Venturing into a yoga studio for the first time may seem intimidating … you don't know what to expect or how it works. But the people who teach and attend yoga classes are just like you and me. We all started somewhere, andd quite frankly, most yoga practitioners sincerely enjoy introducing yoga to others because of it's many wonderful benefits. There is a great community feeling about practicing at a studio and is also the perfect opportunity to ask questions and learn more when you're starting out. Visit our Find Yoga for a yoga studio in your area.
Yoga was originally practiced one-on-one between guru and student, so you may choose to seek out an experienced teacher for private yoga sessions when starting out. Private sessions are also beneficial for refining your practice later. You can find many experience yoga teachers in our Teacher Directory.
The basic tools you will need to start a yoga practice is a sticky mat, which most studios offer to use for free during your first class. These can be purchased for as little as $20 at places like Target and various sporting goods stores. Studios often sell mats and other props as well, like blocks, bolsters and blankets, which are also very helpful when starting yoga for the first time.
Where comfortable clothing that you can easily move in. Keep in mind that you'll be moving your body in various positions, so support and coverage are important. In Kundalini classes, practitioners typically wear all white.
In addition to group classes and private instruction, you can easily learn to practice at home through some of the many online video sites available. Or you can purchase a video for beginners or read a book. and and reap the most benefit from yoga is to practice regularly on your own.
The most important things to keep in mind when starting a practice is to learn the foundations of a safe practice, pay attention to your body's cues, have fun and don't get discouraged by what you cannot do those first few months. People come in all sizes, shapes, ages and have different physiological make-ups. What might be beneficial for one person's body may not be good for yours. So, try to refrain from comparing your practice with others. The actual practice of yoga is meant to be a very individualized experience.
Staying Safe While Practicing Yoga
When executed properly and mindfully, yoga is a very safe form of exercise. But, like any other activity, it is not without its risks. Read these essential tips and fundamentals of a safe practice before you begin.
Fundamentals of a safe practice:
Always warm up (unless practicing yin). A good general warm-up increases blood circulation to the muscles, lubricates joints and prepares the body to move more deeply into yoga poses. Follow a logical progression by sequencing less strenuous yoga poses for each body part before going deeper.
Use proper alignment. This is essential in yoga and will be covered extensively in our series. Begin with your foundation, the feet, and work your way up. By properly aligning the body, you reduce excess stress so that muscles and ligaments are strengthened equally on both sides of the active joint. This creates balance and freedom of movement. Correct alignment also alleviates tension in nonworking muscles, allowing you to concentrate on the working muscles, thereby increasing the pose’s benefit.
Avoid hyper-extension. It’s important to keep a slight bend in your knees during standing yoga poses and to keep their weight evenly distributed among the “four corners” of their feet. In seated forward bends, place a rolled-up towel beneath the knee of the extended leg or legs. Avoid “popping” your elbows into hyper-extension while in upward-facing dog or any other posture in which you bear weight with the arms. Here’s a good cue to help avoid elbow hyper-extension: “Align the crease of the elbows (without internally rotating the shoulders) so that they face each other.”
By directing your attention inward and listening to what your body is telling you, you can modify poses to suit your individual muscular imbalances. This will also help you to focus less on what others around you are doing and create a noncompetitive and self-accepting atmosphere.
Function over form. In yoga, function is more important than form for gaining health benefits. To gain more function, students can use adaptive techniques to do the pose in a way that requires less strength or flexibility. One useful adaptive technique for flexibility is to slightly bend your arms or legs instead of keeping them fully extended. This enables you to move your spine more easily, which is the focus of many postures and the key to a healthy spine. For example, the primary mechanical function of a standing forward bend is to stretch your lower back. If your hamstring muscles are tight, your hands will have trouble reaching the floor and you may strain your lower back. Instead, simply step your feet out hip width apart and bend your knees until you can comfortably reach your hands on the floor. Gradually begin to straighten your legs until you feel a stretch. Over time you will develop your flexibility and you will remain safe.
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