If you’ve wanted to begin a yoga practice but feel intimidated and don’t know where to start, have no fear! This beginner’s guide to yoga has everything you need to get started and succeed!
Yoga is all about connecting your mind and body through movement and breath. Some people use yoga as purely physical exercise, some use it as a way to release tension and anxiety, and others view it as more of spiritual practice and a journey into the self.
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Different Types of Yoga
There is no one-size-fits-all yoga practice. The yoga class for you is the one that brings you what you’re looking for. Some days you may really want to sweat it out, and a hot yoga class is for you, and other days you may choose a yin yoga class to hold poses for longer periods of time and really get a deep stretch. Check out each of these yoga types and see which will be a good fit for you.
As stated earlier, Hatha is somewhat of a blanket term when it comes to yoga—it just refers to linking poses with breath. What’s called Hatha yoga today, however, is usually set to a bit slower pace, requiring you to hold each pose for longer than, say, a Vinyasa class.
Hatha classes are great for both beginners and yogis who want to deepen their practice because holding the poses for longer helps you sink into each of them and ensure proper alignment.
Vinyasa classes are more fast-paced, with the idea that you are synchronizing movement with breath and learning to work your way through a series of poses in a fluid manner.
Vinyasa offers a vigorous movement with a continuous “flow” from one posture to the next. This style will be more dynamic and athletic in nature to hit the person searching for more of a “workout” rather than a time for relaxation.
Check out our free 10-Minute Vinayasa Flow Workout to try it for yourself.
Ashtanga classes use the same series of poses for every class. You have to master the first series before going onto the second, and so on, making it ideal for perfectionists.
Beginners might want to dip their toe in Vinyasa or Hatha before going to an Ashtanga class.
Yin yoga requires you to hold poses for several minutes at a time, requiring you to really soften and relax your muscles to target deeper connective tissue and fascia.
Yin yoga is a more meditative class than the others, but it can have wonderful benefits for both your muscles and your mind.
A Kundalini yoga class is a little different, incorporating intense breath work and even chanting or meditation. The purpose of kundalini yoga is more centered around elevating your consciousness and activating energy centers or chakras in your body.
Bikram yoga includes a specific sequence of 26 postures and two breathing exercises—it also has to take place in a heated room. The added heat is said to help your body stretch deeper, detoxify better, relieve stress, and can also help with chronic pain.
The Mind-Body Benefits of Yoga
There are countless benefits of yoga, and most of them apply to your mind and body simultaneously. When we hold tension, trauma, stress, or fear in our bodies, it causes not only mental distress but physical problems as well.
So many physical ailments are made worse from (if not directly caused by) stress, from tension headaches to digestive problems and more.
Here are just a few high-level benefits you’ll get from a regular yoga practice:
- Strengthens your muscles
- Reduces stress
- Increases range of motion and flexibility
- Boosts circulation
- Reduces inflammation
- Improves focus and concentration
- Alleviates chronic pain
- Improves your balance
- Helps you sleep better
- Read all the 25 Benefits Of A Daily Yoga Practice
When tension is relieved from your body and mind, your overall health improves. Incorporating yoga into your weekly workout routine can help your muscles and mind recover, which is so important for a well-balanced fitness regimen.
How To Quiet Your Mind For Yoga
Yoga is not only physically challenging but mentally challenging as well. In fact, perhaps one of the hardest parts of a yoga practice is learning how to quiet the mind in moments of stillness. While different yoga styles offer different things, almost all of them will incorporate moments of stillness or meditation.
Many classes incorporate this part at the end, where you’ll wrap up your practice in the savasana or “corpse” pose. Some newbies find savasana (usually the last part of a class) the hardest part of yoga—it looks something like this:
- you lie on your back in gentle relaxation
- the instructor will help you find a quiet breathing pattern
- you be encouraged to listen to the sound of your breath
- listening to your own breathing helps draw attention away from your busy mind
- for those who have difficulty, it help to find a mantra, or phrase, that you can repeat with each breath. Something simple like “Just be” or “I am grateful.” The repetition matched with the breath is very soothing
Just like in meditation, it’s important to remember during a yoga class to let your thoughts come and go. We all have a “monkey mind,” as they call it, where our thoughts jump around chaotically but don’t judge yourself—become the peaceful observer of your thoughts and watch them come and go.
Learning to quiet your mind during yoga or meditation takes practice, so allow yourself to be a beginner and do the best you can.
Best Yoga for Strength Training
Yoga is a great option if you are looking to strengthen and tone your core.
8 Yoga Poses To Build Upper Body Strength
Yoga is amazing for opening up tight muscles, relieving aches and pains, and helping you breathe a little calmness into your day. But ask any smart yogi around, and they’ll also tell you yoga is an amazing way to build upper body strength. In fact, many people have put aside their dumbbells and picked up a
8 Best Yoga Poses To Strengthen Your Core
Yoga is so beneficial for several things. Most common people think of it when they want a deep stretch, lengthen muscles, and calm their minds. However, any yogi can tell you that yoga is also all about core strength! From the moment you begin any yoga practice, you’re encouraged to draw your low
The Better Booty Yoga Workout
Stop your squats and lunges (temporarily!) because it’s time to switch up your glute workout for a bit. While there are tons of great exercises that target your glutes, including those tried-and-true moves, we bet you haven’t considered one very specific type of exercise: yoga. You might think of yoga as a great way to
6-Minute Yoga For Better Abs
You already know that yoga is a natural detoxifier, yoga can help alleviate back pain, and yoga will help you sleep better. But did you also know yoga can land you a strong core and better abs? It’s true. If you’re engaging your abs, you can strengthen your core through pretty much any yoga pose.
