starting yoga

Downward Dog Yogi in Dark Corridor

What Do You Need To Get Started With Yoga?

Shiva_Pashupati

Beginning yoga is not easy for most people. However, humans have been studying yoga scholastically for over 2700 years. Yoga may even be as much as 10,000 years old. We may never know the true age of the practice due to the fact that the tradition was originally transmitted orally. Many consider the Pashupati seal of the Indus Valley Civilization to be the oldest record of Shiva and indicates the practice of yoga likely existed 5,000 years ago.

With the tremendous benefits this sort of activity can provide, it is no surprise that it has been adapted for the modern world. From improving your flexibility to soothing joint and muscle pain, to assisting with mental health and disabilities, to even healing major bodily injuries and improving the quality of sleep yoga has a tremendous amount to offer modern human beings. Starting a yoga practice is much simpler than you might expect. To help you begin, this post will explore what you’ll need to start your journey inwards.

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Guidance

Before you even think about spending money, you will need to look for someone who can guide you to setting goals and exploring what you want from the practice of yoga. This is where yoga studios come in handy, but if you are athletic and healthy, you might just flip on a youtube video and follow an instructor like Yoga with Adrienne. There are also several services that offer online yoga like glo.com or poweryoga.com. Bryan Kest, the founder of poweryoga.com, is one of my favorite instructors and I can’t recommend him highly enough.

It is relatively difficult to start yoga without personalized advice and instruction, especially as we age and our bodies have more issues. Private instruction can be excellent for this, though it will often be more fun to go somewhere with a group of others to practice yoga. These are quite common in outdoor parks or membership gyms. However, I recommend finding a local studio and practicing with a few different teachers until you find one that you like. Everyone is different, and everyone has different goals in yoga. Create goals and find teachers to help you achieve them.

Clothing

Once you have a guide, it will be time to start thinking about the clothing you’re going to wear for yoga. Wear clothing that breathes and allows for your full range of motion, especially if you are trying hot yoga. Shorts, leggings, and obviously yoga pants are all acceptable, but ensure that the fabric isn’t transparent when wet, because you will likely sweat during a class, and if you try hot yoga, you will probably sweat through your clothes. Many students wear skin tight clothing to keep it from moving when you are upside down and in downward dog, but I always take my shirt off when I practice and wear board shorts to avoid unnecessary laundry. The biggest thing is that you need to make sure that your clothing isn’t going to restrict your movement or get in the way.

Equipment

Yoga equipment is very simple. The vast majority of classes only require a yoga mat. My favorite brand is Manduka. You may also want to get a foam roller, a block, and a strap, as some yoga positions can be more relaxing with props.

Finding Space

Dancer's Pose with a beach sunset

Whether you’re practicing yoga with a group or by yourself, it is crucial that you have an appropriate space. Avoid any areas with bugs, rodents, or dirt/filth. The ideal space helps you to feel calm, privacy to make sure that you are comfortable. Outdoor areas can be perfect for this: gardens, parks, and even beaches all offering tranquil environments that can enhance your yoga. You will often be able to find more than one class or studio near you and you can often try discounted introductory packages to compare and find the right space for you. If you live in Roseville or Auburn, make sure you check out East Wind Yoga, where I teach!

Mental Preparation

Most people talk themselves out of practicing yoga. This is the biggest barrier to beginning for most people. Keep in mind that you DO NOT have to be flexible to start yoga. In fact, inflexibility is the reason many of us practice! You can always improve! Make sure you talk to your instructor about any injuries you may have, or health complications that could affect you during the stretching and workout routines. 

In short, yoga has never been more popular, with people across the world embracing the practice and the tremendous health benefits it can provide. Remember that you just have to show up and the rest usually takes care of itself! Try to let go 😀

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Yoga Practice: How to Start Now

You’re Starting a Yoga Practice

But first, what the heck is Yoga?

Yoga is simple. It is paying attention to your breath and posture for set periods of time.

Unfortunately, our world has over-complicated it with sexuality, superficiality, and our schedules for our selves. Yoga studios are some of the most interesting phenomenon in the past thirty years, in my opinion. The people who do yoga are not yoga. We are called yogis for a reason. We grasp for yoga with our yoga practice. Even the supposed gurus are not yoga. They too must practice yoga to understand. Yoga is too simple for anyone to claim. Practicing yoga is about your BODY right now, your BREATH, and your MIND, right now. It’s about how your life-force energy is flowing through your body. It’s about the essence of life.

