Yoga for Beginners: How to Start off Right

Yoga for Beginners

It’s the end of the year. Already, I’m hearing people talk about New Year’s Resolutions. For many people, resolutions revolve around one thing and one thing only: getting fit. And for many people these days, yoga classes seem a rather non-threatening point of entry on the path to greater fitness. I applaud their interest—yoga is an incredible method for getting in touch with your body, uniting the body and mind, and learning how to breathe fully. So I’d like to give beginning yoga students some tips on how to start off their yoga journey the best way possible.

Finding the Yoga Class for You

Every yoga class is different. Well, not so if you go to a Bikram yoga class, or if you’re learning the Ashtanga series. But most beginners are not headed straight for the 105-degree oven that is Bikram or the rigid, extremely disciplined practice of Ashtanga. Most would-be yoga students are interested in learning some poses, sweating a little, and feeling like they did something good for themselves. Beginners are more likely to head for a Yoga Flow class or a Hatha Yoga class. And I have to reiterate—every single one of them will be different. So how do you know, when you see a class on the schedule, what you’re getting into?

The fact is, you don’t. I know first-timers who were so turned off by (or even injured by) their first yoga class that it became their ONLY yoga class, and they’ll never go back. So while searching for the right first class for you, do these things, and don’t be shy about them:

  • Ask everyone you know if they have taken a good yoga class that is suitable for beginners.
  • Find your local studio (the closer to your house or work the better—it eliminates “time” from your list of excuses!) and ask to speak to the owner or manager. Once you get through to her or him, ask what teacher or class he or she would recommend for a beginner. It’s the owner or manager’s job to know each teacher’s style and strengths. Some teachers and classes just aren’t right for beginners.
  • Once you have a list of potential teachers, ask the manager or owner for the teachers’ contact information. If you can’t get an email address, I’d be surprised. But your next strategy would be to look up each teacher online and read anything and everything they have written. Some teachers have Yelp pages, some have web sites and blogs, some have public Facebook pages. These searches are golden for learning about the teachers’ personalities, styles, and interests.
  • If you find a couple of suitable teachers and have found email addresses or phone numbers for them, go ahead and contact them. Tell them your interests and see if they will talk with you about their classes and teaching methods. Teachers suitable for beginners will include modifications of poses for beginners, will be careful to assist newcomers with poses, and will do a lot of explaining so beginners know why and how to do each pose or breathing exercise. Their focus is on helping you get inside your body, understand what you’re doing, and also feel unselfconscious as you embark on this brand new journey into yoga.

Once you’ve spoken with a few teachers and feel confident about trying one of their classes, go for it! Just remember, if you have back pain or if you’re a really flexible woman already (I don’t worry about men being too flexible, just because of hormone balance), be sure you read this piece about how your flexibility can be a detriment to a painless yoga practice. You’ll also want to check out my post on explaining how to pick the right type of yoga class for your goals and your body.

Have fun planning your entry into the beautiful world of yoga! If I can answer any questions from beginners out there, please post them here. I’m happy to help you find just the right practice for you.

different styles of yoga

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About the author

Written by

Sara Hauber, M.A., holds a masters degree in health communication, is a certified yoga teacher and wellness coach, and specializes in functional movement and back care. She has helped clients achieve physical and emotional wellbeing since 1999. She teaches yoga, empowerment, and her signature back-care methods throughout the U.S. and Italy. In 2012 she released The Hauber Methodâ„¢, a 6-week at-home program to relieve chronic low-back pain.

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