Yoga 101: A Beginner’s Guide

beginner's guide to yoga

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely been told many times that you have to try yoga! It will change your life, they say… And they might be right. Yoga is one of the few things in life that everyone seems to agree on – doctors and naturopaths, young and old, men and women – you name it. It’s a powerful practice that dates back thousands of years and that has been used for achieving all kinds of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health benefits. But it’s only recently in the past couple of years that yoga has seemingly taken over the modern world and become mainstream.  But what can it do for your life, specifically? Well, let’s find out!

Everything You Need To Know About Yoga

Before we dive into the many ways yoga can transform your life, you need to first know what it is. Yoga is a mind and body practise that originated in ancient India. It combines a variety of physical movements, postures, breathing techniques, meditation and relaxation techniques for a unique experience that exercises all aspects of your health.

But here is where things get tricky: yoga comes in a variety of different styles, so it isn’t something that can be summed up in one category. For example, there are some yoga styles that will give you an intense, heart-racing, sweaty workout and others that are designed to help you relax and restore after a long day. Some hold postures for several minutes, whereas other styles consist of active movements that switch with every breath. And just as vast as the different styles of yoga are, so are the benefits. Of course, all styles of yoga offer an amazing set of advantages but depending on the style you’re doing, you may get more physical benefits than spiritual ones, or movements that focus more on strengthening than flexibility.  I know, it sounds complicated but it really isn’t. Instead, yoga is such a straightforward practice once you’ve honed in on the style (or styles) that you like.

To give you an idea of the types of yoga available,, here’s a quick look at some of the most popular types of yoga for beginners:

  • Ashtanga yoga flows between poses and sets of poses while following a set sequence of poses
  • Bikram yoga, a type of hot yoga, combines the same 26 postures and movements and is done in a hot room (105°F/40°C)
  • Hatha yoga is a slower-paced style of yoga that focuses on your breath, controlled movements and stretching
  • Iyengar yoga is a faster style of yoga that has a strong focus on detail and proper body alignment, with each posture being held for a period of time
  • Restorative yoga is a restful, relaxing, meditative form of yoga that is all about slowing down and releasing tension in the mind and body for full restoration
  • Vinyasa yoga connects your breath to your movements and is a faster-paced practice where postures seemingly string together

Keep in mind, that there are only a few of the most common types of yoga for beginners and there are many more for you to choose from.

The Top Benefits of Yoga

As mentioned, yoga offers a vast array of benefits with some styles providing more of one category of advantages than others. However, there is a general category of amazing benefits that you can expect from practicing any style of yoga. So, let’s dive right in.

Improve Strength, Flexibility and Balance

If you’ve ever taken a look at the body of someone who practices yoga regularly, you already know that yoga makes you fit! It shapes, sculpts and tones every muscle in your body, while also burning fat and improving your balance and flexibility. It’s an all-in-one workout that allows you to get a full-body workout in without having to do strenuous cardio.

Relaxes Your Mind and Body

It might sound strange that exercises can relax your mind and body, as many styles amp you up, but this is one way yoga is different from the rest. While there are some types that get your body warm and sweaty, the combination of breathing techniques and relaxation added into the mix is super therapeutic. You leave every session feeling nice and relaxed, like you were just at the spa.

Exercise Your Mind and Body

Add together the two first benefits mentioned, and it’s easy to see how yoga is an exercise for both your mind and body. Not only does it work out both individually, but many styles are also designed to bring the two together for a mind-body connection. This is done in many ways by consciously bringing your mental health into the practice through different forms of breath work, meditation, and visualization.

Improves All Aspects of Your Health –  Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual Health

While all forms of exercise are beneficial for your physical and mental health, yoga takes it a bit further offering physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health benefits. It works out your physical health, relaxes your mental health, soothes your emotional health and opens up your spiritual health. You just can’t go wrong with that.

