If you’ve been thinking about starting up yoga, I can understand why. Yoga benefits your body and mind, and is an unstoppable force of good in the battle against daily stressors.
Without getting too obsessively detailed to the point where you’re falling asleep sitting up, I’ll jump into a brief yoga history. Developing in Northern India thousands of years ago, in literal terms, yoga means “union”.
Believe it or not, experts widely believe that yoga has been practiced since the dawn of civilization. Yoga has roots that run back as far as 2700 B.C., but started to really develop and take hold as a form of maintaining physical health between 500 B.C. – 800 A.D.
When you practice yoga, you are essentially looking to bring your physical and mental existence into complete harmony through movement and the willful regulation of your breath. Or you want a killer body. Yoga can do both (multi-tasker).
Contrary to popular belief, yoga does not identify with any particular religion, but focuses on reaching individual optimal health and wellness.The ultimate purpose of yoga, however, is to create a higher awareness of self.
That is not as spiritual as it sounds. The concept is simple: by being aware of our own self we are better able identify as an individual. With that identification comes the empowerment to build on personal strengths and make positive life changes.
This guide will provide you with complete preparation for taking the first steps into your yoga journey, whether you plan to practice at home or in a class setting. Roll out your mat and hang on to your wheatgrass shots – it’s going to be a fun ride.
How Do I Know if Yoga is Right For Me?
Yoga offers a variety of amazing benefits both mentally and physically. If that is something you’re looking for, read on. If you’re just looking for a good excuse to buy more LuluLemon Wunder Unders, also read on.
The physical perks that yoga offers parallel to the results of conventional exercise, such as jogging or a brisk walk. According to this article by Harvard Health, yoga could lower your chances of cardiovascular disease just as much as cardio exercise itself!
Physical Benefits of Yoga
Yoga isn’t only for those of us that want to increase flexibility and balance. If you’re looking to build a little muscle here and there, as well as improve overall physical strength, then you’ve come to the right place.
It has been proven that with consistent practice over time, Yoga can effectively increase upper body strength, decrease your percentage of body fat, build endurance and aid in overall weight loss.
In the linked study, participants performed a flow of yoga poses referred to as Sun Salutation, 24 times a day, 6 days a week for 24 weeks. Now, 24 times a day might sound like a lot, but a traditional Sun Salutation only takes about a minute and a half to complete. This study focused on a relatively short practice, and got amazing results.
We touched on this briefly already, but let me wow you a little bit with some good hard evidence. In this study, participants over 40 who had practiced yoga for five years not only had a lower pulse rate than those that didn’t, but lower blood pressure as well!
When combined with a healthy lifestyle (I’m sorry, but you have to eat your greens), yoga helps lower cholesterol as well as preventing the progression of heart disease. Not to mention that yoga promotes mindfulness.
In short, mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the moment (sounds, smells, emotions) in order to make us more aware of what we are doing. This includes what we eat. Through mindfulness alone, yoga encourages healthy eating habits.
I’m going to throw improved breathing and respiratory health in the mix while I’m at it. Do I have your attention yet?
Any of you who have dabbled in holistic health know that inflammation is the root of all evil. Chronic inflammation is even worse, and a contributor to diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Although more research is preferred, here is a good start on the assumption that yoga could reduce physical inflammatory responses brought on by stress. If accurate, yoga could help in preventing pro-inflammatory issues.
Yoga has great potential for success along traditional and holistic medicine in the treatment of many inflammatory diseases.
Diminish Migraines and Chronic Pain
There are many reasons that people may experience chronic pain. From arthritis to spinal issues, yoga could be beneficial to reducing the pain that comes along with these problems.
Yoga is gentle on the joints, and promotes physical protection from injury. Used by professional athletes to enhance performance, it makes complete sense that the breathing, bending and flow of yoga would help to reduce chronic pain.
Mental Benefits of Yoga
I mentioned briefly how yoga can work wonders for the mind, and now please allow me to elaborate a bit here. After all, everyone could use a good dose of mental health.
Life can be stressful. It’s not really supposed to be, but nevertheless, it is. When things happen that are out of your control, or you just need a serious mental break, try yoga.
In this study, a group of 24 self-described emotionally distressed women were chosen to participate in a three month yoga program. When the trial was completed, every single one of them showed massive improvements in levels of cortisol (stress hormone).
Each of the 24 participants were less stressed, less anxious and less tired. Yoga gives us a break by letting us focus only on ourselves, and the mental benefits that come along with that are staggering.
Around 40 million adults in the United States alone suffer from some form of temporary or long-term anxiety. Don’t fret, it only takes two months of regular yoga practice twice a week to significantly lower your anxiety levels.
