7 tips for yoga beginners

Experts claim yoga is good for health, but how do you start when you’ve never hit the mat? Follow our lead…

Trust us, the last thing you want to worry about in a yoga class is whether your leggings are going to fall down or not. ‘Wear clothes that allow you to move. Don’t wear jeans, which may seem obvious but I’ve seen a few incidents of down-ward facing denim!’ says Jessica Skye, founder of Fat Buddha Yoga (@fatbuddhayoga). ‘Comfort is key – look for soft fabrics that stretch with your body. Investing in a good sports bra is also essential – go for low-impact for high-energy yoga sessions. And consider footwear. The Nike Studio Wrap is an amazing shoe for workouts that would traditionally be done in barefoot, as it offers great support and protection without restricting movement.’ Chances are you already have something suitable in your gym drawer!



What’s that you say? You can’t wrap your legs around your head or do the splits? OK, so that’s perfectly normal. ‘Yoga teachers hear this one all the time: “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga”,’ says Shona Vertue, Bodyism yoga expert (bodyism.com). ‘Sorry to be Captain Obvious here but being inflexible is actually a great reason to practise yoga. Yoga is not just for the flexible. Flexibility takes time to develop, so you need to practise yoga and give it just that – time. No one is watching how bad your downward dog is. Everyone else taking the class is concerned with their own practice.’



Don’t know your hatha yoga from your vinyasa class? Don’t worry. Instead, look for a beginner’s session. ‘Beginner’s’ courses are a great way to see if yoga really is for you before you commit to a package of classes,’ says Eve Boggenpoel, founder of Maya Yoga. ‘Designed for people with little or no previous experience, they give much more time to breathing and correct alignment, allowing you to build an understanding of how yoga might work for you, while increasing your strength, stamina and flexibility. Classes may be smaller, offer space for questions and give you the confidence to go on to a  level 1 or open-level class.



This may come as a surprise, but yoga is not a cult! Behind the breath work, chakras and prana (life force), is a wealth of science-backed workout strategy. ‘Yoga is not a religion,’ agrees Dean Hodgkin, fitness expert at Ragdale Hall and Énergie Fitness (deanhodgkin.com). ‘It will no doubt lead to a more conscious way of living, but don’t fear that you’ll end up locked up in a cult hideaway. Sure, you’ll be encouraged to investigate your thoughts and ‘be present’ in the moment, but this is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, it’s actually a skill you’ll find you can apply very successfully to improving your performance at work and making the most of your social life.’ Yippee!



Are you always running late? Then this practical pointer is for you – get to the yoga studio before the class starts. This means, if the class starts at 7pm, you need to be there before 6.50pm. ‘Classes will usually open with meditation to centre the class and channel the focus,’ explains Skye. ‘If people are just getting into the zone and you barge in, it disturbs everyone. And most receptionists won’t let you join if you are late. However, if they do – wait until the meditation is over before you sneak in.’ Understood?




Think breath work is a no-brainer? Think again. While, of course we all know how to breathe, most people fail to use the full capacity of their lungs. And that’s where yogic breathing comes in. ‘The breath speed and depth has a very close relationship to the nervous system,’ explains Vertue. ‘When you practise yoga, you want to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (this is a fancy word for the nervous system that’s in charge of sleep, rest, digestion and repair). If you want yoga to be a relaxing and beneficial practice – as it should be – you need to prioritise your quality of breathing.’ Mastering the postures will come with time; conquer your breath work first.



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