5 tips to getting started with yoga, no matter what your fitness level or flexibility…
Yoga is a physical activity but also can be a mental challenge. In yoga, there is a big focus on quieting the random thoughts that run through our mind everyday. It’s like cleaning the cobwebs away to make space for happy thoughts! There are yoga poses to help in almost any situation. Feeling stressed? Take child’s pose. Laying on your back with your legs up the wall can help reduce anxiety and help you get to sleep. Sun salutations can energize you in the morning if you are sluggish. Twists can even help if you have cramps or a stomachache! Here are some tips to help you get started with yoga…
1. Find the right gear
Yoga involves a lot of movement, and you want to be comfortable! Lightweight clothing is best, and pieces that will stretch as you move. Try to find something you feel confident and comfortable in. You can focus more on the poses if you are not worrying about how you look. A shirt with a positive saying or pants in your favorite color are a great ego boost. Look for a mat that will fit your body type (taller yogis need longer mats), and reflect your personality. The feeling you get when you wear your favorite outfit can be a great motivator to do more good things for yourself.
2. Find the right class
Yoga can be challenging for any level of fitness, so start with a beginner level class to learn the basics. Don’t expect that you need to be a master yogi to practice with others! Try a few seated poses at home while watching tv to get your body used to moving: poses like seated forward folds or even child’s pose can help you shake off the stress of a crazy day and help you relax. You can find classes online or at a yoga studio, but start small and build up to more challenging practices even if you are already strong or flexible. Learning the poses properly will help you as you advance, and beginner classes will offer a slower pace so you can absorb more details.
3. Be consistent
You aren’t going to see instant results in your flexibility, but stick with it! Taking classes on as regular basis (at least once a week) are the key to strengthening your body. If there are poses you can’t do, try something else or modify the pose. Modifications can be done using yoga props (blocks or straps) to help you touch your toes, lift your hips, and give an extra boost to your new yoga practice. Patience is the key to success! Try tree pose while waiting for the bus in the morning. Even out your inhales and exhales during class when the next pop quiz is announced to keep your nerves under wraps so you can focus on the challenge. Yoga doesn’t happen just on the mat.
4. Be realistic
Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook all have great photos and videos for motivation, but sometimes they can be misleading! Very experienced yogis haven’t been a beginner in a long time and can make very challenging poses look easy. Daily photo challenges on social media usually include poses that are not intended for beginner yoga bodies. Follow your favorite celebri-yogis for inspiration, but know that they’ve put years of work into the poses they can do. I first started yoga to help me cope with stress when I broke up with a boyfriend. It gave me something else to think about while on my mat and eventually it helped me to lose weight, too. Everyone has rough times in their life, but hard yoga poses are just like stressful days: if you focus and breathe easy, you’ll get through it and probably feel a lot better afterward!
5. Practice with a Friend
When I started to practice yoga at home, it was really easy to talk myself out of coming to the mat. Make a date with a friend to meet regularly. You’ll hold each other accountable, and enjoy more of the practice if you have a buddy with you. A buddy can also be fun if you decide to try acro/partner yoga down the road! Once I started yoga, I spent more time with my friends who were active and trying to be healthy. I had less time for sitting around and eating junk or being bored, and more time burning calories. Besides, exercise releases endorphins which puts you in a better mood!
Smile, and always remember to breathe.
Jessica Rienecker has been practicing yoga since 2009, and teaching since 2013 in Orange County, California. By adopting a healthier lifestyle, she lost 40+ pounds! She focuses on intro level classes to help make yoga accessible to all fitness levels and body types. You can find her online at www.tallgirlyogi.com.