Offers Natural pain relief

With yoga consisting of a series of therapeutic movements and basic stretches, it can be an excellent form of natural pain relief that acts as a massage for your internal and external health. Additionally, since it improves your flexibility and mobility, yoga is also an excellent preventative that can deter pain and injury in the future.

Soothe Mental Health Symptoms

With yoga focusing on quieting the mind, being present and using your breath to relax into the different postures, it can be excellent for your mental health. Not only that but it is scientifically proven to help reduce stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia. So, not only does it boost your mental health but it can also act as a natural treatment for mental illness.

Improve Heart Health

Yoga has been proven to improve cardiovascular health in a variety of ways. It can lower your blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol and other risk factors, while also improving circulation due to the combination of yoga postures and breathing techniques. The reduction in stress and inflammation also helps!

Everyone Can Do Yoga

One benefit that seems to be fairly exclusive to yoga is that anyone can do it, regardless of age, gender, mobility, flexibility, and fitness level. You don’t have to be able to do a certain movement or speed, or have the stamina or strength that is required by other forms of exercise. With the vast array of styles of yoga, everyone can find one that best suits their personal goals, desires, limitations, strengths, weaknesses, injuries and so on and so forth. There’s even available yoga for kids, chair yoga for the elderly, aqua yoga, goat yoga – you name it.

Basic Yoga Poses Everyone Should Master

Now that I’ve got you all excited about these benefits, you’re likely ready to jump right into practice. Despite what you may see online or on social media, yoga doesn’t have to consist of fancy, acrobatic twists and upside down handstands. It can be simple and therapeutic, gentle and kind to your body.

Here are some basic yoga moves to perfect and harness the benefits of:

Child’s Pose

A good basic yoga pose that you’re certain to use several times within your practice is the child’s pose. This is a gentle stretch that boosts blood circulation and induces relaxation. It’s commonly used as a restful break in between poses, and that’s exactly what it feels like.

To do this post, place your knees on the floor hip-width apart with your big toes touching. Fold over your thighs and extend your arms out in front of you, with your palms facing down. Relax your shoulders, sink into the mat and breathe. 

Tree Pose

The tree pose is a nice and easy beginner’s pose that improves your balance, while also strengthening your core and increasing stability in your lower body. 

To do this pose, start by focusing on proper weight distribution and posture. Slowly shift your weight over to one foot and slowly raise the other, placing the foot on your calf or inner thigh above your knee.

Cat-Cow Pose

The cat-cow pose is another movement you’ll be using plenty of throughout your yoga practice, and you’ll be thankful for it. With this move,  you can improve blood circulation, focus and mental stability, while also stretching and strengthening your spine and inducing calmness and stress relief. It acts as an internal massage for your organs, soothing all kinds of pain and discomfort.

To do this pose, kneel on all fours with your palms underneath your shoulders and knees aligned with your hips. Inhale and curve your back at the hips, allowing your stomach to drop. Open your head and push your head up and back for a deeper stretch. On your exhale, draw your navel toward your spine and arch your spine from your hips. Let your head be heavy and hang.

Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose

This is a basic yoga poses that isn’t commonly used in practice but that offers a plethora of benefits. With just 15 minutes in this pose, you can relieve your lower body, relax an overactive brain, ease leg and foot cramps, and soothe your nerves.

All you have to do is lay on the floor and place your legs straight up on a wall. Keep your sitting bones as close to the wall as possible and just breathe.

Corpse Pose

Traditionally called ‘Savasana’, almost every yoga practice ends in this pose, as it helps relax and unwind the mind and body. To do it, simply lay down with your legs and arms comfortably stretched out and your palms facing up. Breathe and just be.

Yoga is something everyone can do and that everyone should be doing. It’s incredibly beneficial for all aspects of your health and can be used on a regular, ongoing basis for continued improvements and advantages for as long as you want. And trust me, once you start experiencing those benefits, you’ll be hooked!

If you’re interested to get deeper into yoga, we recommend the Yoga Burn program.

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