Yoga focuses, once again, on mindfulness. Yoga focuses on the current moment. When we are anxious, we are worried about what might be. Yoga doesn’t allow mind space for the future, thereby whisking away anxiety during practice.
Yoga has also proven sufficient in helping to treat those with PTSD. What more could you ask from an exercise?
Yoga is made up of a constant flow of movement, paired with light meditation and controlled breathing. It is used in hospitals and rehabilitation centers worldwide as a self-soothing, anxiety reducing technique.
Because of this, yoga is able to substantially lift your mood and boost levels of serotonin naturally. Since people with depression are thought to have lower levels of serotonin in general, yoga helps to combat this by restoring the mood enhancing chemical.
Yoga and Spiritual Health: Why it’s Important
No matter what you believe in or what religion you practice, yoga can be spiritually enlightening. When you find yourself, it makes whatever you believe in feel more real, and you can grasp an even better understanding of it than you may have had previously.
That sounds like something right out of a self-help book…but it’s true.
The purpose of yoga, other than physical well-being and strength, is to connect with yourself on a level of complete self-acceptance. In doing so, your mental health improves and physical soon follows suit.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the term “mind over matter”, but have you taken a second to really think about what it means? Mind over matter suggests that we can use the power of our mental beliefs to overcome physical stress and limitations.
This can include anything from chronic sickness and pain, to beliefs we have about ourselves that are not true. In yoga, mind over matter becomes reality. One of the few forms of exercise where mental strength outweighs physical, you will find yourselves shocked at what yoga can accomplish for your overall feeling of wellness.
What Will I Need For My First Class?
The good thing about yoga, besides everything, is that no matter what form you decide to take…you’ll generally need the same gear. Before you step one foot into that studio, lets make sure you have the right equipment.
- Yoga Mat
- Water Bottle (especially if you’ve chosen Hot Yoga)
We will discuss my favorite activewear brands and where they can be purchased later in the guide. As far as fit, you’ll want something that hugs your body. Nothing too baggy.
Oversized clothes can make yoga pretty uncomfortable, since you’re trying to bend and move with your clothes falling in the way. It also makes it difficult for your teacher to see your form.
Yes, form is important. The correct poses can access deeper breath to different parts of the body, making for a better and more beneficial practice.
What Type of Yoga is Right For Me?
Now that you have a little bit of history on yoga and some insight into what it can do for your health…you’re all ready to waltz into your first class full of knowledge.
But what class should you choose? There are quite a few forms of yoga that are perfect for beginners, and chances are there’s a yoga studio or gym near you that offers at least one.
Let’s discuss a few different types so you can decide what’s right for you!
Ashtanga is a form of yoga that focuses heavily on flowing movement and connecting the breath to the movement. Ashtanga means “eight-limbed” in Sanskrit. You do not need eight limbs to practice it.
Of course, I don’t expect you to dedicate that amount of time to your yoga practice right away, but once you start it up I bet you’ll want to!
A few good points about Ashtanga Yoga…
- Good for beginners
- Somewhat challenging poses – encourages flexibility and toning
- The Ashtanga flow is always the same
- Repetition makes it easy for beginners
- Ashtanga is physically demanding, but nothing ridiculous
- It’s a great work out!
Meaning “flowing with grace” or “following your heart”, Anusara yoga is all about letting your goodness flow. I explained this to my husband and he called me a hippie.
Fortunately, that offends me none. Peace and love, friends.
Anyway, Anusara yoga is pretty new to the yoga world, but is great for anyone looking for little toning and a lot of self discovery. Don’t get it twisted, Anusara classes are no joke.
Providing a fantastic workout for the body and mind, Anusara Yoga follows the Universal Principles of Alignment and your teacher has likely developed a flow of poses to enhance the UPA’s.
Are you with me?
The five Universal Principles of Alignment can seem somewhat complicated, but all they really do is present guidelines for the flow of your Anusara practice.
1. Set the Foundation and Open to Grace
This principle asks the student to be in the present moment when beginning their yoga practice. You must be open and receptive to your practice before asking your body for muscle energy. Basically, live in the moment guys. Keep your mind and your body on your mat.
2. Muscle Energy
The muscle energy principle asks for your outer body (skin and bones), to come into harmony with your inner (organs and muscles). This is not as stupid as it sounds. Making every part of your body to work together is what yoga is all about and that is all muscle energy is asking for.
3. Inner – Expanding Spiral
This principle asks for a widening spiral – or widening the back of the body through stretches and breathing. This creates further receptiveness and openness during your practice.
