Yoga is quite different from most types of exercise and fitness because in most cases you won’t be pushing yourself to heart wrenching limits as you would with sports, cardio oriented workouts, and weight lifting.
Don’t be put off by advanced yoga poses you may have seen. Yoga is actually very accessible to beginners with a little interest and determination.
This isn’t to say that yoga is without its merits and in reality this form of exercise offers so many health benefits that can enrich one’s life. It even differentiates itself from the crowded collective of fitness in that it delivers benefits such as relaxation, pain relief, strength, and mood enhancement in ways that the other forms of exercise cannot.
But while it is easy to see that yoga provides plenty for the mind and body the prospect of getting started can still be quite daunting. In this article we will guide you through starting a yoga routine as a beginner. Use the table of contents to easily navigate this yoga guide and seek out a topic in particular.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a unique activity in that it is very much physical (hence sequences comprised of poses and stretches) but at the same time also engages the mind as well as one’s spirituality should one pursue this characteristic. In short, it is a type of fitness that blends physical action with meditation.
The beauty of yoga is that if you were to start practicing at home for instance you could employ your own self expression. The nature of yoga, whether doing a sequence at home or taking a class, allows for your own personal definition.
As a discipline it originated in India and is said to have started around the fifth or sixth centuries BCE. There are various types of yoga under the umbrella of different religions such as Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Tantra. Some popular types of yoga include hatha, bikram, ashtanga, and kundalini. It is important to note that different types of yoga put an emphasis on different goals.
Yoga has roots in the religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Tantra.
For example, with restorative yoga the goal is primarily muscle relaxation while the goal with something like yin yoga aims to help improve flexibility and increase circulation of the joints. That’s not to say that most forms of yoga share many similarities in terms of health benefits it’s just that they emphasize certain benefits more than others.
As a beginner it’s important not to stress over which form of yoga to start with as their are many free newbie yoga courses available online. Later on in the article we will point you in the direction of some of the best free beginner courses.
A person who practices the discipline of yoga, beginners and pro’s alike, is known as a yogi. If you’ve ever heard this term thrown around by your friends or in an instructional video you’ve seen this is all it is. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, woman, or child, you’re a yogi if you do yoga (even if you’re a starter).
The types of movements that make up this discipline are a variety of stretches and poses. Even men/women completely new to yoga will take part in static as well as dynamic poses and stretches. Some may be easy while others exceedingly difficult and there is always room for growth as the more advanced poses are a far cry from beginner routines in terms of difficulty. As a beginner you’ll want to start with the basics before moving on to the cool (and difficult!) poses.
Is There a Best Type of Yoga?
As a someone new to the discipline you are probably wondering what the best type of yoga for beginner’s is. The short answer to this question is that there isn’t one but let’s dive in and find out why this is.
We’ll also discuss different types of yoga and explain briefly what they are all about.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to yoga. We all enter the world of yoga at different starting points and we all have different goals and intentions.
Some may be overweight and others underweight. Some may seek to lose weight while others are interested in the meditative and relaxation aspects of yoga.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to yoga. The best type for you is the type that you won’t give up on and aligns with your personal goals.
Variables such as these will dictate how you respond to a certain type of yoga and whether or not it clicks with you. So it isn’t about finding the generally agreed upon best type of yoga for everybody but rather the best type for you as a person with individual needs and wants.
Taking several different yoga classes can be a great way to find out which style of yoga works best for you. Find out which types of yoga different classes around you focus on and then sample as many as you see fit.
Don’t stress if you are complete beginner as many instructors will give you extra instruction and attention if you tell them you are new to yoga.
Set on starting at home? We’ll cover how to get started at home in detail in the next section of this guide but here are a few types of yoga and what they’re main focus is:
- Restorative yoga
- This type of yoga is meant for restoration and relaxation. The focus here is alignment of the mind and body which is achieved by light movement and remaining still.
- Ashtanga yoga
- Ashtanga can be taxing and is quite athletic in nature. The goals here are to build strength, flexibility, stamina, realign the spine, and detoxify the body.
