Yoga Training For Beginners: A Beginner’s guide to getting started
Today we have a guest blogger, Yoga Practitioner, Bianca Scalise who is sharing her knowledge and expertise on Yoga.
Yoga Training For Beginners: A Beginner’s guide to getting started – Written by Bianca Scalise
As a Yoga practitioner, I’m so passionate about sharing what Yoga can do for you because I see the benefits in my students and myself everyday. It has definitely helped me become more flexible, strong, and relaxed. My practice keeps me happy, healthy and ready to useful in every day life.
I know as a beginner the world of Yoga can seem confusing and maybe even a bit intimidating. With all of the different styles, weird pose names, and people folding themselves into pretzels, it’s hard to know where to begin. I hope this guide can offer some clarity and help you feel confident to embark on your journey. I always love teaching yoga training for beginners as I know once you start you will not want to stop!
Is yoga for me?
The most common thing I hear from people who don’t give Yoga a try is because they believe they think they’re not flexible, and therefore, can’t do Yoga.
My classes range from teens to adults in their 60s and guess what! Most of them can’t put their feet behind their heads and some can’t touch their toes! For those of you that need to increase your mobility and range of motion, you really should give Yoga a try.
Yoga is for everyone regardless of your age, sex, shape and size. You don’t have to lose 5 pounds before taking a yoga class. In fact, going to Yoga will probably help you lose that 5 pounds!
What IS Yoga?
Yoga is not a religion. It is a physical and mental exercise that welcomes everyone. You may have heard of people saying “Aauummm” (a sound that symbolizes the connectedness of all of creation) or “Namaste” which just basically means “I recognize the love and light that is in all of us.” Pretty universal ideas of honoring one another. You can be a Christian that practices yoga or a Baptist, Hindi or an Atheist.
Did you know Yoga was designed by men and, until recently, has been a male dominated practice? Considering males are naturally more tight than females it just makes sense for them to do some extra stretching. Plus, Yoga looks really good on a guy. There’s something about a physically, mentally and emotionally balanced guy that is extremely attractive. So is yoga for you if you’re a guy? Definitely.
Where should I start?
Today there are tons of ways to access yoga. Free YouTube videos, DVDs, online streaming sites, books and even apps allow you to do Yoga whenever & wherever you can. Treat those resources as supplements. The best way to begin is to dive in!
Start your journey by attending a live class.
If your mind is screaming “Are you crazy? I’m not ready to try this in public!” Don’t worry. There are plenty of beginner classes.You’ll learn faster and keep yourself safe by having an expert there. You’ll be able to ask a teacher for advice when you need it and receive adjustments when you are out of alignment. Seeing more advanced versions of the poses can also give you inspiration to continue and get to the next level!
I recommend you find a studio by your home that is easy to get to. By making Yoga easy to access you’re more likely to stick with it. Consistency = results! At first commit to taking 1 class a week for a month. Yoga will leave you feeling so good you’ll probably want to take 2 or 3 next month!
Yoga is as multidimensional as the personalities of people. There are a ton of different styles.
Take some time at the beginning of your yoga journey to find out what style you like.
More energetic people who like to be kept on their toes might enjoy a Vinyasa Flow class. If you are looking for a challenge but prefer to practice the same poses every time try Ashtanga.
If you need some quiet time to relax with slow sequences for flexibility try Yin or restorative yoga. Or maybe you’re looking for an intense yoga workout like Power Yoga. Usually a studio will offer a class specific to beginners. Be sure to ask what level the class is and try out a few different classes to see which style excites you.
While experimenting with styles also experiment with different teachers and maybe even different studios. Each will have a feel of their own that you may or may not resonate with. Just like for anything else there are some teachers that will be very serious and others that are more light hearted. Some will make jokes throughout the class and others will place more value on silence. See who’s voice really speaks to you.
Don’t be freaked out when the teacher starts saying weird Sanskrit words like “Chaturanga” and “Vinyasa”. In beginner classes there will always be someone demonstrating the proper movements and giving helpful cues for alignment and activation. A good teacher doesn’t just say put your hands here and your legs here. They walk you through the process inspiring you to take your practice to the next level while encouraging you to listen to the wisdom of your body.
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Why should I practice Yoga?
Everyone knows Yoga increases flexibility. But holding yourself in those odd poses will also help you gain strength and distribute your power in ways you haven’t experienced before.
