7 Tips on How to Begin Your Yoga Practice
"I want to practice yoga but I don't know where to start?"
This is a question I often get. I released "The Starting Point" to help guide those who need help with starting their journey or how to continue you with it. But before we get into too many details on how to start, let's just get down to the very basics on how to REALLY get you going on your practice. I wrote down 7 basic tips that will hopefully help get you started with your journey.
TIP #1: Get your Yoga stuff together. Let’s start with the basics: a block (or two), strap and a mat.
o Block: There are a few types of blocks out there. There is wood, foam and cork blocks. My suggestion is to get a Cork block. From my personal experience, they’re sturdy, environmentally friendly, and comfortable on the hands and feet. You can easily purchase them from amazon.com for less than $15/each. They usually don’t come in a pair and most likely sold separately. So check to see if you're getting one or two blocks before you hit checkout!
o Strap: You can also purchase this from amazon.com for less than $10. You probably want to get cotton strap because it's comfortable to use around your body and it's environmentally friendly. It usually comes in 3 different lengths; 6 ft, 8 ft and 10 ft. I found that the 8ft is a typical length used in most practices.
o Mat: What kind of mat should you use? There are so many kinds of mats out there that you probably don't know where to even begin. My suggestion is to go with natural rubber mat. Why? They tend to last longer, they’re environmentally friendly and non- slip when you sweat. Most of the major brands have a quite a selection of natural rubber mats. If you’re a beginner and would like to know your alignment when it comes to poses, you can get liforme mat. This is a perfect mat to use to know where the placement of your hands and feet should be in poses like warrior I and II. From my personal experience, I prefer Lululemon mats. They have worked pretty well with my practice. They have lasted a couple of years with me, they don't get dirty quickly and extremely non-slip. They have different kinds depending on your practice. If the mat is thicker than it adds more comfort for area like your knees but also tend to be heavier to carry around. The thinner the mat, the easier to travel around with. Most natural rubber mats will range from $50-$160 depending on the brand and type of mat.
TIP #2: Purpose.Now that I have my stuff, what’s next? What's your purpose for practicing yoga?
Many of us want to start yoga but do you know why you want to start? What is your purpose for getting on the mat? What do you hope to gain from it? Whether your purpose is physical, mental or emotional; it does't matter. Don’t be ashamed of the answer, even if it is because the poses look cool or challenging and I would like to learn. Each person's reason for getting on the mat is different which is why it makes it YOUR journey. There isn't a certain way to start besides to just START. You'll notice as you start to practice, your purpose on getting on the mat will change each time you practice. So it doesn’t matter what your purpose is to the mat. Just know it. Once you know your purpose, you’ll know your direction on how to begin your practice.
TIP #3: Sun Salutations
Learn and get familiar with the sun salutations. The most common one is Sun Salutation A where is practiced pretty much in every yoga class (Look at picture above). If you would like detailed information about each pose and it's benefits in this sequence, you can look them Sun Salutation on Google or find them in “The Starting Point”.
Once you get use to Sun salutation A, you can move on to Sun Salutation B. It has different poses that will add a bit of a challenge for you. Try to get really familiar with these sequences and learn how to flow from one pose to another in the sequence. You can do as many as 15 sun salutations at a time and you will definitely feel the intensity of them. You can hold each pose for about 1-5 breaths before you move on to the next pose. The longer you hold a pose, the more challenging it feels. Once you’re familiar with these sequences, you will have an idea of how to put sequences together and how they can flow together. If you need guidance with sequencing, you can check out a few of my e-books that will assist with that.
I know some of you are thinking? well what type of yoga should I practice? Don't stress yourself with that because there are so many! You will get overwhelmed as a beginner if you try to figure it out from the start. You will find out what you like as you continue to practice. Let’s focus first on getting you on the mat and get use to being there. But if you would like to know what they are, check out "The Starting Point".
