You’ve heard the same suggestion over and over: “Try yoga! You’ll love it!” So one day you found a random yoga video on YouTube and gave it a try and it… did not go well. Is yoga just not your thing?
Not necessarily. As with any new activity or workout, there are tricks to ease yourself into yoga and get started the right way. To truly try yoga the right way, you need to choose the right type of class, the perfect yoga studio and know how to prepare yourself.
If you’re new to yoga and want to give it a real try, start with these yoga tips for beginners.
1. Know Your Goals
Chances are that everyone who has suggested yoga to you has had a different reason they love it. Some say it’s a great weight loss tool while others love what it does for their flexibility. Others say it saves them time because it combines their workout and meditation into one session.
Those are all potential benefits, and different forms of yoga focus on different goals. So before you choose your first beginner yoga class, you need to know what your goals are.
If you choose, you can have several goals. You could mix them up as well, focusing on flexibility on Mondays and Wednesdays but emphasizing strength training on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Most online yoga classes have one or two goals they work toward and they explain these in the class descriptions. Knowing what you’re aiming for will make it easier to find the perfect yoga teacher and classes for yoga beginners.
2. Understand the Basic Yoga Styles
As you hunt for your first yoga class, you’ll see tons of new terms you don’t understand: “vinyasa,” “hatha,” “ashtanga,” and so on.
These labels reflect different forms of yoga, and they each have their own focuses and styles. Understanding those terms will help you narrow down which classes are best for beginning yoga.
One of the most common types of yoga is vinyasa yoga. This form coordinates your movements with your breath, and it flows well from one pose to the next. It’s a nice balance between exercise and meditation, so it’s a good intro for beginners.
Yin yoga is also called restorative yoga. This slow-paced yoga focuses on body recovery, so don’t expect to work up a sweat.
Ashtanga yoga is much like vinyasa. While vinyasa uses many different poses throughout the class, though, an ashtanga class will have one flow (set of several poses) that it keeps repeating. It also tends to be more physically intense than vinyasa.
You’ve probably heard of hot yoga already, and it’s exactly what it sounds like it is. You’re doing yoga in a very hot room, which is meant to loosen your muscles for more flexibility.
Hatha is a type of yoga, like vinyasa, that is beginner-friendly. It is slow-paced and focuses on teaching you the core poses. Expect more emphasis on flexibility and balance than on burning calories.
Bikram yoga is a well-known term but it’s often misused. Bikram is a branded term for a specific, copyrighted type of yoga. It uses heat as hot yoga does, but it also has its own other techniques.
While there are other types of yoga, these are the most common ones you’ll see.
3. Curate Your Environment
Your environment is an important factor in getting the most out of your workout, especially with yoga. Adjust the room to set the tone for your session.
You want the session to be relaxing? Turn down the lights and light a candle (out of reach of your movements).
Want your morning yoga to energize you? Use mood-boosting essential oils and bright lighting.
Make sure you have plenty of space around your mat. Block out distractions by turning off your phone. If you have clingy pets, it may be best to put them in another room.
4. Get Reflective
Your form is an important part of yoga. It keeps you safe while also giving your body the most benefit in every pose.
For at-home yoga, though, it’s difficult to know if your form is right when you can’t see yourself. In these cases, set up a full-length mirror in the room if possible to monitor your yoga poses.
5. Consider a Preview
With any new workout, it’s far less intimidating if you know what you’re in for. Unless you happen to have a crystal ball, the best way to do this for at-home yoga is to watch the video before you try it yourself.
You don’t have to watch the whole thing. Just fast-forward through a few poses. This gives you an idea of what to expect from the yoga instructor and whether this video is the right one for your skill level.
Of course, don’t shy away from a class if you aren’t sure that you can do all the poses. You may surprise yourself, and you can always modify a pose to make it more accessible until you’re able to do the full form.
6. Listen to Your Body’s Signals
That saying “no pain, no gain” needs to come with a whole lot of asterisks. There is a difference between good pain and bad pain when you’re doing yoga.
The discomfort you want is the feeling of a productive stretch or the burn of a muscle being safely worked. What you don’t want is the pain of a stretch or pose pulling you too far too quickly, or a joint holding weight at the wrong angle.
To avoid yoga injuries, listen to your body. If you ever feel discomfort that isn’t productive or expected, stop. Chances are that you need to adjust your form or modify the move.
7. Choose Yoga Clothes, Not Exercise Clothes
A light jog can be fun and refreshing, but not if you try to do it in stilettos. The same is true in yoga: your outfit will make or break the experience.
Not all workout clothes work well for yoga. Choose fitting clothing that allows you to see your form so you can make sure you’re doing the poses correctly.
Another tip is to choose clothes with serious stretch so they don’t limit your movements. Finally, start with pants that go past your knees. You can expect to put weight on your knees on the mat, and this is usually more comfortable in long pants than shorts.
8. Be Careful of What You Eat
Yoga is a bendy workout. You’ll be twisting, putting weight on your belly, and positioning your upper body upside-down. As you can imagine, that becomes deeply uncomfortable with a full or unsettled stomach.
Avoid eating anything too heavy within a few hours of your yoga class. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, but don’t drink too much on an empty stomach right before class. That feeling of sloshing water in your stomach isn’t the greatest for yoga.
At the same time, a quick snack can give you the energy you need to get the most out of the workout. Just stick to lighter snacks like a banana, a handful of nuts, or similar fare.
9. Be Patient
It’s easy to see all those yogis or the instructors in your class videos and get excited about the idea of mastering those complex poses. Slow your roll, though.
All the goals yoga works toward, like flexibility, tone, and balance, take time. There’s a reason we call a yoga session a “practice” — because it’s a process you need to follow.
Be patient, and let your body take the course it takes. As long as you stick with it, you will improve. It might not be an improvement in every single session, but it will happen.
10. Be Willing to Explore
No one expects one flavor of cookie to be a favorite for every person in the world. The same is true for yoga.
While we discussed a few different forms of yoga above, that list is the tip of the iceberg. There are many types of yoga, and each one appeals to different fitness goals and different personalities.
On top of the yoga itself, different people enjoy classes better with different instructors. It’s a matter of personality and tone, and finding out which instructors vibe best with what you want. That’s just as true with online yoga classes as it is for yoga classes in person.
Falling in Love with Yoga Tips for Beginners
Yoga is one of those workouts that everyone experiences in a different way. You might want it to be relaxing and stress-relieving or to be energizing and invigorating. No matter what your goal is, there’s a yoga class out there that will give it to you.
Your experience begins with you, though. These yoga tips for beginners will help you make the most of your experiments with yoga, whether you fall in love from the first class or you have to try a few classes to find the yoga practice that’s right for you.
Looking for even more tips to enhance your yoga classes? Check out more yoga articles on our site.