You’ll increase your range of motion, mobility and agility all while preventing injury. Remember that weird pain in your back? Not after a couple months of yoga. You will release tension in your body you didn’t even know you were holding and experience a deeper level of calm and relaxation. Your balance becomes increasingly sharp by working the stabilizer muscles and exercising coordination.
When I began practicing Yoga it was so exciting to feel new connections to areas of my body I didn’t even know existed. Every class unlocks another level of freedom in the body.
Mental and emotional benefits. Wherever you are, be all there.
Have you ever been somewhere physically but mentally started drifting somewhere else? Maybe at work you’re thinking about your next vacation.
Throughout your day you might notice lots of thoughts popping in your mind. “What do I have to do in 10 minutes? What am I going to have for dinner? Is my girlfriend/boyfriend mad at me? Should I quit my job?
Connecting breathing to movement (as we do in yoga) takes concentration. While on the mat you are directing all of your focus to your breathing and the movement. Both of which are taking place right here, right now, in the present moment.
By taking your attention away from what has happened in the past or what might happen in the future and redirecting it toward what is actually happening in the present you are exercising your Awareness. That is, your ability to be conscious and alert to the feelings, sights, sounds and ideas that currently exist in your reality.
There is no worry in the present because there is no anticipation for what will happen in the future. There is no regret in the present because there is no concern for what has happened in the past. Making yourself available to the present moment gives you the freedom to view your life as a field of opportunity.
Every moment is your chance to create the life you love and head in the direction that is right for you.
Think about accessing the present moment like decluttering your mind. As you let go of thoughts that aren’t serving you suddenly your mind becomes more clear and room is made for the right messages to come in.
You can imagine the way that feels. To be liberated of “What Ifs“. No more dwelling on should have would have or could have. Slowing down the mind so much that the rushing stream of thoughts softens. Peace. Calm. Presence. You are in control of the mind. You would no longer be as easily affected by the judgements or negativity of others. You could take a step back to respond in a cool and calm manner rather than react abruptly. Connectedness: Yoga translates to “Union”
Like I told you earlier, the first time I did Yoga I felt muscles in my butt that I had never felt before! I physically increased connection to my body.
On a deeper level we talked about how we connect the body and breathing which gives us control over the mind. That same idea of exercising connection happens on another level.
Connection we experience internally is mirrored externally. It is an awareness of the connection between us and all other beings. Our mind can be our best tool or worst enemy. Ego lives in the mind, right?
As we slow down the mind from creating all of the reasons why we are so separate from others and all of the scenarios where others could take advantage of us, we start to feel, understand and focus on how we are all similar.
That shift of perspective gives you a greater understanding and moves us to treat others with more respect and compassion. Treat others like you want to be treated, right?
Any time we chose to slow down the steady stream of thoughts in the mind we exercise our power over this incredible tool. When we let it take over there is a flood of voices in the mind that can make us overwhelmed.
You are your minds keeper not the other way around. Experiencing that is truly liberating.
Yoga is rainbows, butterflies and sweat.
I hope I didn’t lose you with that one but it’s true. Yoga can help you to be a happier more centered person. However, Yoga is work, physically and mentally.
Mentally, you need to be very focused and centered in the here and now. In your first classes remember not to be self conscious or compare yourself to others. And don’t be nervous, no one is looking at you. Everyone is too focused on their own practice to notice how your pose looks, I promise.
If the person next to you has succeeded in folding themselves into a pretzel remember that they too were once a beginner and have probably been working on that for years.
Consciously remind yourself that Yoga is never about the pose.
When the goal of yoga isn’t about putting your foot behind your head or nailing your handstand, everything becomes much more enjoyable.
Yoga is about everything that happens on our journey through the poses which helps us to evolve the mind, body, and spirit. Take it one step at a time.
So here is my advice to you when you are feeling frustrated that you can’t reach your toes or go deeper into a physical pose. Start to concentrate on your breath.
Consider this the mental part of your yoga practice. With every exhale let go of frustration and expectation. Consider it an exercise in patience and self acceptance. Allow your body the time it needs to slowly evolve into the yoga practice. No rush, nice and slow. Isn’t that the way most BIG things are accomplished? Stay in the moment, always. Go through each moment with joy and stay present. Let go of expectation to nail this or that pose and just enjoy every breath on the journey there.
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The Power of your breath
Do this with me.
Breathe really short choppy breaths rapidly, in and out as fast as you can for 30 seconds. . . . . . . . . . .
How do you feel? Unsettled? Did your heart rate increase? Is your face tense?
