Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Three Tips for Beginning a Yoga Practice

What do you think of when you hear the word yoga? Does it bring to mind pictures of hipster types in tight yoga pants drinking kale smoothies while bending their bodies in ways that make no sense? Or do you have visions of sweaty hot yoga classes where you're told to chaturanga and you don't even know what that means? Hopefully you hear yoga and think peace, reflection, healing, or another positive description because it can be all those things and more.

I always thought of yoga as a something fun to do because I was pretty flexible and for me it was enjoyable. As I've gotten older I've realized that yoga isn't the most welcoming type of exercise for some people for a variety of reasons so I wanted to share my thoughts on starting a yoga practice. I personally  have taken classes in gym/studio settings, at peoples homes, done videos and online practices, and even taken part in school based community courses. I'm not the expert on all things yoga but these are my tips for getting started if you're new to yoga.

You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great. - Zig Ziglar
1. Decide why you want to do yoga. Is it for the mental health benefits? Are you trying to manage a chronic illness? Are you recovering from an injury or pregnancy? Do you want to work up a sweat and get in shape? The reasons you want to yoga may impact what types of yoga and the teachers you want to seek out. If you're already fit and healthy and looking for a great workout a hot yoga practice might be great for you but if you're not in great shape a more gentle practice might be a better fit. Evaluating why you want to try yoga may help you eliminate some styles of yoga before you even get started. That's not to say you might not want to try other types of yoga as you advance in your practice but if you start in the wrong place you may never build enough of a practice to try something new.

2. Determine what resources you have. If you already own a yoga mat, great. If you don't, it's fine. Seriously there are SO many yoga things you can buy from clothes to expensive mats and tools to help you modify your practice. Really all you need to get started is yourself, some clothes you can move in (a t-shirt and workout pants/shorts will likely work just fine), and an open mind. Don't spend a ton of money on yoga stuff until you know you're willing to commit to a regular practice. See if you can borrow a mat from a friend or use things you have around the house to help modify your practice. A belt can work just like a more expensive yoga strap. Blankets or towels can be folded up and used like bolsters. Get creative and if you find you enjoy yoga, then go out and purchase the things you need to feel confident in your practice.

3. Find a class. This might be the hardest thing because every studio and teacher is different. What works for your BFF might not work for you. If you know what you're looking for you can listen for key words or phrases that could let you know a recommendation is worth checking out. I have found that many studios offer the opportunity to try a class free so you can get a feel for the studio before you commit to anything long term. Sometimes you can get special new student pricing or a discount on a pass as a new student so if you enjoyed a free class ask about what deals are available so you don't miss out. (Sometimes studios only offer new student deals if you purchase them right after your first class. Walk away and you sometimes won't qualify for that specific pricing.)

Another option is to look into workshops or class series where you can learn and build on specific skills so you're not just jumping into a class with no frame of reference. There are many great free videos and tutorials online. I loved the yoga classes put together by Bad Yogi, Erin Motz, that will allow you to try yoga in the privacy of your own home! Check your local library too because some may have yoga DVD's you can borrow and try.

The AM/PM Yoga DVD by Rodney Yee is one of my favorites. Power Yoga was something I picked up after I had been practicing yoga for a while.
Overall I recommend keeping an open mind as developing a yoga practice can be very personal. Be willing to try different things and see what works for you.

What other tips would you give to someone just starting a yoga practice? Do you have favorite videos or resources that were helpful to you when you started practicing yoga? What do you wish someone had told you when you first started yoga?

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