TIP #4: Inspiration
When I began my practice it was from a physical standpoint. There was one pose that stood out to me and I couldn't understand how a body can be inverted and bend like that. It was the scorpion pose. It's probably one of the toughest poses out there but it made want to start yoga. Your inspiration could come from a pose or a person. Maybe you saw someone online that inspired you to get on the mat or maybe you don't have one yet. I suggest that you start looking for people or poses that will inspire you to get on the mat and keep going. This is still a big part of my practice and what keeps coming to my mat. I suggest that you pick 3 people who inspire you and 3 poses you want to accomplish in your practice. Always revert back to those when you're feeling discouraged or unmotivated to practice.
TIP #5: Ethical Practice of Yoga
The last few tips we focused on the physical practice of yoga. How about the ethical practice of it? What about the mental and emotional part of yoga? There are so many books out there and ways for you to get started mentally and physically. You will probably be more confused than anything with all the information that is out there. I simply suggest that you read this book called “The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice ” By Deborah Adele. I studied this book during my teacher training and it changed my life tremendously. I am always suggesting it to my family and friends. This book will get you on the right track when it comes to your life. It's an easy read but will have a lot of "Aha" moments for you. I personally believe this book will get you on the right path towards your emotional and mental journey of yoga.
TIP #6: Create a Schedule. Trust me if you don't, you most likely won't practice.
Designate a time throughout the day where you will most likely find yourself on the mat. Doesn’t matter if it’s in the morning, afternoon or night. Try to practice at 3 times a week between 30 to 90 mins a day depending on how your day is. Even if its just practicing your sun salutations over and over again. Try to keep your mind and body going throughout the week. Because if you don't your muscles will tense up and it will be much harder to find yourself back on the mat.
TIP #7: Join a class, workshop or an IG challenge
- Attend a class. The main reason why most people are afraid to join a class it's because “they’re not flexible or strong enough”. They use that excuse to prevent them from going to a class. But isn’t the point of a class is to learn? Learn how to become flexible and strong? Understand that everyone goes to class to learn not to compete. Yoga is not about egos, you are there to learn. So let go of that fear of thinking you wont be on the same level as everyone else around you. They all started where you were at one point and only got better because they kept practicing and coming to class. Don't worry about not knowing what’s going on in the class or what the poses are, just go and try your best. You will get familiar with everything after a few classes. If attending classes is out of your budget, it's okay; you can practice at home. I still suggest that you try to attend at least one class a week or every two weeks and take what you learn from there and apply it to your home practice. You will also see the difference between practicing on your own and at home and how it can be refreshing to be around people who have a similar passion as yours.
- Attend a workshop. Now this is something many don’t do and should. Of course, You're probably wondering "Well, what’s the difference between a class and a workshop? Why is it important to attend one?". Well a workshop is geared to give you a deeper knowledge and understanding of a specific subject. Let’s say you attend a hip opening workshop, you will learn about the benefits of them, how to get into them, what props to use… etc. and also have the opportunity to ask the teacher questions about your practice pertaining to them. It’s more of a interactive type of setting versus in a class, you’re following the lead of a teacher. You will leave with a deeper understating of your practice and probably save you time searching all over the internet for the answers. It is also another way to socialize and meet people in your area that have similar interests as you.
- Join an IG challenge. Pay attention the word, CHALLENGE. This is meant to take you out of your comfort zone and give you poses that you normally don’t include in your practice or have difficulty with. It’s suppose to challenge you and push you to your limit. It’s also suppose to help you see where you can improve in your practice. So instead of feeling discouraged, feel motivated to push harder until you get the poses you are struggling with. There are so many challenges available on IG that may interest you. I host a monthly challenge called "Yoga4Growth" with my co-host Koya Webb. It is beginner friendly and will help you add some poses into your practice.
I hope these tips gave you an idea on to start your practice and not feel so lost and stressed about starting your journey. If you feel like you need more guidance or understanding, I have a selection of e-books that will help get you in the right path. You can also check the FAQ section of my website for answers. If you still need assistance, just contact me and I will try my best to assist you with your question.