Now, relax your forehead and relax all the tension you just created in your lips and your jaw. Take 7 deep breaths. In through your nose and out through your mouth. Deep fluid breaths. Fill up and and let it all out……
How do you feel now? Relaxed? At ease? Calm?
That is a small example of the power your breath has over how you feel. When we feel relaxed we are better able to respond rather than react, make good decisions, and act like the awesome beings we really are rather than the grumpy monster our stress can make us become.
Messages from your breath while practicing Yoga
How do people breath when they are panicking or about to get into a fight? In stressful situations we immediately react by breathing anxiously and heavily.
The same thing happens when you are trying to muscle your way into a deeper twist in Yoga class. When you start practicing yoga try to notice your breath in every pose.
If it ever becomes short, heavy or choppy take this as a message from your breathing to take a step back and reintroduce some ease to your practice. Return to that long deep breathing and set maintaining that breath as the priority. Your breathing is always there to guide you.
3 things to remember starting out
1. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
I like to apply this to every aspect of my life, especially Yoga.
I think back to a time i had a room full of students in tree pose. They were focusing so intensely on balancing their entire body on one foot I noticed stern stoic looks on everyone’s faces. There was an intensity and even a tension in the room as every individual was concentrating on maintaining proper form and not falling to one side. “Relax guys, we’re just pretending to be trees.” Smiles and laughter softened the energy in the room as this realization was made.
There is an incredible wisdom in yoga that allows us to return to a childlike state where we imitate objects in nature (Fish Pose, Tree Pose, Crow Pose etc…). Allow yourself to keep a child-like mind as well. Smile, enjoy, and breathe. When you fall over laugh at yourself. Go into every practice with a sense of ease and playfulness.
2. Your body is your best teacher.
If something doesn’t feel right, stop or take a step back.
You know your body better than anyone else, even better than your teacher. Listen to it, honor it, do what you can, and go at your own pace. I like to tell my students “Everything I say is an invitation. Whether or not you’d like to accept it is entirely up to you and your body.”
As you listen to your body you cultivate awareness of its subtle messages. Follow those messages and you will always be safe.
3. Focus on what you are not good at.
Strength, Balance and Flexibility. We always have a deficiency of one. Sometimes it’s good to focus on what you’re “bad” at. If your arms are super strong, great! Do Power Yoga because you enjoy it but don’t forget to take time to do “Downward Facing Dog” to work on your hamstring flexibility. Maybe spend even more time doing Yin than you spend working on your handstands, chaturangas and the poses you know you’re good at. My practice is always changing depending on how my body is feeling. Some days I’ll do fast, sweaty Vinyasa. Other days I’ll focus on detoxing with twists, and then there are days where I’ll just lay down with a few pillows under my back and breathe. Listen to the wisdom of your body and play with your practice.
What do I need?
So now that you know what to do, where to go and more or less what to expect let’s talk about your gear. Yoga is a pretty low maintenance activity but there are some essentials.
Wear comfortable clothes to your Yoga class. The less restrictive the better. Yoga pants are great but if you’re not into that (guys) loose shorts are fine. Some men wear yoga pants with basketball shorts over them. Sometimes you’ll notice the shorts getting in your way so it’s nice for guys to have the option to take them off during the class. It’s good to wear a shirt that isn’t too loose so its not constantly falling toward your head in all of the inverted poses!
Most of the time the studio you attend will have mats for guests to use but if you are really committing to adding yoga to your life I would suggest grabbing a mat of your own! I like my mats at least 5mm thick so they offer a little more support for my joints. Be sure to get one that has good grip so your mat doesn’t become a slip n’ slide once things get sweaty. You can get one at some discount stores for $15-$30. YogaRat is a good inexpensive brand. Those will last you a while but they usually start to shred after a few of months and can’t handle many washes. If you are thinking of investing in a higher quality $60-$80 mat I like the Manduka ProLite and the reversible 5mm by Lululemon
As a beginner you may find blocks useful but i wouldn’t worry about buying them. They are usually available for you to borrow at studios and there are lots of poses you can do that don’t require props. Books do just fine in place of blocks for home practice.
Another prop you might encounter are straps. These can be useful if you aren’t the most flexible person. They are great to throw over your foot in a reclined hamstring stretch but you can easily substitute them with a belt or scarf.
You might see people with a towel over their mat. I’ve honestly never used one because I feel it would get in the way but it may come in handy if you sweat like crazy!
Don’t sweat the small stuff. All you really need to do yoga is your body, your mind, and an open heart.
I wish you joy on your journey with Yoga. If you have any questions about getting started please let me know in the comments below!
Love & Light,
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