How to Start Yoga
It is said that yoga adds life to your years and years to life. But how to start yoga? This is the first of a micro-blog series on how to start yoga. Thank you to all of you who participated in my #yogagoals survey. This is one of my first response to what you all have said is the biggest challenge in your daily yoga practice. Below are seven tips on how to start yoga.
- Timing: Both morning and evening practices offer benefits for your body & mind. A morning yoga practice can ground & center you, contributing to your overall physical and mental health for the entire day. While an evening yoga practice can help induce a restful and peaceful sleep. With that said, I recommend a morning practice as yoga incorporated into your morning routine sets you up for a more relaxed day and lends itself more easily to habit formation. I incorporate some yin stretches in the evening to aid in my flexibility.
- Food: Yoga is more than just posture. If you are serious about yoga also consider taking on a simple and nutritious diet. Veganism/vegetarianism is a personal choice, it’s important to mindfully eat no matter the basis of your diet. Do not overeat. Keep chilies and spices to the minimum. It is also highly recommended to have an empty stomach, before your yoga practice. As a general rule, one or two hours after a main meal is the ideal time for practicing yoga. I don’t eat in the morning until after my yoga practice.
- Frequency: I practice yoga daily. I’m learning the importance of accepting that each practice is different. Not all practices have to be yang/power – some can be yin/restorative. Sometimes I practice for 20 minutes, other times I practice or 2 hours. The length of time of each session will depend on your experience with yoga, time constraints, level of fitness, and motivation. I advise my students to practice each day— but if illness or exhaustion is present, it’s better to practice ahimsa (nonviolence) and take your rest. As soon as possible, however, return to your routine. Avoid long and frequent breaks as this is the biggest enemy to the formation of any positive habit.
It’s a good idea to keep track of your yoga practice with information such as the dates, how long you practiced, what you practiced, what thoughts came to mind during practice. You can also follow up with some feelings: how you felt during and after your practice, how you felt during later in the day as well as the next day, which postures were challenging and which were felt good. After getting my students into alignment. I always tell them to find what feels good. While good alignment is important – it’s also important to feel good!
- Environment: The space should be quiet, and ideally used only for yoga. (Can be a section of any room)Always perform the yoga practice on a mat or a carpet but never on an uncovered floor. The temperature should be moderate – not too cold or too hot. The room should have fresh air but not windy or cold. Sunrise and sundown are desirable times for yoga (although any time works!)
- Hygiene: Wear comfortable clothing. A bath or shower before is good for limberness. In the morning wash, urinate and move the bowels before practice. As breathing is a key element in yoga training, do not forget to also clean your nostrils and your throat.
- Physical Practice (asanas): Do not practice if there is a fever or deep wounds. Consult your doctor and a certified yoga teacher beforehand if there is an illness. Spend five to ten minutes warming up/stretching (Sun Salutations x3 will suffice) before beginning practice. Do not force your limbs into a difficult position. In time your body will open. Beginners can hold each asana for 3-5 breaths. After about three months of regular practice this can be increased to 5 to 10 breaths. Try to inhale and exhale through the nostrils unless specified otherwise. Focus on making the breath slow and smooth. If you need to release heat practice a few lion’s breaths and then return to nostril breathing.
- Rest At any time you need a rest come into child pose or savasana (corpse pose). Your yoga session should not exhaust you. Do not hesitate to take a break when you feel tired. Actually, short breaks are common, between difficult exercises. Keep in mind that as little as 15 minutes of a mindful yoga can work wonders on your body and mind. Finish asanas with savasana for five to ten minutes.
These are just some preliminary tips in a micro-blog style type post. I am battling perfectionism (of all things). If I’ve left off something that has helped you, please feel free to add below. Also, let me know if any of the tips were helpful in your yoga journey.
Plus, don’t miss out on my guide on how to start a home yoga practice. So far I’ve had nearly 500 downloads!
Cultivating Joy might also be of interest. Let me know your thoughts!