Yoga for Beginners: Tips to Get Started
by Florence Hood
August 2, 2019
Hi, Iâ€™m Florence! I am currently travelling, having just spent the last three years living in Moscow, Russia. I love writing, fitness and learning languages. I keep fit by exploring forests with my dog, running, and yoga.
I love yoga. I have been practising yoga for (Woah, now Iâ€™m counting) about 13 years. I am in no way one of those amazing contortionists you see on Instagram! I love it, and it has a special place in my life. Iâ€™ve even trained as a Kidâ€™s Yoga Instructor!
Starting yoga is so easy, no equipment is needed to start. You can wear anything comfortable. There is no base level of fitness needed. You donâ€™t need to be able to meditate. You can just start.
Start with a gym class
I was first introduced to yoga through a class at my local gym. This was great for me, and I would recommend having a good teacher to any beginner. Yoga instructors keep you safe and lead you into a practise that is appropriate for your fitness and can help you modify poses to take injuries into account. Especially when youâ€™re first starting, teachers can keep you safe.
When I first started yoga, I struggled with the meditation aspect of classes, and I shopped around for more physical classes that I felt pushed me more. I didnâ€™t know about the link between yoga and mental health! I had no patience for meditation through yoga. I love sweating in a yoga class. Yoga is increasingly popular, so itâ€™s very easy to try different classes until you find one that works for you.
If you have a gym membership, start by checking out their list of classes. Most gyms have more than one yoga class so you can pick the style you like or an instructor who makes you feel comfortable. Often these classes are included in the cost of membership, which is great! I love yoga classes and often check out one-off classes at festivals and events.
One downside to yoga classes â€“ for me at least â€“ is avoiding the temptation to compete with the other people in the class, as if someone can win at yoga! I sometimes worry about my poses not looking exactly like the person next to me. Some classes can also be quite crowded. One class I took while living in Taiwan was FULL. I once fell out of a pose and onto someone elseâ€™s mat. I was mortified!
Start with an app
If you donâ€™t have time or money for a class, or just want to start practising in your own home, there are so many apps available.
When starting, my favourite app was Yogify. I was mainly interested in physical practice at the time, so this app was perfect for me. It was linked together pictures of poses with very little narration. This meant that I could listen to music or audiobooks while practising.
There are many apps available, with different styles of yoga. Some of them help with goal setting and provide rewards for logging daily yoga practice. When trying to create a new habit, I find gamifying the new practice really helpful! Check out your app store to browse and read reviews.
I love yoga apps because they mean that I can have a yoga lesson at any time. But I currently have a TERRIBLE phone and have no spare room for a good quality yoga app. Iâ€™ve been spending more time watching yoga videos on YouTube, which have many of the same benefits but are free! My current favourite yoga YouTube channel is Yoga with Adriene. She releases a free yoga calendar every month. Her 10-Minute Yoga For Self Care is a beautiful and easy way to start. A great example of the positive link between yoga and mental health. Also, Adriene leaves time for herself and her viewers to breathe. She doesnâ€™t prattle and talk as many other yoga instructors do!
Start in your community
There are many other ways into yoga. If you have another sport in your life and are part of the society or community, there may be yoga classes offered to compliment your practice. A surf shack I used to rent from in Taiwan had sunrise yoga classes. The rock climbing society I was a part of at university had weekly yoga classes. My home town rugby team encourages its players to practise yoga and brings in an instructor weekly. One of the great benefits of these practises is that the classes will be targeted to the ways you are already using your body. You will also be alongside people you know or have other things in common with. The community around these classes is fantastic. The only downside to these classes â€“ for me at least â€“ is that they tend to focus on the parts of yoga that the participants are already good at. When I first started, I loved this! I used all of my skills from ballet and hit a full turtle pose in my first lesson, but avoided crow pose like the plague because my arms were weak. When everyone in the class has the same strengths and weaknesses, itâ€™s easy to let these weaknesses languish, instead of tackling them together as a team.
That was the physical side. If you are a part of a meditation group, check out and see if they offer yoga classes. Many meditation groups offer physical meditative practices alongside their other practices. If youâ€™re part of a meditation class, youâ€™re probably aware of the link between yoga and mental health. Talk to the class leader and see if this is available. Again, itâ€™s great to start something new alongside members of your community. I love yoga with friends. However, sometimes, these teachers may be experienced meditation leaders, but itâ€™s always good to check your teacherâ€™s qualifications. Even when practising meditation through yoga, yoga is a physical practice, and your instructor should be aware of the risks involved.
I have tried Bikram yoga exactly once. In Portugal. The instructor was fantastic, and I absolutely could not do it. Maybe it would be different today, but at the time I had very low blood pressure and kept thinking I was going to faint. It is very difficult to listen to your body and get zen when your main focus in downward dog is not passing out. Oh dear! Inversions were the worst.
And now, I know.
I was a part of the circus society for a year at university. Playing with other people in a way that adults donâ€™t, but children can. How many people can we balance on this chair? How many people can this person lift? How high a pyramid can we build? How can we balance if we do this?
Acro yoga feels like that for me. I love yoga as play. Laughing together and connecting and listening to our bodies and other peoples. Moving together and finding our rhythm. I have not yet had the joy of an acro yoga class, I have just played with other people who have, or spent hilarious evenings learning from YouTube videos with friends. My last time was on a sunny day in a park in Oslo, while my dog watched with bewilderment.
I would recommend this to anyone!
So, for anyone out there looking at starting yoga. Try it! Try everything! Find out what you like and what is sustainable for you. Most importantly, have fun.