Starting Yoga Successfully with a Strong Foundation.
Key Factors that Allow You to Start Yoga Today.
Access to All of the Benefits of Yoga.
Starting yoga today, knowing these basic foundations will give you much more ease and understanding. Taking you to higher levels that some miss out on.
Preventing much frustration that can accompany many that start this practice without basic guidelines.
I’ve seen it many times, people come to me in pain and frustrated after attending a few yoga classes and say it’s not for them.
Starting Yoga is for EVERYBODY
It can be intimidating and confusing to start a new activity. There is a certain amount of discomfort you will feel when beginning yoga. This is completely normal and OK.
Starting yoga is like a learning a new dance move or a new language.
Moving your body in new ways can feel strange at first.
You may see someone doing yoga either in person or in a picture or video and think, there is NO way I can do that. Though, that may be true, it doesn’t matter one single bit.
The good news is, no matter your level of fitness or capabilities, you too, can reap the rewards of yoga!
Your body is unique and it will move in the unique way it is capable of while doing yoga.
This is why it is so important and you will hear it over and over again to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.
How Do I Listen to My Body?
You begin by paying attention the present sensations in a gentle way.
Pay attention to RIGHT NOW
Let’s practice listening to your body for a moment.
While you are reading this article your body is in a particular shape and may have some small movements.
Let’s call this pose article reading pose.
Take a couple of long, deep breaths.
Do a quick scan with your mind from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. First, you are scanning to be sure that your physical body is safe. Listen to the sensations in your tissues.
Is any area of your body screaming out in pain, numbness, or discomfort?
Note first how it feels. Maybe it feels pinched, hot, sharp, achy, burning, or numb.
A tiny micro-movement that lets you remain in your article reading pose, but more comfortably.
Accept and allow this feeling without judgement or commentary about it in your mind.
Do your best to only take in data, like a research scientist would.
Next, take another breath and allow that focused area to relax without actually moving physically. Now, see if there is a tiny adjustment you can make that will allow more comfort to this spot.
If there is no amount of adjustment that will help the sensation and it is a high level of discomfort you will want to start getting out of the pose.
When beginning yoga, you are learning these interesting poses and doing your best to understand how to get into them. The beginning is challenging because it is new. There are many things to focus on.
Soon after beginning a yoga practice, you will gain more experience and be able to focus for longer amounts of time.
The most important focus is to know if you are hurting yourself.
You are an intuitive being and by doing yoga mentally and physically, these muscles grow too.
That is how you listen to your body.
Also, before beginning yoga you want to know, in general, what you are capable of.
Know what your body is capable.
Do you have any recent injuries? Do you have an large restrictions of range of motion of any area.
A sensitive area you need to pay extra attention to? Do you get dizzy easily? Are you able to get up and down from the floor safely?
If you are a woman, are you on your period. (There are some poses to avoid). If you have had carpal tunnel, you may want to avoid having your wrists at a 90 degree angle for long periods or repetitively.
Besides, being aware of your general condition, also be acutely aware of the present moment.
Each moment in time is unique, so stay present.
Just because you could touch the ground with your heels in downward dog yesterday, doesn’t mean that you should press your heels right down to the floor today. Focus on the sensations of right now.
When starting a yoga practice, expect it to feel like a mental workout too.
In yoga, you are paying attention to sensations, breathing, and where your body is. This is one of the keys to the benefits of yoga. You are training the mind as well as the body.
As you practice, this process will grow deeper and richer and most likely bring you joy. Bring on the Bliss!!
Leave the judgement behind.
Beginning a yoga practice gives you the opportunity to slow down, breath, a take a listen to your thoughts. It’s amazing how much we judge ourselves. Yoga teaches balance with the mind, body, and spirit.
ALL Yoga poses can be modified. Properly modified poses allow you to gain the same benefits from each pose. You are not missing out on anything. Your flexibility is not important besides knowing where your boundaries are so that you are not injuring yourself. You don’t lose anything. You are not missing out when you modify your pose. This is how you do yoga.
Always back off if you feel an intense pain or numbness in any area.
Yoga is about finding a happy balance between effort and ease.
Poses should be slightly challenging but within your healthy boundaries.
For example: I have tightness in my right shoulder for a past injury. When I do Cow Face Pose, I use a strap on one side. On the other side I can easily clasp my hands together.
If you know you get dizzy easily, or are not used to tracking your eyes with your movements. You may want to do your yoga at home next to a couch or something else stable you can grab onto for support.
Support options for yoga modifications
There are many things you can use around the house to help support or modify certain yoga poses. Things like chairs, books, the back of the couch, and the wall can help give you the extra support you may need.
Feel confident about your alignment?
If you want to do fast yoga or power yoga, know the alignment basics of the poses first.
Starting yoga today can be easy. You can go sign up at your favorite studios or drop in on a couple classes and find a teacher that you vibe with.
Find a teacher that teaches in the way you want to enjoy yoga. Try several different styles of yoga as well as different teachers to find what you like.