You can start yoga right now. You don’t need a teacher. You don’t need me. You don’t need a yoga studio. You don’t need fancy pants or a fancy yoga mat. You only need your self.

Now, you might ask yourself; ‘well, if it is so simple, then why have I never done it before?’ The only answer that I have to that questions is that you don’t know what you know. Again, it’s simple.

Your First Breaths

Yoga is about awareness of your breath. To start, you have to put your body into a comfortable position. Understand that the idea is to allow the body to stay in positions (they call them asanas in yoga, which translates directly to posture) for certain periods of time, so keep it reasonable. If it feels like too much, it probably is too much. The real guide is your breath; if you lose your connection with your breath, lower the intensity of the posture for your body until your breath is flowing strongly through your nose again.

That’s right, you are going to breathe through your nose for an entire 1:30 minutes eventually. If you practice and put some time into it. Simplicity is beautiful, isn’t it?

See, what you probably don’t realize is that your breath flows more efficiently through your nose, at least in terms of oxygenating your blood. When you sprint and run, you are mostly trying to expel carbon dioxide which is why exhaling through your mouth feels so good. We can do this sometimes in yoga as well. But it is important to understand how powerful the force of your breath is to bring life back into your body. This is what we are doing in yoga, breathing life and energy back into worn joints so that they can regenerate. We are simultaneously lengthening and strengthening our muscles with our breath, going back and forth like steel being smelted on an anvil to strengthen ourselves for the world around us. Our bones, ligaments, and joints become powerful machinations of efficiency when a yoga practice has been well-honed. Everything flows easier, especially in your circulatory and digestive system.

Moving Beyond Breath

Now you are ready to start. Close your eyes and begin to breathe exclusively through your nose. It might be useful to take a few exaggerated exhales through your mouth to start, then shift all of the respiratory flow into the nose. If this is difficult, then spend some time during your day trying to breath through your nose; the more time you spent trying, the easier it will get.

Your body should be comfortable, so you can focus. The idea behind a yoga practice is regeneration, healing, and awareness, so bring your mind into a peaceful place where you can focus completely on your breath. Your breath is a healing force; your breath is also linked to your consciousness in ways that we do not fully understand.

By focusing on your breath, you can give your entire attention to your body. Inner space is vast, but don’t be overwhelmed; you will have as much time to explore this space as you choose to create for yourself. A yoga practice can last a lifetime if practiced responsibly.

The Ujjayi Pranayama Technique

You are already breathing through your nose, so the first and hardest part of this technique is already accomplished. Start to pay attention to the way air is flowing in the back of your throat. Can you restrict your throat muscles slightly to slow down the flow of air? It should start to sound more and more like a wave, or the raspy sound of the ocean. Once you have spent a significant amount of time with the Ujjayi breathing technique, you will be able to variate and change the intensity of the breath with your postures in the yoga practice. With more intense poses will come more intense breath, necessarily to keep your body sustained in the position.

Equal inhales and exhales that are unceasing and complete will rejuvenate your body over 90 minutes, even if you are lying still on the floor. The breath is your yoga practice. The Ujjayi breath is powerful; there is also no reason to limit its use to the yoga room. In stressful life situations, breathing techniques can help to keep you connected with your body and grounded in your thoughts.

The Breath will Guide your Yoga Practice

Your connection with your breath and the Ujjayi technique is the most vital aspect of the yoga practice. It is what allows the subconscious mind to integrate your thoughts and conscious feelings, soothes your bodily systems, and relaxes the central nervous system. If the pose gets too intense for the breath, lower the intensity of the posture in your body.

When you are finished practicing, you lie down to rest with your back on the floor and your head on the floor. The idea is to let your body sit completely still on the floor for about 5-15 minutes, depending on how long your practice was. This is time where you let your breathing return to its normal state in a natural and easy way.

That’s all you need to start practicing yoga, or to start an official “yoga practice”. Don’t listen to anyone that says you need anything because all of the props that exist are made to make the practice more comfortable. You are set and ready to go.

The ONLY Rule: Enjoy Yourself!

If it’s not fun, then what’s the point of a yoga practice?

You are ready to start your home yoga practice now. Remember to do what you love!

Closing your eyes always feels great. The magic starts to happen when you really start to let go of everything outside of your body and focus your attention completely inwards.

 

Here are a few more articles, in case you want to look at some additional information or more great resources:

References:

The Ultimate Reference: BKS Iyengar’s: Light on Yoga

  1. Yoga International
  2. Yoga Basics
  3. Gaiam
  4. MindBody Green
  5. Yoganonymous
  6. About Health

 

 

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