Light on Beginners Yoga
By Eva Kristlova, Yoga Teacher (as published in the OM Yoga Magazine)
First of all, well done for your interest in yoga, lets’ get started! Yoga is so beneficial on many levels, physically, mentally and emotionally and especially now as we are navigating 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, you don’t have to change anything about who you are.
Yoga is not only about the physical postures (asana). These are only the tip of the iceberg. The yoga practice has a deep spiritual component, it is a way for you to get to know yourself.
The most beautiful part of the yoga practice is that it truly is for everyone. Providing support, it can lift you and hold you and help you to explore and get to know yourself. Yoga can really transform your life. The practice of yoga welcomes everyone in every phase of life. It honours our bodies, it reminds us to breathe, it quietens our busy mind.
Yoga is for absolutely everybody, available to everyone. As long as you can breathe you can do yoga! The word ‘Yoga’ can be translated as ‘union’. So come exactly as you are… now it is time to begin!
“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)
What do you need before you start
Getting started is simple and you don’t really need much.
To start with get yourself a yoga mat, your 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 couple of blocks and a strap and I like using a blanket and cushion, we all need a little bit of comfort don’t we! Blankets provide padding and keep you warm.
The blocks provide support and can be used to elevate your hips and promote a better posture. They support your body in many lovely 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 seated forward fold.
I love working with bolsters that support the body especially in restorative yoga practice. And what about beautiful lavender eye pillows that help you relax!
If you have a body, you have all you need to practice yoga! But the props can help you along the way.
What to wear to practice Yoga
Anything you like as long as it is comfortable! Yoga leggings or tracksuit bottoms with a comfy top. We usually practice with bare feet.
If you are thinking of starting yoga you are already half way there! Make that final step, unroll your magic carpet and let the new chapter of your life begin!
How to find the right teacher for you
A teacher that is 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 there are so many different teachers and classes to choose from and with the use of Zoom and online classes you don’t need to be limited to your local studio.
Try various styles and 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 restorative and 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. Go and explore, taste the many different treats that are on offer. Keep your mind open, and once you found the right teacher for you, you will now!
What to expect in the beginners yoga class
Yoga class usually starts and finishes 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, and instead connecting with your breath, present moment and your deeper self.
The teacher will lead you through 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 will gradually cover all bases such as sitting, kneeling, standing and lying down, exploring forward folds, back bends, inversions, spinal twists, balances and side bends.
There will be focus on breath and you will learn various breathing techniques – 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 activity 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.
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, sparks creativity.. Meditation takes patience and practice. Sitting in silence can be challenging but 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.
“The quieter our mind becomes, the more we can hear..” Rumi
You will probably hear your teacher speaking in different language! This is Sanskrit, original language of yoga that carries sacred sounds and vibrations.
What you will hear your teacher say:
Namaste – used at the end of the class (or as a greeting at the beginning) and one of the many translations is:
My Soul honours your Soul
I honour the place in you
Where the entire universe resides
I honour the light, love, truth, beauty and peace within you.
Because it is also within me
And in sharing these things
We are united
We are the same
We are One
Asana – physical posture. All postures that your teacher will take you through have Sanskrit name and English translation.
Pranayama – breathing technique. The beginners will start by simply observing the breath, noticing the rise and fall of the belly and chest, flow of the breath through the body etc. before progressing into breath retention, count and more advanced practices.
Mudra – hand seals or gestures that direct subtle energy to certain areas of the body. One that you will practice at the end of the class in Anjali mudra (hands in prayer) and most likely Chin Mudra, where the tip of the thumb and index finger connect.
OM – Om is a mantra that is often chanted at the beginning and end of yoga sessions. Om is both a sound and a symbol rich in meaning and depth. It is said to be both the sound of the creation of the universe, and the sound of silence.