Yoga has been practiced for centuries, and with good reason; the practice simultaneously benefits us emotionally, mentally, and physically. Here are some tips for those of you who are interested in beginning yoga for the first time.
Before you get started
Have an intention
Why do you want to start practicing yoga? Is it to de-stress? To get physically stronger and agile? Acknowledge your intention for practicing and carry that intention throughout your yoga session. Doing this will keep you strong and motivated.
Think about where you want to practice
If the thought of being part of a packed yoga class scares you, you might want to consider practicing at home first. It's understandable to feel "behind" if you attend a class but mastering a few poses beforehand can really boost confidence. However, joining a class for your first yoga session might be fun for you because of the social aspect and getting a chance to "take a break" from usual environments (in this case, your home). In closing, find what works for you and have fun going for it! If you choose to practice at home, check online for a plethora of yoga videos and sequences. At-home practices will also help you save money and gasoline!
Get your gear down
When choosing a yoga mat, try to find one that is made with either recycled materials or one that is made without harmful chemicals like PVC and pthalates (both are known to disrupt hormones). You might also find it helpful to choose a mat with a neutral color and/or pattern, one that does not distract you in your practice.
As for clothing, it's not necessary to purchase expensive threads exclusively for yoga. All you need is light clothing that allows you to move freely and without restriction.
If you need other yoga gear like blocks, straps, or bolsters, I suggest you get to know your level and yoga style first before deciding to buy these items. For instance, a less flexible person might find a block or strap helpful to deepen their poses, and bolsters may be helpful for Iyengar yoga which focuses a lot on body arrangement.
During your practice
Pay attention to your breath
Begin on your mat with a humble and recessive heart that is willing to learn. You don't want to quickly jump into a pose; breathe slowly and evenly throughout your practice (even in the tough poses!) and observe how calm you can mentally be even when you are physically active.
Your level is your level
Don't feel embarrassed or shy if your joints and muscles are nowhere near Gumby. Just remember this: if you focus more on your breath and proper body alignment then the benefits of flexibility and deeper poses will come naturally and quicker than you think. Understand that yoga is good for your body, no matter what your level. If you're de-stressing and feeling a healthy stretch, then you're doing just fine.
Off the mat
Very soon after practicing yoga you will find that you will be more in tune with your emotions and general feelings than you ever have been. For instance, you will stop eating when you feel full, sleep when you feel tired, slow down when you feel angry, and even voice out your opinion when you have something to say. Along with that, you will feel agile in your movements and your range of motion will be greater with continued practice.