The form of exercise known as yoga has been around for centuries, but it has become much more mainstream over the past 10 years. Unfortunately, while yoga is fantastic for people of any age and any level of fitness, many people are intimidated about the prospect of trying it out. The reality is that behind the terminology and hype around it, yoga is the simple practice of moving your body into a series of different postures and positions intended to strengthen the body as well as improve its flexibility. When practised with breathing exercises, it can also have great benefits in terms of promoting relaxation and reducing stress.
If you are considering or planning to attend your first yoga class, here are eight tips for beginners to help you get the most out of the experience.
It is best to start in a yoga class which matches your experience/fitness level. When you find a class for beginners or a gentle class, be sure to discuss your history in terms of exercise as well as any injuries or potential limitations you might have with the class teacher or studio manager.
It is advisable to arrive to class around 15-minutes early. This gives you time to find the studio, changing facilities, toilets, and get yourself into position. If you are rushing around before your class, you will find it difficult to lose this sense of anxiety before the class begins. Depending on the class you choose, there may be limited yoga mats available which is another reason to get there early. Of course, if you decide yoga is something you will be sticking with, it is worth buying your own mat like one from the Manduka yoga mats range.
When the teacher arrives, they may ask if anybody is new to yoga but if they do not, it is worth introducing yourself. You can then tell them about any possible issues you might have with certain body parts, e.g. back pain, knee pain, or medical conditions they should be aware of. The teacher will be able to provide alternative positions for you if the class includes postures which might prove difficult or risky.
It can be tempting to find yourself a spot at the back of the class when you are nervous about trying something new. However, when you are starting a new class it is best to be able to see and hear the teacher as much as possible. If being on the front row is too much, try the second or third row where you can hear the teacher and follow the example set by other more experienced attendees.
At the start of a lot of yoga classes, the teacher will encourage you to focus on your breathing and find your centre. In some cases, they might even ask the class to focus on a theme or set their own intention for the class, e.g. to concentrate on breathing, not to criticise yourself, to feel gratitude for what your body is able to achieve. Remembering why you have come to try yoga and what you hope to achieve is important as it should prevent you from being bogged down in insecurities or day-to-day worries.
You are likely to hear the instruction, ‘Listen to your body’ at some point in the class. This may feel a little alien at first, but over time you will build a stronger connection between your mind and body. At first, it is important to remember that yoga should not hurt, make you feel dizzy, or make it difficult to breathe. If you start to feel pain or lightheaded, switch to an easier pose. You will feel unusual sensations and stretches, but you should be able to keep your breathing steady.
Whether you are starting with other beginners or people who have been practising yoga for some time, do not compare yourself to others. There is no competitive element in yoga, it is about gradually improving your own strength and flexibility and reducing anxiety and stress. Focus on your own body and listen to only the teacher’s voice.
Assuming that your first yoga class is a positive experience, keep going back to class as often as you can. The benefits of practising yoga are cumulative, and it is natural for your early sessions to feel strange or challenging. You may want to look into a different class in terms of difficulty or for a teacher you feel more in-sync with, but with persistence there is so much to gain from yoga physically, mentally, and emotionally.
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