Where to start with yoga?

There is so much more to yoga than the physical practice (asana), but this is how most people come to their practice and in particular at this time of year there’s a lot of budding new students out there. I remember stepping into my first yoga class almost ten years ago and feeling a little out of place, like I didn’t know what was happening and apprehensive as to what was going to happen next. It can be scary starting something new. So I thought I’d pop some of the most common fears and questions about starting a practice down here as a little guide to getting your yoga practice started.

I’m really not flexible at all

Don’t worry, yoga is truly for everybody, whatever you may see portrayed in the media and on Instagram. Most practitioners and teachers will tell you they started with very little flexibility and have had years of working on it as part of their practice. Being overly flexible can actually have it’s disadvantages in the practice anyway as without the strength to hold postures hyper extension in the joints can cause discomfort and problems

I have a few health issues, can I still practice yoga? 

Of course you can, most postures can be amended or substituted for others, if they can’t or on the off chance it would be counter productive to practice your teacher will let you know. It is important that you let your teacher know of anything before you start practicing so they know and can assist you though

What if I fall over or can’t do some of the postures?

Don’t worry about it, I fall over all the time in balances and there’s plenty of postures I can’t do. But it doesn’t matter, the beauty of yoga is that it is an ongoing practice. You continue to grow and evolve your body and your practice and we never stop being students

Can I do yoga as a man?

Although our western image of yoga is dominated by women, the traditional practice started in India as a way for male spiritual devotees to ready their body for meditation and still in India it is a male dominated world. There is nothing stopping a man doing yoga here, in fact often male anatomy is more suited to postures than female!

What are the benefits?

There are a myriad of benefits to yoga some of which are strengthening and toning the body, calming the mind, improving cardio and circulatory health, helping to lessen neck and back pain and helping to prevent cartilage and joint breakdown

I’m pregnant, can I join a regular yoga class?

This is entirely down to the yoga teacher themselves. Practicing is often not recommended during the first trimester, particularly if you are new to yoga and after that it is important that the student listens to their body and takes responsibility for it. After the first trimester most classes can be altered for a pregnant student but the teacher needs to know how the pregnancy is progressing and you’ll have to dial back on your jumping to chaturanga and inversions! Pregnancy yoga is also a lovely practice geared totally towards the changing body

What should I wear? 

Something you’re comfortable in. There’s a possibility you’ll work up a bit of a sweat depending on the class structure so something comfortable to exercise in. This can be loose or tight, bought for yoga or not. What ever you are comfortable practicing in

Socks, trainers or bare feet?

Bare feet all the way. Some people like to practice in special pilates style socks with grip on the bottom but personally there’s nothing better than grounding down through your bare feet

What should I do before a class?

Try and not eat for two hours before the class so you’re not moving on a full stomach. Check the start time so you arrive 5-10 minutes early, then you won’t come in late and you can have a chat with your teacher first if needed. Think of anything physically it would be useful for your teacher to know about your body

What will happen in a class?

This answer will obviously not be accurate for all classes you may come across but most classes labelled just ‘yoga’ at gyms, village halls and studios will be a hatha or vinyasa mixture, combining movement of varying speeds with breathwork, holds of postures, stretching and a relaxation at the end

I’ve heard about adjustments, what are these?

Adjustments are physical cues that a teacher may give you. Most teachers work mainly on verbal cues for alignment but sometimes a physical movement is used in order to guide a student into a better position. This should only be carried out with the students consent so if you are uncomfortable with this idea please let the teacher know

How about music, essential oils and incense?

The inclusion of music, essential oils and incense to a class is purely down to the teachers discretion but it can be a really nice way to set the mood for a class. It’s important to remember that not every teacher teaches in the same way so it might take a while for you to find a teacher you really gel with and that’s ok. If you are in a class using incense and oils though and you have a medical condition such as asthma or allergies please do ensure you let the teacher know

I hope that’s helped. If you have any more questions or worries before starting your yoga practice please do comment below and I’ll come back to you or if you’re in Oxfordshire or Kent and looking for someone to guide your yoga practice please contact me for classes and one to one opportunities

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