- Iyengar yoga
- Iyengar yoga aims to achieve perfect alignment and it is taught that there is a correct way to perform each pose. The balance achieved in the body is said to be transferred to the mind.
How to Get Started with Yoga Right Now
As a complete beginner yoga it’s best to do more and think less which is while we’ll be guiding you through all of the basics when it comes to first starting out. Below you will find out what you need to know whether you want to begin doing yoga at home or take organized classes as well as what kind of yoga gear is worth buying as a novice. Let’s get started!
Cheap and Easy – Yoga at Home
Practicing at home is an easy way to get your feet wet with yoga on a shoe string budget. There is certain gear you’ll want to consider (more on this later) but other than that you won’t have to deal with exorbitant fees of yoga classes as their are plenty of amazing free yoga video guides online that cover beginner poses, sequences, and so on.
If you wanted to you could start yoga at home this very moment and this is what makes the approach so great. Sure, a mat would be great and so would suitable clothes but you don’t absolutely need these things at the very beginning of your journey.
Here’s a list of some of the best pro’s of doing yoga at home:
- Very cheap
- Low barrier to entry
- Allows you to do yoga whenever you please
- Great for those intimidated by a classroom setting
- Incredibly easy to get started (absolutely no waiting)
- Great for those who value privacy or value a more solo experience
Some of the con’s of home based yoga are:
- You can’t be 100% sure you’re doing poses with correct form without the guidance of an instructor
- There isn’t a social aspect there for those who value it
- You’ll miss out on the positive energy of a classroom experience
There’s never a need to move on to classes if you don’t want to and starting at home can be a segway into a classroom setting if this is the path you wish to take. Either way, it’s a win for beginners. Easy to start and plenty of room for growth.
The Best Free Video Guides for Home Yoga
When it comes to taking action you’ll want to seek out videos that will guide you through a sequence and poses that make up a sequence. You can either seek out free videos on places like YouTube or you can pay for an instructional video set or subscription service. In this section we’ll be covering some of the best free options that make starting yoga at home easy and accessible.
The best YouTube channel that tackles yoga for beginners and allows you to progress at a steady pace is Yoga with Adriene. She not only has complete beginner videos but also has a 30 day challenge to improve your yoga skills at a pace that’s right for you.
What makes Yoga with Adriene the best apart from her wide selection? Adriene oozes a welcoming personality and brings positivity to your new yoga challenge all the while keeping things professional. Simply put, she is very likable and doesn’t make you feel intimidated what so ever.
You’ll want to start out with her yoga video for complete beginners and practice the sequence for a week or so until you can comfortably perform it. After this you can move on to her 30 day yoga challenge videos and from there her more advanced instructional videos.
Another great free option is a YouTube channel called Yoga Practice Videos – Yoga Vidya. This channel provides a 20 minute class for complete beginners as well as more specialized videos such as yoga for pregnancy, intermediate and advanced yoga, and yoga for men just to name a few.
These two options are enough to get you started but further browsing around YouTube can yield tons of worthy results offering you videos specialized for any goal you may have. Looking for a yoga for weight loss video guide? It’s there. Want something targeted specifically towards men? There are tons of options for that as well.
We recommend you start with the two options covered above but the point is that there is nothing stopping you from seeking videos that are more specialized for your needs. It’s all about finding something that works for you and will keep you coming back.
That’s what really matters, right? It’s all about consistency with this process of self healing and personal growth.
Books to Consider to Supplement Your Experience
Picking up a book (or a few for that matter) can be a great way to enrich your yoga experience. A book is something you can carry around and use when the mood strikes to have a go at a new pose or two.
Sure you can watch videos on your phone or tablet but there’s something to be said about the “old school” feel of printed material. Books also tend to highlight some knowledge that cannot be found online.
One option that happens to be the most popular yoga book on Amazon.com is called The Yoga Bible. The Yoga Bible features over 150 poses fully illustrated step by step and includes everything from beginner to advanced material.
An incredibly popular and worthy option, The Yoga Bible fully illustrates over 100 poses to get you started and keep you coming back for more.
The author, Christina Brown, is a fully qualified yoga instructor and has around the world learning and teaching yoga with fellow peers. Visit the official Amazon page to learn more and to snag it at a great price.
