woman practicing yoga on the beach

Getting Started with Yoga

Have you ever considered getting started with yoga? This is the time of year people talk about resolutions and making changes in their lives. Fitness and losing weight are probably 2 of the most overused resolutions. I’m not all into fitness and losing weight is never a top priority for me. But I do think that exercise and fitness can help with lots of other areas of your life.

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Maybe you’ve shied away from yoga because when you look at most photos and videos, it is almost always thin, beautiful women stretching and moving in ways most of us don’t think our bodies can handle. I used to be with you on that. But after I had my second kid (many years ago), I went to our local YMCA and started taking yoga classes. I was usually the youngest one in the room and there were all types of bodies participating. Here are some things I learned from that experience.

getting started with yoga - woman meditating on the beach

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Get rid of the expectations

When you first start, you’re not going to be able to do everything you see. That’s okay. It takes time to build up your ability. Consider the marathon runner. She never wakes up and says, “I’m gonna run 26 miles today.” She works up to it. Yoga is the same.

Yoga isn't about mastering a challenging pose. It's all about deepening your breathing and improving your alignment. Take it step-by-step and you'll get the hang of it. If you can't reach your toes, try your knees – don't worry about what you think you should be able to do. Leave all expectations aside and come to yoga with an open mind. It's a non-judgmental practice, so don't worry about making mistakes!

It's never too late to start yoga! Your age and body shape don't matter – yoga is for everyone. If you're unable to do a pose, there are plenty of other poses to try. Don't let anything hold you back from discovering the wonder of yoga!

It’s also easy to become self-conscious about your body and you might worry about what to wear. I’ve never bought expensive outfits. Every teacher I’ve encountered has just suggested comfortable clothes. Leggings, shorts, tank top, T-shirt—they’re all acceptable. No one is going to be inspective your labels, so don’t worry about having the “right” outfit.

Find the right teacher

Just like everything else, you want to make sure you find someone who makes you feel more confident. The teacher should motivate and inspire you. If you ever walk away from a class feeling bad, that might not be the teacher for you.

Think about if the teacher is teaching topics that are beneficial to you. Even if the instructor is great, if they aren't aiding you in achieving your goals, it may be time to seek out a different teacher. Maybe you want a class that is less physical and more spiritual (or vice versa). There are classes all over, play around until you find a good fit.

Find the right class

Getting started with yoga doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg – there are plenty of ways to practice on a budget! Check out your local YMCA, gym, or community center to find low-cost classes. Plus, during the warm months, you may find free yoga meet-ups in the area – so don't let the cost of classes stop you from getting started!

In addition, look for places that will allow a free trial. Even if it’s just a class or a week of classes, you should be able to tell if the place is a good fit. And if they aren’t advertising a free trial, it can’t hurt to ask. Another outlet is to check Groupon for discounted classes. It’s a great way to sample different classes.

When registering for yoga classes, it's best to sign up for as many as you can at a time – often you can get a discounted rate. Plus, it will save you money in the long run too – bring your own mat and water bottle to class, and you won't have to pay the extra few bucks for the studio's supplies.

There are also many, many online yoga classes, some of which will also allow a free trial. One online program you might want to check out is Yogadownload.com. They have free classes for you to try and they have a monthly membership that starts at $10. You get to practice yoga in the comfort of your home on your schedule.

getting started with yoga - illustrated woman standing in a yoga pose

Start slow and where you are

Yoga is meant to be a slow, deliberate process. You don’t need to jump in and learn all the things at once. Each session is about making poses easier. The more you practice, the easier they become. This is not a competitive sport to see who can finish the most.

Don’t feel bad if you join a class and everyone else seems to know what they’re doing. Start where you are and don’t worry about keeping up.

When to practice

Obviously, if you are joining a class in-person, the time you take class will be dictated by when they are offered. Traditionally, yoga is practiced at sunrise or sunset. If you are doing yoga on your own at home or with videos or an app, you have more flexibility than going into a studio.

Just like with anything else in your life, if you want to do it, you need to make the time. Maybe that means getting up an hour earlier or telling the kids they need to occupy themselves for a half hour in the evening. If yoga is what you want to do to get more exercise in your life, you need to be consistent.

Here are 4 yoga poses to try to help relieve stress

Corpse pose

Relaxing your body before bed is a breeze with the corpse pose. It's easy to do – simply lie on your back, either on the floor or on the bed, with a towel or neck roll supporting your neck. Open your arms out to the side at an angle and let your body sink into the ground. When sitting in this position, spread your legs out at a comfortable shoulder-width distance. Make sure the soles of your feet are facing outward. It's important to really relax and let go of any tension in your body. Take some slow and steady breaths for about two minutes. Enjoy the feeling of letting go and letting your body be still.

Legs up the wall pose

This pose is a great way to relax and unwind! All you need to do is lie on your back with your butt up against the wall, then extend your legs upwards so your feet are facing the ceiling. To get yourself into the right position, make sure your arms are positioned as if you were in the corpse pose. Then just take slow and steady breaths.

Head-to-knee pose

The head-to-knee pose is a great way to relax and reduce stress! Stretch your legs out in front of you, then take a deep breath and slowly fold forward at the waist. Move at a comfortable pace, and don't push yourself too hard if you're not used to this kind of stretch. You'll feel so much better once you're done!

Easy pose

Welcome to the most common pose in yoga – the Easy Pose! Also known as the cross legged or lotus position, this pose is perfect for starting your day. Simply sit comfortably with your legs crossed or in the lotus position. Place your hands, palms up, on your knees and take some deep breaths at a steady pace. Enjoy the benefits of this traditional pose in the early morning or any time you need to relax.

In conclusion, yoga is an excellent way to relax and find balance in your life. It is a great way to exercise, increase flexibility, and stay healthy. While it isn't always easy to get started in yoga, the various simple poses can help beginners get more comfortable and confident. With the guidance of experienced instructors and the practice of the poses mentioned, anyone can begin their journey into yoga.

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