Yoga, as it has been popularized in the Western World, tends to be perceived as a fitness activity that is designed for the wealthy, young, and able-bodied.
If you’re thinking about starting yoga and this seems to be the impression you’ve got so far, please don’t let it put you off! This really could not be further from the truth; yoga, as it was designed a few thousand years ago, is much more than just the physical postures.
When we approach it from a holistic perspective, and tailor it to each individual’s needs and wants, it can be extremely beneficial for most people. Regardless of your age, gender identity, physical ability, religion, or background, yoga can be a great addition to your way of life.
Yoga asana, the physical shapes that you may have seen on social media, is often perceived as the ultimate or even only way to practice yoga when in reality, there are as many ways to practice yoga as there are humans on this planet.
The yoga industry is worth $36.4 billion and is projected to reach $66 billion by the year 2027. Although more than 30 million Americans claim to practice yoga, the practice has largely been stripped of its roots and packaged in a way that is inaccessible to many.
If you’d like to try yoga and you’re not sure where to start, we’re here to help.
Read on to learn:
- What is Yoga for Beginners
- Benefits of Yoga for Beginners
- Basic Principles of Yoga for Beginners
- Accessible Yoga Poses for Beginners
- What to Expect on your first Class
- Other Ways to Practice Yoga for Beginners
- Tips for Beginner Yogis
- A Yoga for Beginners Practice
What is Yoga for Beginners
Even if you’ve never practiced yoga before, you most likely have heard the term and may associate it with exercise, very slow stretching, or maybe you’re not sure.
Yoga has many benefits for the body and mind, and you may be intrigued enough to finally go to a class and see how you like it.Yoga has its origins in South Asia and is a complex system and philosophy that was developed as a spiritual practice.
The way in which yoga has evolved in the West, especially in Europe and the United States, it has a strong emphasis on three of the 8-limbs of the yogic path:
- Yoga Asana (physical postures)
- Pranayama (breath work)
- Dhyana (meditation)
Benefits of Yoga for Beginners
Yoga has many benefits and the more you engage in these techniques, the more benefits you will reap and the more you’ll be able to observe the effects of it in your life.
Here are some of the main benefits of yoga that beginners can experience:
1# Improved overall fitness
2# Reduced stress and anxiety
3# Decreased inflamation
4# Enhanced self-awareness
5# Helps regulate the nervous system
Basic Principles of Yoga for Beginners
The most fundamental principles of yoga are often considered to be the Yamas and Niyamas, which are also the first two limbs described in detail in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
When embarking on the yogic path, and as an essential tool of yoga for beginner practitioners, we invite you to explore these concepts.
The Yamas (External Observances)
1# Ahimsa (Non-violence)
This is the concept of finding respect for every living thing and consciously living a life that causes no harm, to ourselves or to others.
2# Satya (Truthfulness)
Staying true to oneself and our values. Thinking, speaking, and acting with integrity.
3# Asteya (Non-stealing)
Not stealing from yourself or from anyone else. This includes time, posessions, property, ideas, etc.
4# Bramacharya (Right Use of Energy)
Often translated as celibacy, Brahmacharya invites us to use our energy in the right way and to find space for rest, inviting harmony and balance. Brahmacharya also means turning our attention inward, and away from external desires.
5# Aparigraha (Non-possessiveness)
This Yama is about only having what is essential, not hoarding or attaching ourselves to the material world. That includes things, places, and even people.
The Niyamas (Internal Observances)
1# Saucha (Purification)
The first of the Niyamas invites us to maintain the cleanliness of our body, mind, spirit, and surroundings. Taking care of ourselves and our belongings.
2# Santosha (Contentment)
The virtue of Santosha lies in learning to be grateful for what we have, and to be content right where we are, without wanting more or what others have. This Niyama can be particularly difficult in today’s world.
3# Tapas (Self-discipline)
This yogic principle invites the practitioner to ignite their inner fire, one that is sustainable and fosters self-discipline in living a life aligned with our values.
4# Svadyaya (Self-study)
Self-study can lead to immense growth.
5# Isvara Pranidhana (Surrender to the Divine)
The last of these philosophies is Isvara Pranidhana; surrendering to the divine, to the Universe, or to the God of your own understanding – whatever you choose to call it.
It is finding full trust in the ebb and flow of life.
If you’d like to learn more about how to incorporate these principles into your life, we recommend you check out Deborah Adele’s book.
Accessible Yoga Poses for Beginners
- Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
- Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
- Bharmanasana (Table Top Pose)
- Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
- Balasana (Child’s Pose)
- Anahatasana (Puppy Pose)
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
- Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold Pose)
- Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose)
- Supta Matsyendrasana (Reclined Twist Pose)
- Supta Badha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
- Savasana (Corpse Pose)
What to Expect on your first Class
Yoga for beginners classes at a studio or gym usually holds space for you to ask questions and offer a slower, accessible sequence that should invite you to take different variations to fit your body.
These classes encourage the use of props and are meant to introduce you to some of the most common and basic postures to help you build strength and flexibility as well as experience body-mind harmony.
Here are a few tips for when you attend your first yoga for beginners class:
1# Arrive Early to sign documents and situate yourself
2# Bring your own mat or make sure the space has them for rent
3# Find a spot where you’ll be able to see and hear the teacher well
4# Take care of yourself, and only do what feels okay and safe
5# Try a different instructor, style, or studio if the experience didn’t fit you
Other Ways to Practice Yoga for Beginners
If practicing yoga asana (the physical practice) doesn’t seem appealing or is not accessible for you at this time, consider these other ways to explore the practice that are still practicing yoga!:
- Incorporating the 8 Limbs of Yoga into your life
Tips for Beginner Yogis
1# Know Your Why
Before you start a yoga practice, become clear on your reason for beginning, and in that way, it will be much easier for you to stick with it.
There are many yoga styles offered at yoga spaces, and although each teacher is different, you may want to familiarize yourself with a few of the basic styles of yoga to see which one would be the best fit for your wants and needs.
2# Choose: In Person, Virtual Studio, or Teacher
Once you’ve learned a bit more about different styles of yoga that you may like to try, you have to consider if you rather practice in person or if you would benefit more by practicing yoga online.
3# Explore The Different Yoga Styles
There are a wide variety of yoga styles for you to explore. Some may really align with who you are and what you’re looking for, and some may not.
Here are some of the most popular yoga styles.
4# Practice with Props
Utilizing props is a wonderful way to practice yoga for beginners, since it adds a level of accessibility and adaptability that cannot be achieved without them.
Some of the props you may consider using are:
- Yoga blocks
- A chair
- Yoga strap
- Yoga bolster
5# Try A Few Classes and Studios
Many yoga studios, both online and in person, offer new student packages that you can purchase at a discount and that offer you a few sessions to try out what their classes and teachers are about.
Take advantage of these so that you can find a studio that feels just right, instead of settling for whatever is near you. Finding the right space, teachers, and community, matters.
A Yoga for Beginners Practice
If you’d like to experience a yoga for beginners practice, we invite you to try this free class with Esther Ekhart.
Yoga is much more than physical postures, and we encourage you to do some research and find what fits you.
To learn more about yoga for beginners, check out this section of our site.