In lieu of a typical Fitness Friday post from me, I thought we’d do something a little different today. I’m a huge advocate of stepping outside of your comfort zone in all areas of life- work, home, fitness, etc. So, I invited one of my good friends, Christine, to teach us a little bit about an area of fitness that is totally outside my comfort zone – yoga.
I’ll be honest…I’ve only tried yoga once or twice and I wasn’t crazy about it…but I do think that could be because I really know nothing about it. Christine is giving us Yoga 101…a great beginners guide for people like me who are looking to start practicing yoga but are feeling a little overwhelmed!
Hey everyone! I’m so excited to be over here at Lindsay’s place today. Lindsay is one of my favorite bloggers (and people!) and I’m honored that she invited me here to share something I love with you – yoga.
I know. I know. Yoga’s just stretching, right? It’s supposed to relax you and it’s good for cross-training. Yoga’s something you think you should do, but it’s so hard to fit it into your already packed schedule.
While most of us are most familiar with the physical practice of yoga that we see in magazines and on Instagram, there are actually 8 limbs or branches of yoga – mental, physical and spiritual practices and disciplines. The physical practice is just one of those branches.
In Sanskrit, yoga means to join or unite. It’s through the practice of all 8 limbs of yoga that we join the body, mind and breath that ultimately lead to enlightenment. Not enlightenment in the sense of, “I am all knowing,” but more in the sense of knowing your true self.
It can be intimidating to try yoga if you’re not familiar with it. I used to be that super stiff and tight runner in the back of the room who was just trying to stretch a lit tie more. Since then, my yoga practice has cracked open more than just my hamstrings but it’s been a process that has taken time.
If you’re curious about yoga or interested in starting a practice, here are 5 tips I wish someone had told me when I first started.
1. Try different styles of yoga.
There are so many different types of yoga being marketed today – Hatha, vinyasa, power yoga, hot yoga, bikram, restorative – Gah! There isn’t a one-size-fits-all with yoga. It’s very much a personal practice and you need to find something that resonates with you, just like you would with any other type of exercise.
Here’s a breakdown of some popular styles of yoga:
• Hatha: Generally, Hatha yoga classes offer a great introduction to basic yoga postures. You tend to hold postures for a few breaths so you can explore the pose a bit more.
• Iyengar: The Iyengar method emphasizes the precise alignment of the body, using different props like blocks, straps, chairs and even a ropes wall (which I LOVE!), so that you are structurally sound in your practice.
• Vinyasa: Vinyasa-style of yoga is probably one of the most popular styles. It’s a practice in which movement and breath are linked, creating a dynamic flow from posture to posture. There are a number of different Vinyasa-style yoga classes including Ashtanga, Power Yoga, Jivamukti, etc.
• Restorative: Restorative classes are a great way to relax and restore your body. You use props to help support your body in various yoga poses so that you do not have to exert any effort but are able to experience the effects of the practice.
• Bikram: Bikram yoga was created by Bikram Choudhury. You move through a series of 26 poses in a heated room and each Bikram class always follows the same sequence so you know what to expect when you walk into a studio.
2. Start with a workshop
If you have the chance, I would highly suggest starting with a Beginners Workshop. Rather than trying to keep up in an open level class, risk hurting yourself and leaving not having enjoyed the class, workshops give you a chance to really learn. Teachers will break down the poses and the practice and give you a bit more individual attention.
3. Pay attention to alignment.
Yoga can be great for your body but it can also not be so great if you don’t pay attention to your alignment. As with running, lifting, cross fit and any other sport, proper form is critical to healthy joints and muscles.
4. Ask questions.
That’s what the teacher is there for – ask questions about things you don’t understand or are curious about. Ask about alignment. Ask if something feels off during your practice.
5. Practice within your own body.
This might be the hardest in practice. When you’re in a class surrounded by others, it’s hard not to compare yourself or try to keep up with others. But your yoga practice is just that – YOURS. And your practice (and body) is different every time that you show up on the mat.
Check in with yourself throughout your practice and modify if you’re not feeling it that day and take child’s pose when you need to. The practice of yoga is about being in touch with your own body and mind and giving yourself what you need in that moment.
Fundamental Yoga Postures
Here are some great poses for beginners and advanced practitioners alike. These are fundamental poses that will help to lay a solid foundation for your practice. Click the names for more details on each pose.
• Cat-Cow: This is a great way to warm up your spine and begin to move your body.
• Mountain pose: This pose will teach you how to stand well and bring awareness to your posture.
• Tree pose: This pose teaches you balance, which is key as you move on to more advanced balancing poses.
• Wide-Legged Forward Fold: This pose works the lateral aspect of the legs, strengthening and stretching the inner and back of the legs. It also prepares you for poses like Warrior II, Triangle and Extended Side Angle.
• Child’s Pose: This is an amazing resting pose. With the torso on the thighs, you also get the benefits of a deep forward bend, which helps to calm the nervous system.
• Legs up the wall: This pose gives you many of the benefits of an inversion without completely turning yourself upside-down. It’s also a great pose to relieve tired or cramped legs i.e. after a long run.
Do you practice yoga? I have a monthly series on my blog – Ask a Yogini – which answers questions about yoga. Please let me know if there’s anything you’re curious about!
Christine is a freelance writer, yoga instructor, runner and wannabe surfer. She’s the author of the blog Love, Life, Surf where she shares her love of fitness and stories about her experiences as a mom of two young boys trying to balance, work, family, fitness and healthy living. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
Huge thanks to Christine for stopping by today!
Are you a yogi? Or are you looking to learn like I am?