10 YOGA TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
Kiana Ng Yoga
If you are new to yoga, read below for 10 helpful tips to gain insight into the practice before making the journey to your first class!
- Honour your practice. The most important aspect about practicing yoga, whether you are new to it or not, is to honour your body and where you’re at in your practice. A lot of the time, your gaze will wander to the people around you. You’ll see them doing something different than you are and feel like you have to do the same. There shouldn’t be any sense of comparison to those around you because everyone’s body is different, making everyone’s practice different. Aim to focus on what feels good in your body without worrying about what others are doing or how they’re doing it. Pushing your body to the point of pain will only result in injury – remember, it’s just your ego responding to it’s need for perfection!
- Stay on your mat. Your attention will wander to the mats around you. It happens! Especially when you’re not used to the terminology or pose names. Your first practice will be largely in your head with your mind saying something along the lines of: “Wait what am I supposed to do with my body? OMG how is she/he doing that? How am I supposed to do that?! Yeah, like breathing is really going to happen in this pose… This is really hard. I can’t do this. Why did I decide to do this in the first place? Hey wait – this actually feels kind of good…” All of these thoughts are completely normal and it’s ok to think them! When you find your mind rambling on and on, draw your energy back in and your awareness back to your body and breath (no matter how hard that may seem in the moment). By continuing to practicing these things, eventually it will get easier to still your mind, which helps you find ease and strength in the pose you’re in.
- The thing about flexibility. There’s this widespread notion that you have to be flexible in order to do yoga and that yoga is all about stretching (which it totally can be, depending on the class and teacher’s intention!). However, a lot of people, more often than not, who start yoga can’t touch their toes or do the splits (I was one of them). You will learn to be flexible and strong through doing yoga. That’s why it’s called a practice! So don’t worry if you’re not flexible, you will learn to be with continual practice.
- No need for nerves! You’re not the only one who feels a little nervous about attending your first yoga class. It can be intimidating, especially at a studio. This intimidation might come from you worrying about embarrassing yourself because you’re not used to the lingo or you’re scared that the level of the class might be too much for you. The best thing you can do if you’re worrying about any of these things is to talk to the teacher before the class starts and let them know that you’re a beginner. Most teachers will gladly offer modifications and variations of any pose to make it suitable for all levels. They won’t shame you! Never be afraid to talk to the teacher or ask for help with a pose. Questions and communication are good, especially when you’re first starting out. Remember – the teacher is on your side!
- Don’t be afraid to take a break. Breaks are welcome in any class you go to and you shouldn’t be ashamed of taking one if you need it. Teachers understand that students need breaks depending on how their bodies react to the sequence and the environment they’re in. If you’re in a hot class and you feel like you’re overheating, it’s probably a good idea to take a break and get some water or rest in child’s pose!
- Choose a class that’s right for you. Choosing a class that best suits your level and what you’re looking for is important to helping you feel comfortable. Most studios include the class level in the description for the class so make sure you read up on a class before showing up! If you’re still uncertain, you can always ask the teacher or studio for more info on the class.
- Come prepared. Necessity: water. You can get dehydrated really fast in a hot class so make water you’re best friend! Other things you might want to consider bringing with you to a class are: your mat, a towel to put over your mat and a face towel. Most studios will provide you with these 3 things for a minimal fee if you don’t have your own. Some even provide them for free! When it comes to clothing, it can be anything that’s comfortable but not too sweaty. I aim for thin, minimal material because I don’t like having things stick to me, especially when I’m in a hot class. In a regular temp. class, you can usually venture out more, but I’ll leave it up to you with what makes you feel the most comfortable!
- Remember to breathe. One of the key aspects of yoga is connecting your movements to your breath and using your breath to bring you strength and ease within a pose, helping you to stay present. By focusing on your breathing, you can allow yourself to move deeper into a pose as you increase the flow of prana (life force) through your body. A common form of pranayama (breathing techniques or breath control) is ujjayi pranayama. It involves constricting the back of your throat slightly so that your breath becomes audible to you as you inhale and exhale through your nose. It’s similar to how you would breath as if you were to fog up a window. It might even sound like the ocean. Your breath and your movements might feel detached and disjointed at first, but the more familiar you get with the practice and your body, the more everything will flow and fit together.
- OM (or AUM). Some teachers start and finish class with the chanting of “OM.” You might find yourself chanting it as well in your first class, but what does it actually mean? OM represents the sound of the universe if you were to take out everything that’s in it. It encompasses everything that is seen and that is not seen. In sanskrit, it’s written as AUM but both are pronounced the same. The “A” represents the waking state, the “U” represents the dream state, the “M” represents the state of deep sleep and the pause that occurs in between chants is the state of bliss. The reason why “OM” is sometimes chanted at the beginning and ending of a class is to ground the energy in the room, centering you before beginning your practice, and to offer final respects upon completion of the class.
- Namaste. All classes end with the teacher and students bowing to one another as they say namaste. Namaste translates to mean “I bow to you” or “The divine light in me bows to the divine light in you.” It’s a sign of respect, gratitude and love.
I wish you amazing luck on taking your first steps into the world of yoga. May you find many enlightening lessons! Namaste.