How do I start a yoga practice?
Interested in cultivating a yoga practice, but have no idea where to begin or what it even really means to start a yoga "practice?" Scroll through some of these ideas to jump start adding yoga to your life + finding some zen.
Just what is yoga and why is it good for me?
The term yoga is often associated with the physical practice of mindfully moving while connecting to breath. Yoga isn’t just moving and breathing, it is a lifestyle. Yes, you can do asanas (poses) to be a “yogi,” but a big part of yoga is being mindful to yourself and others. Setting intentions to benefit others, as well as yourself.
We refer to the eight limbs of yoga to more easily break the yoga lifestyle down.
The first limb is the Yamas. This usually refers to vows, disciplines or practices that are primarily concerned with the world around us and our interaction with it. There are five Yamas, including Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (no stealing), Brahmacharya (right use of energy), and Aparigraha (non greed or non hoarding). This limb is a call to living in a mindful, empathetic and considerate way.
The second limb is the Niyamas. The prefix ‘ni’ is a Sanskrit verb which means ‘inward’ or ‘within’. There are five Niyamas, including saucha (cleanliness), santosha (contentment), tapas (discipline or burning desire or conversely, burning of desire), svadhyaya (self-study or self-reflection, and study of spiritual texts), and isvarapranidaha (surrender to a higher power). This limb is concerned more with how you live within yourself and your self-discipline.
The third limb is Asana. This is what most people consider to be “yoga”. Asana is the physical practice of the yoga poses. Simple as that!
The fourth limb is Pranayama. Prana means “life source” or “energy”. This is considered the physical act of working with different breathing techniques to calm the mind in various ways.
The fifth limb is Pratyahara, or sense withdrawal. Instead of actually losing the ability to hear, smell, see or feel, the practice of pratyahara changes our state of mind so that we become completely absorbed in whatever we’re focusing on. This is an everyday practice of focusing on what you choose and not allowing outside sounds and sights distract you.
The sixth limb is Dharana or focused concentration. Closely linked, dharana and pratyahara are an essential part of the same aspect. In order to focus on something, the senses must withdraw so that all attention is put on that point of concentration and in order to draw our senses in, we must focus and concentrate intently.
The seventh limb is Dhyna or meditative absorption. To explain this simply, this the state in your meditative journey that you are experiencing true meditation. You will no longer hear yourself ask “Am I meditating?….”. You are simply in a state of meditation. (Confused by this definition? Our best way of describing it is...you'll know when you get there and aren't asking yourself if you're meditating any longer.)
The eighth is Samadhi. This is considered to be absolute bliss or enlightenment. This stage is about experiencing life for what it truly is. To accept our lives for exactly what they are and not let emotion, likes, or dislikes govern it.
When one has decided to begin on the path of a yogi you may begin to question some of the benefits from the practice. Some of the most well-known benefits are increased flexibility, increased muscle strength and tone, improved respiration. Maintaining a balanced metabolism and well as weight reduction are a nice perk as well! You can also expect to experience improved athletic performance as well as cardio and circulatory health. Mental stability can also come from a regular yoga practice. You will gain tools and methods to better navigate life!
What kind of yoga is for me?
There are quite a few kinds of yoga out there. People have been modernizing and changing yoga around to meet their needs for years and years. While we can't fit all the descriptions into one paragraph for you, here's a short list of the most common yoga types.
Restorative - The coolest form of yoga is a restorative flow. In a restorative class you can expect to hold gentle poses for long periods of time, using props to support you. This style is a great tool to jumpstart your parasympathetic nervous system and promote relaxation.
Yin Yoga - Yin yoga is half a step up from a restorative flow in terms of effort. You'll likely do a mixture of holding gentle poses and adding soft movement in to warm up the body and ease into muscle stretching.
Alignment - Alignment is a great place to start for beginners because the instructor will spend time breaking down each pose and helping you find the correct alignment. Expect to work a little bit in this class as you flow through several different poses, but you likely won't get a tough workout in.
Vinyasa - A movement based class, Vinyasa yoga is possibly the most common style in today's trendy yoga neighborhoods. This class will move through a series of poses designed to help open the body and strengthen the muscles. You'll most likely learn to connect your movement to your breath in hopes of finding a synchronization between the two.
Ashtanga - This style follows a set sequence. Beginners will start with the first Primary Series and will work their way up through the others.
Power - Power flows will be a heated and fast-paced class that will get your body moving and sweaty. This style is the the epitome of a workout class. Expect to work hard and then find a sweet savasana rest at the end.
Where can I start practicing yoga?
In today's society you can start a yoga practice almost anywhere. Type "yoga studio near me" into Google, turn your location services on and watch the options pour in! A few things to take note of when choosing a yoga studio:
- What's the studio's speciality style? Studios can offer multiple types and styles of yoga, but chances are the teachers are trained specifically in a certain style. Make sure you're visiting a studio that offers what you need (i.e. is it a power style workout place? Do they offer a more restorative style to help you relax?)
- Take a look around the website. What's the vibe the studio gives you? Will you feel intimidated? Does it make you feel at home? Does it make you want to visit the studio?
- Read the teacher bios. Perhaps the most important step is to read the teachers' bios and try to find a teacher that makes you want to go to class. Every teacher has a different teaching style and personality + we might not all be for you! Read their bios, learn more about them and take a class or two with different teachers until you find a few you click with.
- Lastly, don't be afraid to try something new! Many studios offer trial packages ($20 for 3 days, $50 new member monthly access, etc.). Visit a few studios around you, try a few styles and classes and jump around until you find a yoga home. This practice is for you. So, do what you need to do to find the practice that will suit you and benefit you the best.
You can also start your yoga practice as a home practice. This would involve taking classes via online videos, programs and/or E-Books. More of that info below.
How do I start a home practice?
The idea of a home practice is appealing to many new yogis. The studio environment can sometimes be intimidating. A downfall of starting a yoga practice at home is the possibility of missed alignment. We suggest taking a few private classes if yoga is brand new to you. It is very important to learn the feeling of correct alignment within our own bodies while we practice. Working with a teacher one on one will allow you to gain a foundational understanding of your practice so you can safely carry your practice with you where ever you go! The private sessions will also give the teacher a chance to learn your needs to help you to create a practice just for you!
Another way you can bring your practice to your home are E-Books. The E-book market is full of awesome downloads that target certain styles and levels of yoga practice. A great way to find an E-book teacher you will vibe with is to follow a few on Instagram. This is a simple and effective way to catch a glimpse of the yogi's individual style.
It is very important to be patient and dedicated to your home practice to allow it to grow to just what you need!
Still have questions? Drop us a note and we'll talk with you one on one to help you navigate through this new adventure!