Yoga for Beginners
OM Yoga Magazine guide to getting started on the mat
Yoga will bring peace, clarity, strength and flexibility into your life — and best of all, anyone can do it. By Eva Kristlova
F irst of all, well done you for your interest in yoga! Now let’s get started. Yoga is so beneficial on many levels, physically, mentally and emotionally. Especially now, as we navigate through these challenging times, yoga is needed more than ever.
Yoga will bring you peace, clarity, increased strength and flexibility, as well as helping you through this journey called life. You don’t have to be flexible to begin either, you don’t have to change anything about who you are.
Yoga is not only about the physical postures (asana). These are the tip of the iceberg. A yoga practice has a deep spiritual component; it is a way for you to get to know yourself.
The most beautiful part is that yoga is for everyone. Providing support, it can lift you and hold you and help you to explore and get to know yourself. Yoga can transform your life. The practice welcomes everyone in every phase of life; it honours our bodies, it reminds us to breathe, it quietens our busy minds.
Yoga is for absolutely everybody. As long as you can breathe you can do yoga! In fact, the word ‘yoga’ can be translated as ‘union’. So come exactly as you are. Now is the time to begin.
Guide to getting started
Getting started is simple. You don’t really need much, but try and get yourself a good yoga mat — your very own magic carpet. There are so many different styles to choose from, some are thicker (good for sensitive knees and joints in general), some are thin (good for travelling).
I would also recommend getting a couple of blocks and a strap. The blocks provide support and can be used to elevate your hips and promote better posture. They support your body in many ways. If you don’t have blocks you can also use a couple of thick books. We use the strap to create more space in the body, for example, in a seated forward fold.
I also like using a blanket and cushion, for a little bit of comfort. Blankets provide padding and keep you warm. I love working with bolsters too, which support the body especially in a restorative yoga practice. And what about beautiful lavender eye pillows that help you relax? But don’t worry if not. If you have a body, you have all you need to practice yoga!
What to wear
You can wear anything you like as long as it is comfortable, such as yoga leggings or tracksuit bottoms with a comfy top. We usually practice with bare feet.
The right teacher for you
A teacher that’s right for you is someone you resonate with, who makes you feel safe and at ease. Try different classes and a variety of teachers to get a good feel of which teacher is the best for you (we all have slightly different styles and personalities). Nowadays with the use of Zoom and online classes you don’t need to be limited to your local studio either
Find your yoga style
Try various yoga styles as well as teachers and find out what it is that you need. For a dynamic style of practice try Vinyasa Flow or if you are looking to wind down and de-stress then maybe a Restorative Yoga or gentle Hatha class might be for you. Try as many styles as you like and make your practice exactly what you need it to be. There are many specific classes for beginners but it doesn’t mean you need to limit your horizons. Keep your mind open, explore, and once you find the right teacher for you, you will know.
What to expect
Yoga classes usually start and finish in Savasana (corpse pose) where you will be lying on your back. The teacher will encourage you to close your eyes and focus on your breath, letting go of the business of the world and your daily worries.
They will lead you through a series of warm-ups, mobilising and limbering your body and working towards the main pose (or series of postures) that we refer to as ‘peak pose’. You’ll gradually cover all bases such as sitting, kneeling, standing and lying down, exploring forward folds, back bends, inversions, spinal twists, balances and side bends — but not all at the same time!
There may also be a focus on the breath and you’ll learn various breathing techniques — this is pranayama. The class usually finishes either in Savasana where you will be treated to a blissful relaxation or in seated cross-legged position (Sukasana) where you can become completely still through meditation.
In relaxation, you let go of any physical and mental chatter and let your body rest and receive all the benefits of your practice. The teacher will guide you verbally or might let you relax in silence. This is a much needed treat and reward for all your work on and off the mat. In today’s busy world relaxation is an absolute must-have.
What about meditation?
Meditation is a wonderful tool that is proven to help us de-stress and bring about a sense of overall wellbeing. It relieves anxiety, enhances self-awareness, brings about focus and sparks creativity. But meditation takes patience and practice. Sitting in silence can be challenging but the reality is that most of us need this quiet time of reflection more than physical practice. Let your meditation practice become a circle of coming back to the present moment and your breath again and again; that is the practice. However, meditation is usually not taught to complete beginners. As Sufi poet said: “The quieter our mind becomes, the more we can hear.”
Eva Kristlova is a yoga teacher and runs Yoga
Life Studio in Eastbourne (yogaeastbourne.com)
“True yoga is not the shape of your body,
but the shape of your life.
Yoga is not to be performed;
Yoga is to be lived.
Yoga doesn’t care
of what you have been;
Yoga cares about
the person you are becoming.
Yoga is designed for a vast
and profound purpose,
and for it to be truly called yoga,
its essence must be embodied.’’
Aadil Palkhivala — Fire of Love
First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.