Are you looking to get into yoga but not sure if it's the right thing for you? Have you never tried it before but want to? Then this is something you need to read
Getting started with yoga
I was terrified the first time I went to a yoga studio for a group class.
This was almost 15 years ago when I was in my early 20’s. While I was in good shape having played a lot of ice hockey, field lacrosse, baseball, growing up this was scary. I had started doing private pilates sessions a year before because of a recurring shoulder problem, but the whole group class thing was very intimidating.
Pilates helped me a ton, but my instructor suggested mixing in some yoga for flexibility. I’m 6’3 and at the time was spending 10+ hours a day sitting on a Wall St. trading floor. Needless to say this left a lot of muscles tight as well as other issues.
But enough about me, we are here because you want to learn about getting started with yoga, right?
The first question you need to ask yourself is why Yoga?
You likely have heard about it from friends, on social media, or on TV. It is very popular these days because of all the benefits of yoga, and also the problems it can possibly help you solve.
This general overview guide will help you figure out if yoga is right for you and the best way to get started.
What are your main goals?
As with any project in life, to figure out the best way to get there, you need to figure out where you are starting from, where you want to go, and all the little steps in between that will get you there.
Best Yoga Styles to Start With
There are a lot of yoga styles out there. When someone says they are “doing yoga”, it is as general as saying they are getting exercise. Hatha yoga, yin yoga, restorative yoga, and gentle yoga are generally good places to start depending on your goals. If your goal is a good nights rest, I would recommend yoga nidra for sleep.
If you are really fit and want a challenge you could try Vinyassa or Ashtanga, but there is much higher possibility of injury in the early days, especially if you have a competitive side. Believe me, I learned this the hard way, many times over many years.
I would stay away from Aerial yoga in most cases starting out, as well as anything with the word “Advanced” in it.
Risks of Yoga for Beginners
While yoga can be great there is like most other things downside if you are not careful. The most important thing is to go at your own pace, stay in your comfort zone, and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. As you become more experienced and more connected with your body, you will get a better feel for the limits of your body and mind on a given day. And this is one of the main things to understand is that even for very experienced instructors such as myself, what your body can do one day, it may not want to the next day!
So here are some of the main things to watch out for:
- Doing a pose you don’t understand - putting your body in a position without knowing what's going on can lead to injury. Take a pause, figure it out, and ask a question if needed.
- Overstretching - never go beyond 70% of your comfort zone, a little discomfort can be OK, any pain at all is always bad and means to have gone too far.
- Trying to impress in a class - ok so myself, like many, many others have been guilty of this at times. You see someone next to you trying an advanced pose, or getting really deep and you feel the need to push, this is especially true as a beginner. Take my advice, it's not worth waking up sore the next day, as in reality most people are just doing their own thing and really don’t even care what anyone else is up to.
- Poor Form - always do the most basic and easy version of a pose starting out. You will actually get better results faster by letting your body adapt while also reducing the chances of injury. You should never feel pain while doing yoga, or after.
Benefits of Yoga for Beginners
Ok now that we have the risks out the way here are the most common benefits of yoga:
(Note this is a general overview, and this will vary from style to style)
- Breath Better - most of us shockingly breath incorrectly. Many yoga styles will help you improve your breathing which is possibly the benefits of doing yoga!
- Easy to get started - this an important and underrated part of yoga. You need almost no equipment and you can do it just about anywhere!
- Flexibility - this is the universal benefit across pretty much every yoga style and one of the best forms of movement to safely improve flexibility
- Strength - the extent to which you gain muscle will depend a lot of the style of yoga you do and the intensity.
- Injury Prevention - improved flexibility, more strength, better posture and better balance will all help prevent injuries as you age.
- Help with Chronic Pain - a regular yoga practice over time can help with chronic back, neck, shoulder, and knee pain. I can speak to this firsthand with my own body.
- Stress Less - focusing on your breath and your movement has meditative benefits and has been scientifically shown to help reduce stress in many cases.
- Sleep Better - guess what? If you are stressing less, and your body is feeling better you will sleep better!
One of the many awesome things about yoga is that you actually don’t need any equipment to get started. Most people like to use a mat, but you can really get started anywhere, on the carpet at home, the grass in a park, or if you are doing standing poses, such as tree, anywhere is good.
Here are the basics though:
- Yoga Mat - if you plan on doing yoga regularly it is worth investing in a good yoga mat for both comfort and performance. There are a lot of good brands but I use mostly Manduka.
- Yoga Blocks - these are super helpful for beginners, brand doesn’t matter much, but cork is the best material. You can always find something around the house such as books
- Yoga Straps - a helpful but optional took for beginners. This can help you get a little deeper into some stretches, remember just don’t push too far
There are some other accessories and bells and whistles out there, but the above is really all and more than you need to help get you started.
Best Way to Get Started
There is a ton of yoga content on the web and social media. There are also thousands of studios around the world, even if many of them are closed right now.
Any of these options can work depending on how important learning yoga is to you, the amount of time you have and your budget.
The best possible way to get started without a doubt, is with a private instructor, either in person, or more than likely since 2020 - online. The only downside to this is of course cost, especially if you are looking to work with an experienced and well trained instructor.
Youtube and other platforms also have tons of programs, in fact one of the things I hear most from people is that there is just way too much out there and it is really hard to know what you need, and who you can trust.
A third option, and in some ways the best of worlds, especially if you want to be efficient and flexible with your time, but also get a top notch introduction is to do a short Yoga 101 certification course such as those at the Academy.
So, there you have it, my thoughts on yoga for beginners. I hope this guide has been helpful to inspire you to get started on the mat - namaste!
If you think yoga is something you would like to learn, and learn properly, in the comfort of your own home, check out our upcoming Academy course: Yoga 101
This certification course gives you all of the basics to get started. Not only will we teach you the fundamentals, we will explain to you simple language how you perform yoga, the benefits from it, and then look at different kinds of exercises depending on your goals for today and the future.
Written by Clint Johnson
Clint teaches Yoga, Pilates, breath, and mediation to students and teachers all over the world. Prior to joining the wellness world, CJ as his friends call him, started his career as a MBS derivative trader and portfolio manager on Wall St. Clint is the founder of Anahana, and holds an MBA from INSEAD.