Morning Yoga for Beginners
How To Do A Sun Salutation | A Step By Step Guide
Sun Salutations are to yoga what push-ups are to strength training. Every time you practice yoga, there they are! Have you ever wondered why? Sun salutations have amazing benefits to make you stronger, burn calories, and stretch nearly every muscle in your body. So let’s dive into the frequently asked questions and a “how-to” for
10-Minute Morning Yoga To Get You Energized
This 10-minute morning yoga is a quick, energizing yoga routine to do first thing in the morning. If you can find time to move your body for ten minutes, you will be setting yourself up for a successful day, mentally prepare and energized! Because, let’s be real, how many of your workouts have been interrupted
The 10 Yoga Poses You Should Do Everyday
Simply put, a daily yoga routine makes you feel good. No matter where you find yourself or how much time you have, you can do the 10 yoga poses below and start your day with a centered mind and a refreshed body. Because beyond the mental benefits of yoga, the way your body will feel
Mom and Baby Yoga Practice
So, you have a new baby! Congratulations! A new baby brings both the happiest and hardest times. Smiles, coos and that first baby giggle are pretty hard to beat. Of course that comes right alongside plenty of crabby days, sleepless nights and an abundance of crying (from both baby AND Mom!). This means there is
Yoga For Improved Sleep
Choosing the right yoga routine to do in the evening can help improve your sleep, relieve anxiety, and calm your mind for a good night’s rest.
Bedtime Yoga For Better Sleep
The CDC reports an estimated 50-70 million Americans have some type of sleep disorder. It might be trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, disturbed sleep. Whatever it is, we all need more sleep. One of the best natural remedies is a little stress relief at bedtime with some light yoga and breathing. It’s free, non-toxic, and
Yoga For Anxiety: 6 Best Poses To Give You Relief
A yoga practice is one of those ways, and these six yoga poses to relieve anxiety are the perfect example. Yoga teaches you to find the calm within your breathing. It teaches you how to find a position (an “asana”) and stay in the moment—the here and now. It helps you harness an inner calm
Feel better by incorporating yoga as means of pain management and prevention.
7 Hip-Opening Stretches That Will Make You Say “Ahhhhh”
There is nothing that feels better than a hip-opening stretch. Most of us have tight hips due to sitting too long at work or hitting it hard in spin class. Hip pain is a very common and frustrating complaint. But by stretching your hips with these seven moves, you can get your body back in
Low Back Yoga Stretches
Carrying boxes. Hauling in grocery bags. Scrubbing the floor on your knees. Shoveling. Holding a kid up in ice skates. Walking for hours through the mall with bags hanging in both hands. These and many other things put extra stress on our backs. Fortunately, yoga is and has always been, one of the best ways
Yoga for Digestion: 7 Yoga Poses That Help
Whether you’ve overindulged in a big meal, are dealing with constipation, or suffer from a chronic issue like Irritable Bowel Disease, digestive discomfort is never fun. Bloating, gas, and abdominal cramps can be unpleasant, inconvenient, and downright painful. While over-the-counter antacids, prescription medicines, and avoiding certain foods can help, there’s also an age-old practice that has
Yoga For Headache Relief
When you feel a headache coming on, what’s the first thing you do? Reach for the Tylenol? Pop an Advil? Down a cup of coffee? Dive in for a nap? How about yoga for headache relief? Next time you suffer from a headache, try these 8 yoga poses to ease your pain. That’s right: yoga
12 Best Yoga Poses to Reduce Back Pain
If you are experiencing back pain, adding a yoga practice into your day is essential to feel better! By incorporating these 12 best yoga poses, you are sure to reduce your back pain as well as stress. Back pain affects all ages, and sadly, 85 percent of the U.S. population suffers from back pain. It’s the
7 Yoga Poses To Relieve Tight Hips
Ask any yoga teacher what their most requested pose is, and chances are they will all answer the same: hip stretches. Tight hips are so common, and it’s no wonder. You can get tight hips from too much running, biking, and walking, or you can get tight hips from sitting in a chair all day.
11 Essential Yoga Poses For Runners
Running is one of the great loves of my life, and it has been ever since we were introduced. It’s always been there for me—on good days and bad—to make me feel stronger, happier, and more confident. It never cares if I’m grumpy or tired or want to listen to solely Nicki Minaj for five
History of Yoga
The practice of yoga can be traced back nearly 5,000 years, with some researchers suggesting it actually extends as far back as 10,000 years.
Yogic teachings were mentioned in the Rigveda, an ancient spiritual text. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which loosely translates to “to yoke,” “to unite,” or “to join,” and this makes sense when you consider how yoga was viewed during these early stages: as a means of uniting the physical body with the spiritual realm.
As centuries passed, yoga also became celebrated for its purely physical benefits—how it energizes and strengthens the body—. Still, to this day, the belief that yoga helps bring the mind and body into harmony is one of the biggest things that draws people to their mat.
By the beginning of the 1900s, yoga began to make its way west. There are many different type of yoga, but the form that initially took hold in the west is considered Hatha yoga.
Hatha is a general category that includes most of the yoga types we think of today, from Ashtanga to Iyengar. Hatha simply refers to practicing poses (or asanas) and breathing exercises (called pranayama) to find balance, release tension, and calm the body and mind.