Another great book that is specifically targeted towards complete beginners is called Yoga for Beginners: Simple Yoga Poses to Calm Your Mind and Strengthen Your Body.
Like The Yoga Bible this book has outstanding reviews and approaches starting out with yoga in such a way that makes beginning your own daily practice welcoming and accessible.
Yoga for Beginners covers the essentials of yoga and terms to know, illustrates proper poses, offers alternatives if you aren’t ready for a particular pose, provides you with sequences to choose from, covers proper diet, and even glosses over specialty cases such as doing yoga while pregnant.
Visit the Amazon page to learn more and take a sneak peek at the contents for yourself.
Our last book recommendation is something quite different from the first two. It’s called Yoga for Life: A Journey to Inner Peace and Freedom and it’s a woman’s tale of self discovery and healing through the power of yoga.
The author, Colleen Saidman Yee, shows us just what can be achieved when we embrace the healing properties of regular yoga practice. She shows that it can help mend drug addiction, depression, grief, and any other emotional ailments life may throw our way.
Colleen herself used yoga to transform herself from someone with a troubling heroin addiction to a well known fashion model, teacher, and loving mother, and to deal with many troubling events in her life.
Yoga for Life documents this journey and has inspired so many individuals to take the path of a yogi and implement daily practice in their lives.
See what others are saying on Amazon and catch a snippet of what is contained within this book.
I Want to Take a Yoga Class!
Seeking a more social and organized form of yoga? You might want to try yoga classes instead of practicing at home. It’s worth nothing that you can absolutely do both but yoga classes do provide things that cannot be had with home practice.
Yoga classes can be a great way to subject yourself to positive social environment and surround yourself with like minded individuals.
Before we dive into the specifics of classes let’s have a look at some of the pro’s and con’s:
- Can offer a rich and positive social environment
- Provides the expertise of a trained instructor
- The best way to do yoga “right” and become better
- Can easily transfer things learned to home use
- Can be costly
- You may feel intimidated as a beginner (more on this in a bit)
How to Find the Best Yoga Class for Me?
The power of the internet makes it incredibly easy to find suitable classes to taste test if you will. A quick Google search of something like “yoga classes near me” will provide you with plenty of options.
Free review services like Yelp and Google reviews even make it easy to separate the winners from duds by allowing you to see what yogi’s have to say.
Something to keep in mind while browsing is to not get hung up on one particular class. Find a few suitable classes offering different types of yoga and try them out individually.
This way you can find a particular class/style that works for you.
Things to Know Before Starting
It’s important to know that just about any class you pick will be suitable for beginners unless otherwise specified. Why? Most instructors will be open to giving you extra direction if you let them know that you are just starting out.
While this is true you will naturally see other people performing poses at a level you are just not capable of when just beginning. We briefly touched on this as a con of yoga classes – that you can feel intimidated when starting out.
Pay no mind to this! Just as with any other area in life comparing yourself to others is a fruitless endeavor. For one, who knows how many days, months, or years a particular yogi has been practicing yoga?
Yoga is about YOU and YOUR self growth. What it is not is a competitive sport among the likes of boxing, basketball, or football. Know this and you will progress.
To add to this, don’t try to push your limits early on in response to what you see others doing. This has the potential to lead to injury and will only set you back. Stay the course at a pace that works for you and your body.
In terms of rules and etiquette you’ll want to talk to the class instructor. Every class is different and it’s best to show utmost respect but generally if you come in with good intentions there shouldn’t be a problem.
Keep talking for when you need further instruction, don’t invade anyone’s personal space, and don’t be disruptive.
Many times you’ll find that there are more women in class than men. If you are a man in a woman dominated class just go in with the intention of focusing on your own individual practice and you’ll be accepted and good to go.
Essentially, don’t be the creepy guy going into your first yoga class with the sole intention of staring or gazing at women’s butts.
If you keep these things in mind then your yoga class experiences will be smooth sailing as a beginner.
What Yoga Gear Do I Need?
