If you’re brand new to yoga you may be wondering where to start or you may have questions about the practice that you’re seeking answers to.
What is yoga?
In simple terms, yoga is a system for bringing balance into your mind and body. It involves the physical practice of yoga postures called asanas, and breathing exercises called pranayama. Yoga also includes meditation, self-enquiry and the study of yoga philosophy. ‘Yoga’ in the Western world tends to focus mostly on the physical asana practice – the yoga poses. This is a great place to start but there is so much more to discover as you develop your yoga practice.
I’m a yoga beginner – which style should I start with?
Hatha yoga is one of the main forms of yoga and many other yoga styles derive from it, so it’s a great place to learn the foundations and names of the poses. You’ll learn how to move and flow with the breath, which will prepare you for other styles of yoga including Vinyasa flow and Ashtanga. These are often more energetic and strong so are good for people looking for a physical challenge. More relaxing forms of yoga include Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga.
How do I know if I’m doing it right?
It’s good to bear in mind from the beginning that our bodies and bone structures are all different so there isn’t one ‘right’ way to do a pose. It’s about finding out what works for our own bodies. Developing this body awareness takes practice so follow beginners’ yoga classes at first for more in-depth extra instructions and variations offered. The main thing to know is that yoga is not meant to hurt. You will probably experience different sensations than you’re used to, and you may feel your muscles working, but if you feel any type of “warning” pain, such as sharpness or pinching, listen to your body and come slowly out of the pose.
What are the benefits of yoga?
Practicing yoga has many physical benefits: it creates a flexible, toned and strong body and improves breathing, energy and metabolism. Yoga improves circulatory and cardiac health, as well as fitness levels, pain and posture. It also has benefits for your mental health, making you happier, more balanced and emotionally calmer. It helps you relax so you can handle stress better. Yoga encourages self-confidence and helps you to focus your energy. he spiritual benefits of yoga are also key: Yoga teaches you to be aware of what is going on inside and outside of you. Yoga teaches you to be present in your surroundings and open to what is all around – in other words, more mindful. You will feel some benefits immediately, such as the release of physical tension, the body opening and muscles strengthening. Other benefits depend on how often you practice and every person is different. Most people will feel a positive change after their first session.
How often should I practice yoga?
Even if you practice once a week, you’ll feel the difference. If you can, try to practice two to three times a week but don’t let unrealistic expectations stop you. Do what you can, when you can. Focus on YOUR journey and be proud of what you do, rather than focusing on what you think you should be doing.
What equipment do I need for my practice?
Wear clothes you feel comfortable in that won’t restrict your range of motion. A yoga mat will provide some cushioning and help stop your hands from slipping in poses like Downward Facing Dog. For some poses you might find a yoga block or two is helpful. Don’t worry if you don’t have these things, we offer them free when you come to Elements Yoga.
When is the best time to do yoga?
Practicing yoga at any time is better than not practicing at all. It comes down to whenever you can fit yoga in. Morning practice is a great time to relieve the stiffness of sleeping and opening up your body with some energizing yoga sets you up for the day. In the evening, a more relaxing yoga practice can be a nice way to unwind after work. Some of us are early birds while others are night owls, so experiment with finding your own yoga rhythm and what works for your schedule.
Can I eat before yoga?
It’s better to have a more or less empty stomach during a yoga session, so leave at least two hours between a main meal and yoga. Digestion of food requires energy and when you do yoga straight after a meal, your energy goes to the muscles you’re exercising and the body can’t digest the food properly. Some healthy light ideas are half a banana or a handful of nuts to give you the fuel you need for your session.
Can I do yoga when I am menstruating?
Some women prefer to pause their yoga practice when they have their period while others keep going. Many teachers advise not to do inversions such as Headstand, Handstand or Shoulder stand where the head is lower than the heart as they feel they interrupt the downward flow. Strong yoga twists may also be uncomfortable for some women. It really depends on the individual so listen to what your body tells you.
I have a health condition. Can I still do yoga?
Many people practice yoga as a way to manage their health conditions. There are many different types of classes which suit different health needs and can also be adapted and modified for injuries. However, if you have a medical condition or injury and haven’t practiced yoga before, we recommend that you speak to your medical professional and an experienced yoga teacher (or physical therapist with knowledge of yoga) to get advice about any poses or movements you need to avoid.
Can I do yoga while I am pregnant?
If you are pregnant, check with your medical professional before starting yoga. If you’ve never done yoga before, it’s generally recommended not to start during the first three months of pregnancy, since your body isn’t used to it. However, if you’re a regular yogi, you can continue. Please note there are some poses to avoid, including twists and strong core work. You also need to be aware that during pregnancy and breast feeding that the body produces hormones which will make you more flexible, especially in the hips and pelvis. You will need to work more on maintaining stability in the joints so that you don’t overstretch them.