is a combination of the words sun and moon in Sanskrit, pertaining to the practice of balancing the heating and cooling forces within the body. Technically Hatha Yoga refers to the physical practices that one uses to gain control and mastery over the body and mind. It can include breathing techniques, meditation and of course Asana. In modern, western terms, Hatha is often used to describe a yoga class where the postures are held for a few breaths before returning to a relaxed position. And then the process is repeated. Iyengar Yoga is one example. Yin Yoga is a slow, meditative hatha yoga style where the postures are held for a couple minutes at a time. Props like blankets, bolsters and straps are used to help
Vinyasa is Sanskrit for “to place in a special way”. In modern, western yoga the term refers to a class which is more flowing in nature – one pose (which may only be held for a moment) then transitions into the next, and then the next. Common types of Vinyasa yoga include Ashtanga Vinyasa and Power Yoga.
Why Practice Asana?
Physical benefits of stretching are well documented for men and women. Practicing stretching can improve flexibility, agility and aid in recovery and injury prevention in athletes. Stretching allows you to move your body in ways it may not get in everyday life as we increasingly lead sedentary lives. Stretching and Yoga can help you:
- Maintain range of motion of joints
- Relieve joint and muscle pain
- Improve strength and flexibility
- Allows better, more easeful posture
- Can improve balance
- Movement variability to reduce injury risk
A yoga teacher once described to me as “massage from the inside out” – I agree. Many clients have resolved their need for physio or massage appointments simply by starting a regular yoga practice.
Problems that may be relieved with Yoga:
- Posture related issues
- Work-related repetitive strain
- Problems from sedentary jobs and lives
- Reduced need for manual therapies (massage, physio) to release tight muscles.
- (and many more)
What happens in a class?
You will bring a mat or hire one from the studio. Wear something that is comfortable to move in and take your shoes and socks off. When you arrive the teacher will check you in and open the studio when the class time starts. Shoes stay outside the room, but you can take your keys and valuables in (turn off your mobile phone). We have a variety of class passes that you can choose from – if you’re new, try our new Intro Pass.
You might start with a seated or laying down relaxation to start to focus your mind. The teacher will lead you through a series of asanas and they may introduce some yoga philosophies to help you work through the sensations you’re feeling.
It’s normal to feel different feelings in a class. You might feel joy, calm and relaxation. There might be moments of fear, frustration, uncertainty as you do something completely new. All these feelings are welcomed and we learn to deal with them on the mat so that we might learn strategies to deal with the same feelings off the mat and outside the class.
The class finishes with Savasana (corpse pose) – which is a laying down meditation to help your body and mind rest, relax and process the yoga practice and prepare you to re-enter the world.
After the class
At the end of the class, you will clean your mat and gather your things.
What if I make a fool of myself?
This is much less likely than you think! But since you’re asking…
- If you can’t touch your toes – you’ve come to the right place!
- Everyone has been a beginner at yoga at some point. And like everything in life – there’s always things to learn and ways to improve. We don’t judge people for trying new things – we commend them for stepping outside their comfort zone.
- Everyone in a yoga class knows what it’s like to feel stiff and not know your left from your rights (I still struggle!).
- Yes, everyone has farted in a yoga class too. It happens – we chuckle (because pop-offs are funny by nature – it’s a thing) and then we move on. It’s a good life lesson.
We strive to create a caring and welcoming community. We work together and we look forward to welcoming new people.
Who should do yoga?
- Anyone and everyone should at least give it a try – you’ve not nothing to lose!
- You’re never too old. Just take inspiration from this 86 year old Gymnast!
- Yoga is for everyone with a body and mind.
- Men and women.
How do I maximise the benefits of Yoga?
Consistency is the key – daily is recommended but maybe a couple times a week is the most realistic. You can supplement what you learn in class with a few postures at home. You’ll see the benefits within a week or two. A weekly practice is a great start and you will feel the difference within a couple months.
The benefits you get are cumulative over time. Just as you might put a few dollars into a savings account every week and reap the rewards down the track, yoga is the same. Practicing regularly is an investment into your body’s health and wellness fund. You’re body and mind will reap the rewards over time. Sometimes you may need to draw on your reserves (stress, sickness, time off), but then you start again and you’re in better shape than you were before.
Harvard Health Publishing (2019) The Importance of Stretching. Accessed 6th October from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-stretching