4. Outer – Contracting Spiral
The contracting spiral consists of poses that asks our body to tone, and our minds to strengthen. During this part of your practice, you’ll focus on narrowing the back of your body while toning the front. You’ll add muscle and power to your shoulders and hips.
5. Organic Energy
Organic energy is simply the energy that comes from within. When you are finished with your practice, you should feel good. Whether it’s physical or mental or both, your practice will leave you radiant and empowered.
Through the understanding, even if it’s a vague understanding, of the Universal Principles of Alignment, you can see where you’ll start and end up when choosing an Anusara class.
If you’re wondering what enlightening phrase Iyengar translates to, I hate to disappoint you. This form of yoga is named after the guy who invented it. A little lame, but still a great practice!
Iyengar yoga is a fantastic form of very meticulous yoga, and focuses on the student achieving proper form. If you have to bend and twist your body into painful positions to hit the pose well then so be it!
I’m kidding. Iyengar actually includes a bunch of props to help students get into the perfect position. You’ll achieve full body alignment with the help of yoga blocks, straps and chairs.
I personally love Iyengar Yoga. Although not my favorite form, it’s good to take a class once or twice a month just to work on positioning. Yoga blocks are by far my favorite helper.
There isn’t a ton of cardio in Iyengar, but it’s really incredible how challenged you’ll feel when you’re trying to get yourself into each pose and then stay there. You’ll definitely sweat, and Iyengar is good for any beginner perfectionist.
Hot Yoga (Bikram Yoga)
Celebrities like Kaley Cuoco and Kate Hudson love Hot Yoga, but is it for you? Hot Yoga is just what it. sounds like…a yoga class held in a hot as heck room.
Before you say no way, let me just say that Hot Yoga is not only really fun, but works up a serious sweat and burns a ton of calories.
Hot Yoga is a form of Bikram Yoga, developed and trademarked by super yogi Bikram Choudhury. Bikram Yoga follows a specific rhythm of the same poses while a typical Hot Yoga class switches up the flow.
Why do they have different names?
Bikram got pretty irate with yoga studios worldwide for advertising Bikram classes but not following the Bikram flow. He handed out a few lawsuits and just like that, Hot Yoga was born. Yoga drama.
Some perks to Hot Yoga:
- MAJOR calorie burn
- Super popular and easy to find
- Good constant flow with pose repetition
If you decide that Hot Yoga is for you, make sure to bring a stainless steel water bottle to keep that water cold and pick yourself up a pair of my favorite Beyond Yoga High Waisted Shorts! It’s hot in there.
For my little unadventurous beginners, we’ve finally reached the perfect yoga form for you! So, the term Hatha is widespread. It refers to any yoga class where the instructor teaches physical poses without focusing only on the mind.
That pretty much describes every yoga class in the world.
If you pick up your local yoga studio schedule, you will probably see a class or two marked as Hatha. Since the term is broad, you may have no idea what class it actually is.
Call to make sure, but typically if a class is labeled Hatha, it will be complete and total perfection for beginners looking for easy breathing and gentle poses. Great for anyone recovering from an injury, Hatha will loosen and lengthen your muscles.
You won’t be very sweaty and your calorie burn will be low but you will feel amazing.
Oh, Vinyasa. My absolute favorite form of yoga ever. Coming from me, that’s a big claim to make.
Vinyasa means “to place in a special way”, and refers to the flow of poses that you’ll experience during a Vinyasa practice. You’re technically placing your body in a special way. Clever, right?
Vinyasa classes tend to move at a quick pace, but after one or two beginner classes you’ll be right on the ball. The whole practice exists on fluid movements, and every single movement is linked to breath.
You can expect to hear quite a bit of “inhale, exhale” instruction from your teachers. This is a great reminder to breathe and will keep you energized throughout your practice.
Vinyasa has an energy level that you’d find in an Ashtanga class, but the flow of the poses is consistently different. You will leave your Vinyasa class sweaty and feeling great.
I have to stress to beginners that during your first Vinyasa class, you might feel a bit unorganized because the flow is so constant. Don’t get frustrated! You will get it, I promise.
Like anything, yoga takes practice. I still have classes where my limbs are all over the place. It happens. Just breathe and go with it.
Can you tell I want you to try Vinyasa? Moving right along.
There are many reasons that people decide to try yoga. If you’re attempting to get rid of some unwanted stress and nervousness, Restorative Yoga is for you.
Restorative Yoga is just what it sounds like. A completely revitalizing yoga practice for body and mind. If you can find yourself an hour long restorative class, I cannot stress enough that you should take it once a week.