As a beginner it’s not necessary to spend a large amount of money on yoga gear but there are certain items to consider before attempting your very first pose.
The main types of yoga gear are mats, towels, blocks, and mat bags. The only type of gear you’ll want to consider as someone starting out are yoga mats.
A quality yoga mat provides a comfortable surface that prevents you from slipping during poses and offers a frame of reference for pose alignment.
While a yoga mat may not be necessary when just starting out it’s very much worth considering when getting a little more serious with your practice due to the comfort and alignment benefits it brings to the table.
Make no mistake, you can start doing doing yoga at home without a mat but by doing so you may find yourself subject to quite a bit of discomfort.
And as a complete beginner venturing out to your very first yoga class chances are free yoga mats are lent out to class participants. Acquiring a mat of your own would be the next logical step as a means of stepping up in quality and using something a little less worn out.
The only other thing worth spending money on as a starter is suitable clothing. The clothing doesn’t necessarily have to be branded as yoga clothing but it should be snug fitting and breathable.
These two characteristics prevent you from getting too hot and stop clothing from hanging and obstructing movement when performing certain poses.
The Wonderful Health Benefits of Yoga (Why it’s Worth It)
At this stage you may still be asking yourself, “Is yoga right for me?”. Hesitancy with any new venture, fitness related or otherwise, is completely natural. The great thing about yoga is that not only does it offers tons of helpful benefits for the mind and body, it is also easily accessible to people of all types. It doesn’t matter if you are a young man in his 20’s or a middle aged female in her 50’s. Yoga has something to offer to everyone.
It doesn’t pose the same barriers as other recreational fitness activities such as sports because it can be done for cheap and in the comfort of your own home. If a person wanted to they could load up a free yoga video course such as Yoga with Adriene on their smartphone, change into comfortable clothing, and get started with absolutely no equipment or gear.
Read on for the best yoga benefits for the brain and body.
What Does Yoga Do For the Body?
Is there a point to the temporary discomfort and challenge a beginner yogi puts themselves through when starting out with the discipline? Absolutely! With every session, sequence, and stretch the body becomes stronger in a multitude of ways.
For one, you will quite literally strengthen the muscles that you activate during your routines. This will naturally lead to the toning of your muscles and give you a healthier look in general. You may find yourself trembling with certain poses such as downward facing dog and this is ok! You will be able to do the poses the challenge you immensely with ease in due time.
Natural Pain Relief
Pain reduction and more specifically lower back pain reduction is another awesome benefits and unlike many yoga benefits which are anecdotal in nature this one happens to be backed by science. A NCCIH study of 90 people suffering from chronic lower back pain who did lyengar yoga found that they suffered from considerably less disability, pain, and depression after six months.
Yoga can be a great tool to alleviate aches and pains, specifically those in the lower back region.
A Renewed Sense of Energy
You may also find that your breathing becomes better and more refined as yogic exercises put an emphasis on breathing in and out in a rhythmic fashion. You will also feel refreshed after doing each session and find yourself with higher energy levels throughout the day. Things that once took the energy out of you may even come with ease. This study found that regular yogic exercise greatly improved energy levels in healthy seniors after six months in addition to improving overall quality of life.
Achieve a Better Body
Weight loss is an often talked about physiological health benefit of yoga and is a goal for many newcomers but the practicality of yoga exercises as a means to lose weight can be iffy. It is possible to manage weight and even burn off excess pounds through yoga and this study certainly lends to this notion. In this study researchers evaluated previous studies and clinical trials that used yoga as a means to intervene in obesity and obesity related health risks.
The results of this analysis were very compelling; they found that the discipline of yoga was a successful intervention for promoting weight loss, improving body composition, preventing obesity, and preventing health risks associated with obesity. How can you lose weight with yoga? The key takeaway from this study is the fact that you need to be doing yoga with high frequency (not just a few times a month), longer sequences and sessions are better for weight loss, and you must get a grasp on healthy eating habits.
Millions of people seek to lose fat everyday and it’s completely fine to incorporate this goal into your new interest in yoga but when you’re just starting out as a complete beginner it’s best to focus on getting into the swing of things (focusing on form with poses, finding a routine that works for you, etc.).