Alternatively, creating a sacred space in your home will bring inspiration to your practice.
Starting Yoga Today
Create a yoga space at home.
If you would like to engage in the whole system of medicine that yoga contains, create a sacred space. You can dedicate a small area of your home. Fill it with inspirational quotes and pictures. Think about fulfilling your senses, things that are pleasing to look at, smell, hear, and touch.
Favorite inspirational items to have for a home yoga and meditation studio.
A Zafu and Zabuton combination makes for a very comfortable meditation set up.
Add some inspirations to your wall to help support and remind you to practice.
Starting Yoga, How to Breathe
What’s all that heavy breathing about?
Breathing is the most important part of every yoga pose.
The main breath in yoga is called UUJAYI breath. This a Sanskrit word, the language close to yoga that you will here the names of poses stated in.
There are many different breathing techniques in yoga, but knowing this uujayi breath will take you through most classes.
You will maintain this breath through most of your yoga practice.
At first, it is challenging to maintain the breath when new to yoga. When practicing, it soon becomes the backbone of your yoga practice.
How to practice Uujayi breath.
Even with breathing, in yoga, it is important to not strain too much. That same balance of effort and ease applies to breathing too.
The breath is done through the nostrils only. If you’ve never done it, practice it with your mouth open for a moment. This will accentuate the sensation across the back of your throat.
Draw the breath strongly into the back of the throat creating an audible sound. Say Haaaaaaa, drawing air in and out. Notice how this sound mimics the soothing sound of ocean waves. The breath alone has the following benefits.
Now close your mouth and do this the same things, only through your nostrils. If you don’t hear the sound yet, after some practice, this will change.
Benefits of Breathing Deeply
- Increases the amount of oxygen in the blood
- Builds internal body heat
- Relieves tension
- Regulates blood pressure
- Helps to maintain a rhythm
- Builds energy
- Increases feelings of presence, self-awareness, and meditative qualities
Breathe and scan your body for alignment while finding the balance between effort and ease in each pose.
There are some foundation poses, when you know these, you can use that knowledge to develop all of your beginner yoga poses.
Foundation Yoga Poses
Mountain Pose-The Foundation for Standing Poses
The first pose I encourage everyone to learn is mountain pose. The foundation for all standing pose.
Basically, this is equal standing. You may be saying, well, that’s easy, I know how to stand. Please don’t underestimate this pose.
It is extremely powerful to practice and I suggest adding it to your daily practice. You can even practice this when you are brushing your teeth or standing in line at the grocery store.
How Do I Practice Mountain Pose?
Stand with your feet parallel and about hip distance apart. Lift the top of your head toward the sky creating a slight sense of lift and elongation in your spine.
Take several yoga breathes focusing on deepening and lengthening your breath.
Begin your body scan at your feet and work your way up to your head.
Bring your attention to your feet, notice how the weight is balanced on each foot. Then, balance the weight equally between both feet and also on the ball and heel of each foot. Balance equally on your feet, front to back as well as right to left. Settle in the center.
Find your own unique balance, what your body can do and how it feels is unique to you. Make things as balanced as you can without causing yourself harm.
First notice where your body is and how it feels, next adjust within your capabilities.
Next notice your knees, are they stacked over top of your ankles? Also, are they turning inward towards each other or outward? Now try to balance them, not too far in or out. Not too bent or straight. Next, notice your hips, are they pushed forward, back, or to the side? Adjust your hips accordingly. Then, bring your attention to the bottom of your rib cage. Use the same technique for your upper chest and then your head.
Once you’ve balanced everything toward the center you may notice a different sense of energy moving through you.
Take a few moments to maintain this balance with the uujayi breath. You can re scan your body again, beginning with your feet and working your way up to your head. This pose is the foundation for healthy posture and accessible to most all people.
Additionally, here you can find a great article by Yoga Journal on how to begin yoga sequences.
Lotus Pose: The Foundation for all Seated Poses
Lotus Pose: The Foundation for all Seated Poses
Starting yoga practice in a seated position and ending practice in it is very common.
Lotus pose is the foundation sitting posture, but this too can be modified to suit you. Find out what your most comfortable sitting posture is. When you sit, in the old criss-cross apple sauce pose, you may feel a lot of tightness in your body. Most people find this pose difficult.
Sit with your legs as crossed as they will comfortably go. This should not cause any pain, especially in the knees.
Modifications for seated pose:
Use a chair
Sit on a cushion or blanket
Only cross legs at the ankles
Using these basic tips, you will create a safer path to all of the benefits of a meaningful yoga practice.
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About the Author: For over a decade, Gina has been a practicing Licensed Massage Therapist in Florida. She is also an experienced yoga teacher, trainer, and CE provider. Her specialties are mobility coaching, post-injury, and post-rehab care. She has performed her unique blend of therapeutic massage on thousands of people over the years, including professional athletes and musicians. Sharing knowledge about ways to heal, using your mind and body, is her passion.
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