If you are a yoga beginner and want to welcome yoga into your life, it can feel overwhelming. Maybe you are not sure where to start. We remember going to our first Yoga classes and Yoga studios and wondering… what the heck.
The Yoga teachers would use Sanskrit (the ancient Indian language) words to describe Yoga poses and postures (like Adho Mukha Svanasana = Downward Facing Dog by the way) without explaining any further and don’t even get us started on the amount of times we were told to do a handstand, when actually, we didn’t want to.
However, we kept going back to class and as we practised more, we progressed, in the movement, the postures and the understanding of Yogic philosophy and language.
More importantly, the more we practised, the more we felt the benefits of Yoga. We felt more calm, more patient, more understanding, more present. We felt less stressed, less anxious and filled with more awe and wonder for life itself.
Now that we’ve been practising Yoga consistently since 2004 (we started with our mum in our teens!), and teaching (Carla teaches Yoga, Emma teaches Pilates) since 2017 we have some good advice on how to practice Yoga for beginners.
By the end of this post you’ll have a clear idea of what you need to practice and what to expect in a class, whether that’s in one of our Yoga videos or at your local studio. Most importantly, we are excited to get you on your Yoga mat!
This brings us to step one:
Get a Yoga Mat
And really this isn’t a definite requirement. You absolutely CAN do Yoga without a Yoga mat. However, you will find it easier to hold the poses with a Yoga mat, especially the standing Yoga postures like Warrior 1 and 2 that require a steady grip (see warrior 2 below).
If you don’t have one, don’t let that stop you from starting Yoga at home, just find a bit of space and begin there. A lot of Yoga studios also have mats you can either borrow or hire.
Our preference for a Yoga mat is one that is thick enough for comfort (on your knees especially) as well as grippy. We are not fans of carpet/velvet feel mats as these can often be slippery.
Find a Good Yoga Teacher and Studio
If you are just beginning with Yoga and meditation sessions, we’d always recommend you follow guided classes. Go for in studio classes or online classes, there are pros and cons for each!
We both LOVE to study and I (Carla your MerryBody Yoga Teacher), have studied multiple Teacher Trainings that allow me to teach a safe and enjoyable Yoga class.
Don’t get me wrong, you absolutely can get into a Downward Facing Dog at home by yourself. But if you want to experience a sequenced class that is balanced and intentional, I would always recommend you to find a Yoga teacher you connect with.
Think about what kind of Teacher you want. Each teacher brings their own style to their class. Are you after a flow style teacher, or a more disciplined teacher? More chilled? More energised? Maybe you’re looking for certain types of Yoga… Hatha yoga? Yin Yoga? Hot Yoga? Vinyasa?
Once you’ve practised consistently for over a year you will probably find you can come up with your own sequence and practice Yoga at home by yourself. However, my preference is to still be guided by a trained professional, even after all these years of practising and teaching.
A Yoga teacher will guide you through Yoga poses, variations and modifications, breathing techniques, breathing exercises, and different styles of yoga.
Here’s a class for you to try right now, it’s one of our gentle flow classes that will make you feel AMAZING:
Focus on technique
It’s important to build your foundations. Alignment and technique in a posture will create a safe and effective way to workout.
Your teacher should be providing cues that show you how to place your body.
For example, you should be hearing cues like:
- hip width apart
- knees bent at 90 degrees
- core drawing in and up
- shoulders down away from the ears.
- shins parallel to the floor.
That’s just to name a few. Cues will change in every posture, so be sure to listen during class and make adjustments to your postures as you become more aware of your body in space.
We encourage our beginner MerryBody Members to go through our Foundation Program. It’s a collection of classes designed to work on form and technique.
In this Yoga program we take you through the most common postures and movements you will experience inside our Yoga and Pilates classes. We slow down the technique and the movement so you can build strong foundations to create safe and effective movement.
They are short classes that you follow along and we get such great feedback from these classes like this message from MerryBody Member Katie:
“I’ve made my way through all the foundation classes in the Start here section and now I’m going through the beginner classes. I love the way you explain everything in so much detail and tell us when to inhale and exhale – that is so helpful!”
Yoga is not just about the Yoga postures and strength and flexibility; it is all about the body and mind connection. Body and mind connection is created with Yoga specifically from bringing awareness to the breath. This action alone creates a sense of presence and connection with the mind and body.
You will find that in our MerryBody Flow Yoga Classes we match movement with breath. This is commonly used with Vinyasa style Yoga. It seems simple but this action alone is extremely powerful.
You will find yourself feeling more calm and grounded when you have this awareness of your breath.