Limber and Flexible
A more straightforward benefit is improved flexibility. A good deal of poses are a test of flexibility and require you to stretch your body in various ways. Just as you might tremble due lack of strength when starting out you may also find yourself experiencing discomfort or a burning sensation during certain stretches that bend your body in ways you aren’t quite used to.
Take the dhanurasana or bow pose for example, this is a position that the majority of individuals are simply not experiencing on a day to day basis. A yogi attempting to perform this pose for the first time is going to feel at least some discomfort. But just as with strength your flexibility will improve with each session. Poses that once tested the limits of your flexibility will become much easier over time.
You know all of those cool and crazy yoga poses you’ve seen? The people doing them weren’t always that flexible. Yoga allowed them to become so limber over time (with patience and practice of course).
And this increased flexibility will bleed over into other areas of life. Bending over to pick something up won’t be as much of a hassle, you won’t be as restricted in your general movements, and your sex life will even improve. Simply put, you’ll be able to do more in your day to day life and that can only be a good thing.
As you advance from a complete yoga beginner to a somewhat experienced yogi your body will start to find a harmony or balance between strength and flexibility. What this allows for is the prevention of over exertion, straining of muscles, and general injury. A balance of strength and flexibility is better than one without the other and as mentioned above yoga builds up both.
This is why yoga workouts combine so well with recreational sports and weight lifting. Sports and lifting weights tend to push the body to its limits and give muscles and ligaments an intense workout while yoga brings the body to a more restorative state. It can be used by lifters and sports players to prevent too much muscle soreness as well as unwind the body and prevent over exertion due to overly tense muscles.
What Does Yoga Do for the Mind?
Yogic exercises not only provide a great deal of physiological benefits but also several mental and psychological health benefits. As mentioned before this discipline is about a pursuit in growth of the mind and body with equal importance given to each aspect. If you practice yoga poses and sequences on a regular well defined schedule you will reap these mental health benefits.
Alternative Depression Relief
The topic of effective depression treatment often includes talk of therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy etc.) and medications such as anti-depressants (SSRI’s etc.). While these are many times incredibly effective with trial and error via the help of a licensed professional there are also natural depression aids that should be considered in so far as adjunct treatment.
Yoga as well as other forms of exercise are such forms of alternative treatment. This is something that is backed by numerous studies as well through hundreds of anecdotes that can be found on yoga discussion forums.
Depression is soul sucking and strips one of all humanity, anybody subjected to the experience knows this. Yoga can help in the fight to bring a sufferer to the surface level.
One way that yoga can aid in the fight against depression is the way it employs mindfulness techniques. The essence of yoga, even when starting out, is to be in the moment with each pose, to experience each and every sensation, and to focus on breathing techniques. Each of these things are elements of mindfulness.
When a yogi practices mindfulness they are temporarily putting negative thoughts and energy at bay and instead becoming one, zen even, with the body. And this is why yoga can be a great coping technique for depression; it allows the sufferer to find their true center and influence their thoughts in such a way that leads to a more positive state of mind.
Another way that it can help a person with depression is by the way a session generally makes a yogi feel once completed. A yoga session of decent length (at least 20-30 minutes) usually leaves once feeling refreshed and “cleansed” like the slate has been wiped clean. A new perspective and renowned sense of well being is exactly what someone with depression needs.
Anti-anxiety and Stress Relief
Anxiety and stress are two other psychological ailments that yoga can treat through an alternative fashion. Yoga practice can achieve this in a similar way to how it helps people cope with depression.
There isn’t a particular style of yoga you should do to help treat your anxiety as all types have the ability to help cope. Just as with depression the mindfulness aspect of yoga can greatly help a person suffering from anxiety or someone who is stressed out.
The reason being that it can act as a temporary escape from unnecessary worry and allow one to clear their head space in order to find a place in their mind with far less judgement. The core of generalized anxiety is imposing negative judgment on the world around us and aspects of our life.
A single 30 minute bout of yoga leaves most feeling relaxed and relieved of tension but the true anti-anxiety effects come from continued practice. Have a look at Harvard’s overview of yoga’s impact on anxiety and depression for an excellent in depth analysis.