This particular form of yoga is so relaxing that it does more for the nerves than a good night sleep or a nap. You regulate your breathing along with stretching your body and muscles.
Here is the best part of Restorative Yoga: You don’t even have to hold yourself up. I know, right?!
Your instructor will provide a variety of objects (blankets, rolls, blocks) to keep you in the passive, comfortable positions that Restorative Yoga is all about.
You can just sloth your way through class and stop at the snack bar for a coffee on your way out. That’s my kind of exercise.
If you’re anything like me, however, you might request that your instructor change the term “Corpse Pose” to “Dead Guy Pose”. It’s just a gentler name and less shocking to hear in such a relaxed environment.
Where Can I Do Yoga?
Now that we’ve covered the mainstream types of yoga that you are sure to come across, let’s talk about where you can do yoga.
Once you’re a yoga pro, you’ll be so familiar with the flow of your typical poses that you’ll be able to skip class a few times a week and just do it at home. Or in the park. Whatever sprinkles your doughnuts.
To start, you’ll want to find a reputable studio, gym or DVD.
Studios & Gyms
I am writing this part of the guide from my personal experience. Yoga classes are not the same everywhere, which is why I can’t stress enough for you to dig in and do a little research before you begin your practice.
Private Yoga Studios
I have had better interactions and experiences when using a studio that focuses solely on Yoga and Pilates. I have found the staff and instructors to be more knowledgeable.
This knowledge does not just include poses and doing them correctly, but also to the benefits that yoga has mentally and how to maximize those benefits. When you choose a private studio, you are not just going to an exercise class to lose weight, you’re focusing on yourself as a whole.
Yoga studios will be equipped with instructors that will be able to help you get rid of that pesky leg cramp or that chronic back pain. They are not doctors by any means, but they are skilled in breath and movement and how the two together can alleviate pain.
Studios also come with pretty much every yoga prop you could ever want, including a yoga trapeze. I’ll admit, I almost perfected my Corpse Pose by coming close to dying the first time I tried a yoga trapeze. Once you get used to it, it is sofun.
I do recommend studios for beginners so you can revel in the entire experience that yoga brings. Studios allow you to see every aspect of yoga from the get-go, and then from there you can decide how far you want to take your personal practice.
Local Gyms/Community Centers
All of these places (and more) offer yoga classes. Gym classes are more regular than places like community or recreation centers, and are likely scheduled a couple times a week, if not more frequently.
If I have overwhelmed you with all my mental, emotional, connection to self mumbo jumbo, then a local gym may be more your speed. There is nothing wrong with trying out a class or two if you just want to get your feet wet.
You will find that gyms tend to center on the physical aspects of yoga, and that is okay. Yoga is good for you, and the more intense it gets the more strength you’ll need.
You must be certified to teach yoga at any reputable gym, so you will surely receive quality instruction while avoiding injury.
It’s clear that I prefer one over the other, but that’s my comfort zone. You have to do what works for you!
Yoga at Home
If you’re just not into a class situation, I understand. I too enjoy yoga in the comfort of my own home on a regular basis. Life is busy, and sometimes you just can’t make it work.
Lucky for you (and me, because I miss class at least twice a week), there are dozens of ways to do yoga at home! This way you can get your yoga on and you don’t have to deal with people…or pants.
Yoga on DVD
A great place to start any yoga practice, if you’ve decided to go it alone, is on DVD. There are a wide variety of yoga DVD’s available, and they come suited to every level.
Yoga can get tricky and complicated as the levels advance, so beginner videos are the most common. I’ve been doing yoga for 15 years and I still use a lot of my beginner DVD’s.
My favorites, listed from easy to difficult, are:
- Element: AM & PM Yoga for Beginners: Elena Brower is one of my favorite yoga instructors. She is super soothing, and helps you link breath to movement by telling you exactly when to breathe in and out.
This video is not at all grueling, but you’ll definitely work up a bit of sweat during the AM sequence. It’s a slow and steady energy boost to get your day started right.
The PM section is amazing as well. Stress relieving stretches are what it’s all about. Do this right before bed, and you’ll be amazed at how it helps you wind down. The only equipment this video requires is a mat.
- Denise Austin: Fat Blasting Yoga: Does anyone else love Denise Austin as much as I do? My mom says no, and that Denise talks too much. Excuse me for enjoying perky encouragement during my workouts.
No matter how you feel about Denise, this video is a great workout. It might be a bit of a throwback (2003), but she uses unchanging yoga basics in a constant Vinyasa flow.