Pranayama is a limb of Yoga, which translates to lifeforce control. Pranayama is achieved through breathing exercises and breathing techniques. Each technique is designed to welcome a unique intention, for example. Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) encourages balance of the body and mind, whereas Kapalabhati Breath (or skull shining breath) encourages a cleansing of the mind and thoughts.
Most importantly during class just keep breathing. It really is essential for those looking to maximise the benefit of a beginner Yoga session. We always say if all you do is sit on your Yoga mat and breathe then that is Yoga enough for us!
Wear Comfortable Clothing
During a Yoga class, especially Flow Yoga, you will move through many different Yoga postures. You will have to fold, twist, bend and stretch your body in all directions.
It’s important that you feel comfortable in your clothes to ensure the clothing doesn’t restrict your movement, for example, don’t wear jeans, as you won’t be able to bend your knee easily.
That is not the only reason though!
It’s also important that your clothes don’t distract you. You don’t want leggings riding up your butt or tshirts falling over your head as this external distraction pulls you out of your practice.
Make sure you wear clothing that is comfortable and breathable but still stays in place when you bend over or do other challenging yoga postures.
Our preference? High waisted leggings that aren’t too tight around the waistband as well as a longline crop top that isn’t too low at the boob area. You can see what we wear here… we talked about crop tops and fat rolls on the podcast here, as we haven’t always had the confidence to wear these clothes, take a listen and see what you think.
Practice Yoga As Much as You Can Consistently
It is more effective to practice Yoga frequently at shorter intervals than to practice occasional but long sessions of Yoga. It’s like how a 10 minute walk every day will provide more benefits than a 3 hour walk once a month.
Yoga is a great way to move every day. Even 10 minutes of Yoga per day can have a very positive effect on your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing, as well as your mind and body connection.
You will reap more health benefits by being disciplined and sticking to a regular Yoga schedule. Consistency is key. The more you practise the more the body and mind begins to feel comfortable and familiar with the Yoga postures. Gradually you will feel progress in flexibility, strength and mobility as well as gain knowledge regarding the postures and Yogic philosophy.
In fact, you might even want to become a Yoga teacher yourself!
Modify Postures for Your Body
When you first begin Yoga you might struggle with some postures. It’s important to not compare yourself to your Yoga instructor or anyone else around you.
Remember, we are all in different chapters of our journey.
Be patient and compassionate with yourself and your body.
Any good Yoga teacher should (and we really hope they do) provide modifications and variations for most postures. Inside our online Yoga classes, we are lucky as there is always two of us in every class. This means as Carla teaches the more challenging variation in the Yoga class, Emma can show an option or variation.
An example of this is high lunge, a perfect option is low lunge. Or the tricky balancing posture Tree Pose, a perfect option for this is to keep the toes on the Earth. We always like to say that Child Pose is always an option too, at any time during class you can move into this pose (see below).
If your Yoga teacher is not providing options and you feel like you need them, either, tell them OR find a new teacher! If you have any medical conditions or physical limitations it’s important to also tell your teacher about these so they can modify where necessary.
You can also use Yoga props, like blankets, blocks and straps.
We don’t use props to modify as we always have variations that suit all levels, and no props makes our classes much more accessible, however, at a real life studio you should be able to access these tools for support.
Yoga Equipment for Beginners
As mentioned these are not necessary but nice to have if you feel like you want some extra support.
A Yoga mat is perhaps the only essential piece of Yoga equipment, as it cushions a hard floor and provides a non-slip surface.
A block can bring the ground toward you and provide support. For example, if you were heading into Triangle Pose, you could place your hand on a block instead of the ground. Our variation would be to simply place your hand against your shin or thigh.
A yoga strap will assist you in reaching in Yoga binds, bends, folds or stretches. For example, in Paschimottanasana you could wrap the strap around your feet and forward fold. Our variation would be to bend your knees.
A yoga bolster will support your spine, legs, or abdomen in specific yoga postures that need a bit of extra support. We do use a bolster in some of our Yin Yoga classes and they really do provide lovely support. The option is to use two firm cushions instead.
Try Your Best and Have Fun!
After all, that’s all you can ever ask of yourself. Show up and try your best! And if it’s fun, well that’s a plus. If you’re finding it all a bit too serious then we’d recommend finding a different teacher or studio. Afterall, Yoga is a practice to unite body and mind, a practice to make you feel good.
At MerryBody, we do things a little differently, we combine our online Yoga and Pilates classes with the intention of self acceptance, self belief and JOY.
It’s a workout that reminds you: “I’m already amazing.”
We’ve already added a bunch of free classes in this post for you to try but if you’d like another, try this Desk Worker Yoga Class, simply add your email address and we will give you instant access!
If you have further questions, get in touch, otherwise we are excited to begin your Yoga journey with you!
Emma + Carla