Yoga – health benefits and beginners guide

201605 Barbora yoga pose over baths

Yoga is booming all around the world because of its incredible health and wellness benefits. It’s been scientifically shown to help weight management, bronchial asthma, hypertension, sleep quality and depression, just to name a few benefits.

If you sit for long periods in the day and don’t move enough, yoga could be the perfect activity for you, it is easy to get started, low impact and highly enjoyable.

What are the benefits of yoga? 

There are too many benefits to mention, however here are some outcomes you can expect if you start practicing yoga:

  • It’s a great workout – you will build long, lean muscle, get stronger in your core and back (back pain prevention) and build arm strength. Many yoga postures combine physical strength with flexibility which makes it a unique way to work out.
  • Weight loss/management – because you are building muscle mass (muscle burns calories), it will help you lose and maintain your ideal body weight
  • Less stress and anxiety, better mood – practicing yoga regularly assists in increase of the “feel good” hormones and chemicals (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins) in our system. You might experience this as the “yoga bliss” at the end of your practice.
  • Improve your posture – as your muscles get stronger and more flexible, your posture will improve visibly. As a side effect, you might notice how better posture correlates with better mood and higher confidence and it looks great!
  • You will breathe better – in yoga, you will learn breathing techniques that will allow you to take longer, deeper breaths. That’s beneficial not only for increasing lung capacity and your oxygen intake but also for stress and anxiety management.
  • Yoga and meditation will help you process everything that goes on in your life. You will learn to quiet your mind, allow time for healing and restoring (not just of the body, but also the mind), and to simply turn off

Always wanted to try yoga but not sure where to start? 

Even though the roots of yoga date thousands of years ago in India, yoga is now booming all around the world due to its proven health and wellness benefits.

Which type of yoga is best for me?

There are many styles of yoga, most of which are suitable for beginners. I’m going to focus on the three most popular types, as you are most likely to encounter these at your local centre. With so many yoga styles and approaches it is easy to get overwhelmed, but don’t let that put you off and never feel intimidated by seasoned yoga practitioners, everyone at some point took their first yoga class!

  • Hatha Yoga – Great for practitioners of all levels and ages, hatha practice is the original physical yoga practice. Hatha classes are structured around seated, standing, balancing, and restorative poses and the slower pace of the class makes it a great choice for those just starting with yoga. Practicing Hatha will give you a basic knowledge of yoga and will prepare you for all other kinds of yoga.
  • Restorative/Yin Yoga – The mellow, restorative practice is designed to calm the body and mind while opening up tight areas, working with breath, and relaxation techniques. Yin is a bit more intense as it stretches the connective tissue around our joints and the nature of the practice is passive – poses are held for up to 5 minutes. Both suitable for beginners and people who need to increase flexibility, relax, or for those seeking injury recovery.
  • Vinyasa/Power Yoga – Suitable for intermediate students, the dynamic vinyasa and power focuses on building strength, core conditioning, and greater flexibility. Ideal for sculpting the body, building stamina and focus, and deepening one’s practice. Often sought after by athletes and those who like to work hard, power and vinyasa will help you get in shape.
  • Hot Yoga – Practiced in heated room (38 – 42 degrees), hot yoga is suitable for beginners to advanced but might not be recommended for those with history of heart disease, high or low blood pressure or tendency to get dehydrated or dizzy easily. Hot yoga assists with building strength and focus as well as flexibility and has great detoxifying benefits for your body and mind. Poses are held static which allows time to learn proper alignment and modifications.

201605 Barboar Yoga sitting cross legged pose near sea

Where to begin? 

  • Ask your friends and family if they can recommend you a yoga studio. It’s always more fun (and less nerve wrecking) to go with a friend the first time.
  • Search on the internet for local yoga studios that offer beginner classes or workshops.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask – contact your closest yoga studios and let them know you’re a newbie looking for a class that will suit you. You will find that yoga teachers are more than happy to chat with you about class recommendations.
  • Let your teacher know of any health issues you might have. That will ensure that you will be well looked after in the class and the teacher will offer you modifications. If you have any serious health concerns, talk to your doctor before starting a yoga practice.

What to wear

  • Dress in comfortable stretchy clothes that are not too loose. Yoga is practiced barefoot.
  • Get a yoga mat – most studios have mats for hire and for sale. Yoga mats are also for sale online and in most sport shops.
  • Hydrate and don’t show up hungry. Especially if the class is practiced in a heated room – please make sure to hydrate well before the class and have a light snack (not a heavy meal) 60 – 30 min before the class

Attitude

  • Be open-minded – Show up for your first class with an open mind. Trust the instructor, trust in the process and in your own abilities. Don’t be afraid to look around if you are not sure what you’re supposed to do. Ask the teacher questions after the class if you are unsure about something.
  • Go to your second class. Even if you didn’t fall in love with yoga at first sight, give it another try. Most people fall in love with yoga gradually. When you become more flexible and your balance improves you will feel more and more graceful and strong – everyone gets better with practice. Yoga is all about practice and patience. 

Yoga studio, gym, or online class? 

There are a lot of free and paid resources on the internet. Online classes are great, however, if you are just starting with yoga, I’d recommend you go to a yoga class initially as the teacher can ensure you are doing it all correctly. Going to a yoga studio is also a wonderful way to be social, make friends and stay motivated.

If you are a gym member, you might find a class there. The environment might not be as relaxing and spa-like as a yoga studio, but it just might fit your schedule and budget better.

So go ahead, give yoga a go and start reaping the rewards!

– Barbora Plzakova, a yoga teacher & blogger

Recommended Posts
0