Breaking this destructive chain of thoughts and finding a more grounded reality is a great way to lessen the impact of stress and anxiety.
Another way yoga helps a person cope with stress and anxiety is through physical tension relief. Someone who is stressed and anxious is generally tense and rigid whereas the outcome of a yoga session leaves one feeling relaxed physically. This physical relaxation can transfer over to one’s state of mind.
Breathing control is another key component of yogic exercises and is something that goes out the window when a person is under a lot of stress or anxiety, especially when experiencing a panic attack. Regular yoga sessions help to cement a breathing pattern that leads to a more relaxed body and can be used in everyday life against anxiety.
Improved Quality of Life
There are hundreds of studies examining the effects of physical fitness such as cardiovascular exercise and yoga on depression and other mental health issues. The effect that exercise has on some mental ailments can be downright profound.
But it’s important to remember that you don’t need to have a mental illness in order to see mental health benefits from exercise such as yoga. Most studies are done on those with mental health problems but regular yoga exercise can improve just about anyone’s quality of life.
This study found that yoga improved the quality of life in those with breast cancer. It just goes to show the meaningful impact it has and the positive change it can bring to one’s life.
Yoga achieves this by allowing you to form a stronger connection between the mind and body, getting in touch with your true self, improving your mood, guiding you towards a more relaxed state of mind, and even becoming connected with other like minded individuals through yoga classes or online discussion forums.
Common Problems for Beginners
The most common problem beginners have isn’t actually related to the bodily difficulties of starting a yoga routine. It’s an incredibly simple issue and one that rears its ugly head with just about every facet of life involving new tasks or goals.
Millions of people struggle with following through on a new task or goal every single day. They may say they want to starting doing this or that, do it once or even a few times, and then completely stop. The solution relies on a change of perspective in terms of the relationship between motivation and following through on a goal.
Another common issue people have starting with yoga is difficulty and discomfort associated with actual poses and new stretches. Most people are going to experience these things and as with the first common problem deterring motivation it can be remedied rather easily.
Pushing Through the Wall
The solutions to both of these problems are similar in that they require a change of perspective. If you are the type of person that initially gets very excited, stimulated, and motivated about a new project or goal (in this case yoga) then you need to forego the notion of motivation as a driver of continued action entirely. It sounds far fetched but bear with me.
Motivation will only ever allow you short bursts of activity. Yes, there are those that are continually motivated to practice yoga but they are far from the majority. Instead, most people rely on discipline. You need to realize all of proven benefits of yoga and accept the logic that in order to attain what you want from the practice that there cannot be an external “push” or motivator.
It’s important not to rely on motivation to reach your goal of doing yoga on a regular basis. Discipline always wins when it comes to seeing a goal through.
Habits built through discipline grow strong while motivation will always burn out. If you persist you will be rewarded but you have to do instead of dwell on thoughts and emotions holding you back. So instead of having an incredibly vague goal of wanting to do yoga start with something like “I would like to do 10 minutes of yoga today.”.
Use an app on your phone/computer to make a to do or even use old fashioned pen and paper to make a to do list. You need to make a to do list for yourself every single day you plan on doing yoga. Starting is always the hardest part and by making an easily attainable goal of practicing yoga for ten minutes you will most likely find yourself exceeding that length of time.
When it comes to the issue of difficulty of actually performing yoga stretches and poses when starting out discipline is also key. The same rule applies but in this case you need to realize that the pain and discomfort you may be experiencing now will greatly diminish as you become more experienced and gain strength as well as flexibility.
Pain (within reason) and discomfort are signs that you will come out stronger just as those who lift weights quite literally tear muscle fibers during exercise and endure soreness in order to gain strength and muscle mass.
Go Get It
If you’ve reached this point then it is safe to say that you have the basic knowledge and resources necessary to start doing yoga. Remember that this discipline is accessble to all and requires no prior athletic experience. Yoga is one of the most welcoming forms of fitness and is all consuming as far as enriching one’s life.
Recognize this pure positivity, take action, and you will be rewarded.