Lately, I’ve had quite a few readers ask me questions about my yoga practice. A few of you seem to be interested in giving yoga a try, so I thought that I’d write a little bit about getting started.
To say that I love yoga is a huge understatement. I adore yoga. Some days it is the only thing standing between me and insanity. I suffer from chronic migraines and pain in my lower back and hips and yoga has really helped me to manage that pain. Yoga has also been a vital tool in my “depression fighter toolkit”. I love it.
Before I start, there are a few things that I should point out about yoga:
First of all, yoga is not a competitive sport. It’s not about being better than everyone else in your class or ‘beating’ the instructor by stretching further. It’s a very introspective exercise. Although you need to look at the way the experts do a pose so that you can do it right, it’s important to realise that every body is different. During your practice, you will learn to connect more deeply with your body and understand the signs that you’re pushing yourself too far, or that you could push a little harder. Listen to your body and do things at your own pace, so that you don’t hurt yourself.
There are many different kinds of yoga. Personally, I prefer Vinyasa, which is a flowing form of yoga in which the body moves fluidly from one pose to another. It’s excellent for improving strength and flexibility as well as relaxing the mind. If you want to try yoga to relax and wind down, you might like Hatha. If you’re looking for something more dynamic and challenging, Ashtanga might be more your speed. It pays to do a bit of research on the different kinds of yoga (you can start here!) and perhaps try a couple until you find one that works for you.
Is yoga for me?
Anyone can do yoga. No matter your age, shape, size or physical ability, there will be a kind of yoga that is suited to you. You might not be capable of pulling off some of the dazzling contortions of the yogi masters, but I’m sure you’ll be able to find some poses that will work for you. Start simply, and build up the difficulty or intensity as you go. If you have special physical limitations, it might be a good idea to attend a class or have a one-on-one session with an instructor who will be able to tailor a yoga workout to suit you.
What will I need?
One of the things I love the most about yoga is that you don’t really need any special equipment. All you really need is:
– Comfortable clothes. Something that allows you to stretch and bend without restricting your movement. I usually work out in a pair of stretchy 3/4 pants and a tank top. I also find it’s much easier to work out bare foot, because you’re less likely to slip or lose your balance.
– A room or space where you can spread out. You’ll need plenty of space so that you can move without knocking things over.
– A mat. A yoga mat is a particularly good idea if your workout area has a hard floor or if you practice outdoors. It just gives a bit more cushioning. If you don’t want to buy a mat, you can always use a large beach towel folded in half.
When should I practice?
That’s really up to you. Some people like to do their yoga first thing in the morning to prepare them for the day ahead. I like to work out in the late afternoon or early evening to straighten out any workday kinks and relax myself. I also find that my body is more flexible later in the day. Pick a time that suits you and your routine.
I aim to practice at least four times a week. Sometimes I hit that target and sometimes I fall way short. It’s up to you how often you want to practice, but I’d recommend aiming to do it at least once a week.
Do I need to go to a class?
This is a tricky question to answer. I would recommend going to at least a couple of classes to begin with, just until you get the hang of some of the basic techniques. It’s really helpful to have a professional instructor show you how to get in and out of each pose safely, and talk to you about some of the cues that you’re pushing too hard. It’s also awesome to be able to get one-on-one advice from your instructor.
But classes can be pricey if you’re going on the regular. And it’s not always easy to find yoga classes in your area, which are held at a convenient time. Also, if you feel self-conscious about your body or if you suffer from social anxiety, then lolling in awkward poses in front of strangers might not be for you.
You can definitely practice at home. Once you’ve learned some of the basic poses, you can create your own routine and work through it at your leisure.
You also might like to follow along with a video workout. This is my preferred practice method. There are plenty of websites that you can join for a small fee that have workouts available for all different skill levels. Personally, I just go to Youtube. There are literally hundreds of different workouts that you can try. The one below is my current favourite workout. It goes for about a half hour and it’s a slightly more advanced workout. It’s got lots of poses that are great for opening the hips and stretching the spine, which helps with my back pain.
I hope that this has answered some of your questions and inspired you to give yoga a try. If you’ve got any other questions, let me know. I’d be happy to try to answer them.