yoga, health, exercise, spirituality, yogi, meditation, wellbeing

Over the last few years, yoga has become increasingly popular due to the many physical, emotional, mental and spiritual benefits. Regular practice of yoga postures, breath exercises, relaxation, concentration, self-inquiry and meditation cultivates health & wellbeing A low-impact exercise, Yoga postures can be practiced by anyone at any age and at any fitness level.

With the new year already moving into full gear, what better way to start afresh with your yoga practice than with a guide outlining everything you need to know – from what to wear to safety measures. If you’re new to yoga, you want to find out as much information as you can to help build a better foundation to your practice, therefore minimising injury and maximising health benefits.

Here are a few handy tips to get you on the right track and ignite your inner yogi this New Year:

Where should I start practicing and which class or style should I take?

If you’re new to yoga or haven’t practiced in a while, beginner or foundation classes are a great way to start out as they can guide you along the right track and get you motivated. This will help build the right foundations for more advanced poses and yoga styles later down the track.

Another important aspect is finding a qualified and registered teacher to ensure you are practicing Yoga in the safest manner possible. Visit yogaaustralia.org.au to find a suitably qualified teacher in your area.

There are so many different styles of Yoga practice with some more challenging than others. A good place to start is with a Hatha or Vinyasa class, depending on whether you prefer to work slowly or work up more of a sweat. As you become more confident, you can try other styles to see which one suits you most. Your first class is always a little daunting and it’s natural to feel uncoordinated but don’t worry, this is perfectly normal and you won’t be alone. Make sure you let the instructor know it’s your first class and about any injuries you may have.

What should I wear to my first class? Do I need to bring anything?

When practicing yoga, you should wear comfortable clothing that you can move freely in. Consider that you might be doing postures where a t-shirt may ride-up. Yoga is traditionally practiced barefoot, but there are non-slip socks on the market if you’re not ready to get your feet out in public!

Check with the studio or gym where you are attending the class to see if they have mats, otherwise you may need to bring your own. You can get quality mats from most sports stores. When attending your first class remember to bring a bottle of water to help keep you hydrated and a towel to wipe any sweat.

What can I expect in a yoga class?

Try to arrive at least 15 minutes early to your first class and avoid eating anything for two hours before (water is fine). You may need to sign enrolment forms and you’ll get a chance to speak to your teacher. This is a good opportunity to introduce yourself to your teacher, let them know you’re just starting out and you can also discuss any concerns or injuries you may have before you begin your practice. Plus this gives you time to settle in, relax and prepare for your practice in class. Make sure you switch off your mobile phone and enter the room quietly.

Once the class has begun, your teacher will start by going through a series of different postures and poses. They will offer students alternatives and modified poses, geared toward different levels of experience. Listen to your body and only try a more challenging pose if you feel comfortable. Yoga isn’t a competitive sport so don’t feel the need to keep up with everyone else in the class, go at your own pace. The more you practice the easier it will be and you will quickly progress.

Safety measures and precautions

Yoga may look comparatively less impacting on your body than other physical activities; however, there is still a risk of injury especially if you don’t understand how to enter and hold a particular posture or push beyond your body’s limits.

Here are some tips to help you develop the safest yoga practice:

  • Pick the right yoga style: If you are still quite new to yoga, start with a series of classes that are aimed at beginners. That way you can build a solid foundation of knowledge and alignment principles before you try something more challenging.
  • Be in tune with your body: Safety in yoga is about knowing your limitation and being comfortable in staying within those limitations while practicing yoga. As a student, you carry the responsibility of advising the teacher prior to commencing the yoga practice of any injuries or other factors that might affect your safe practice.
  • Pick the right yoga teacher: It’s important that your teacher is qualified and registered as part of a governing body such as Yoga Australia (link thru). This will ensure you are practicing yoga in the safest manner possible and with a teacher who knows what they’re doing . It’s important that the teacher understands how to teach a posture correctly and recognises when a posture, position or breath practice is just not suitable for a particular student. Don’t worry if you don’t ‘click’ with the teacher straight away – it doesn’t mean the practice or style isn’t for you and it might be worth trying a few others until you find one you click with.

The teacher is there as a guide so if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it! You are always your own best teacher. Honour what your body is telling you that day and if it says to rest, come out of the post and take a break. There are no prizes in yoga for hurting yourself.

If you have any questions about Yoga, visit the yogaaustralia.org.au for more information and to find a teacher in your area