The full hour will have you sweating buckets, but the first half hour segment is the most important for those of you looking to learn the foundations of yoga. Denise takes common poses such as chair, tree and warrior and transforms them into a fat burning cardio workout.
Beginners need not worry, you will be able to do this easily. After a couple runs, you’ll have it down pat. To complete the full video and work on those abs and balance, you’ll need a stability ball and weights in addition to a mat.
Throw it in to your rotation twice a week and not only will you feel great but you’ll start to see your body transform.
- Jillian Michaels: Yoga Inferno: The first time I attempted this DVD, I was drenched in sweat and seriously considering suing Jillian for trying to kill me and mislabeling this DVD as yoga. I was certain she had gotten yoga confused with some sort of military workout, and I vowed never again would I put myself through it.
A few days went by and my muscles stopped screaming at me every time I stood up, and I decided to try it again. I loved it.
This DVD encompasses beginner yoga poses as the workout base, but since Jillian is nuts she throws a whole bunch of other junk at you, like mountain climbers and burpees. I would recommend this DVD to anyone who already has a pretty solid workout routine, but wants to try to incorporate the strength and tone (and butt) that yoga helps build.
You definitely won’t be bored, and you’ll start a good solid foundation for your yoga practice. I like to eat a cookie every time I’ve completed this video, because much like a dog I require some sort of reward for such effort.
You will need: A mat and weights. The weights are optional. I usually opt out.
Yoga on Amazon Prime Video
You can get everything on Amazon Prime. Yoga is no exception.
If you have a Prime membership with access to Prime Video, I encourage you to take a quick look through the available yoga videos. Amazon will give you free access to some, and the others you can either buy or rent.
The rent option is great, because in most cases the video is yours for 48 hours. This gives you the chance to run through it a couple of times and see if you like it.
Be careful with pricing though, sometimes you’re better off just purchasing the DVD and waiting two days for delivery. For example, the Jillian Michaels DVD mentioned earlier in the guide is $12.99 to purchase on Prime Video, but only $6.99 if you buy the hard copy.
We’re so tightly plugged in as a society, of course yoga is available on the internet. In quite a few places, actually. There are websites dedicated to offering you thousands of yoga classes right at your fingertips.
The best one by far is Gaia.
For only $9.95 per month, you can have access to any yoga class that your heart desires. There is something for everyone, with levels ranging from beginner to super advanced.
You will practice with the best teachers in the biz, from Ashleigh Sergeant to Rodney Yee. You can pick your practice to suit your mood, and there is so much variety that you will never find boredom to be an issue.
Gaia is great for those of you on a time crunch. I can’t stress enough how important it is to make time for yoga, but being a mom of two with a full time career, I totally understand limited time.
I love Gaia, and I use it in regular rotation with my apps when I can’t make it to a class.
Yoga on YouTube
YouTube has everything. If you can watch various channels that feature dogs juggling, you can definitely find some high quality yoga instruction.
Other than watching people open their Stitch Fix boxes (don’t judge me), I’m not much of a YouTuber…but I do use it for yoga.
The best yoga channel on YouTube is Yoga With Adriene. She’s got it all, including a bunch of fantastic beginner sequences that teach basic poses, how to access them fully and connect with your breath all at once.
Adriene is calm, soothing and funny. She has a great sense of humor and is really easy to learn from. She moves slowly, explaining every step along the way.
YouTube is a great tool to put to use before your first class as well. If you’ve got the beginner jitters, you can get your hands on a ton of informative videos that go over the poses you’re sure to encounter in your first class.
Practice them a bit, and you’ll gain confidence pretty quickly.
Yoga on Pinterest
Yes. Yoga is on Pinterest. Yoga is all over Pinterest.
It sounds a little crazy, but Pinterest can give you some pretty amazing access to free workout plans…yoga included. If you’re on the hunt for a quick 10 minute morning sequence, just pop it into Pinterest and see what you get.
You’ll be able to take from every workout that pops up, creating the perfect routine for you. The best thing about Pinterest is the fact that it understands that nobody has time for anything ever.
Pinterest is full of yoga infographics that make it so you don’t even have to follow a link to a website to access the full pin. It’s just right there. Trust me, your Yoga board will fill up fast, and you’ll use it way more than you thought.
What Are The Best Yoga Apps?
The phrase “there’s an app for that” has never been more accurate in any time space than right now. I have an app on my phone that tells me when to drink water. My husband thinks that drinking water is something I would just naturally remember to do, labeling my app as “unnecessary”.
He’s wrong. I don’t remember, and I don’t have to, because my app does it for me. It’s 2018, man.
Yoga apps are extremely advanced tools that you can use to keep you on top of your practice. I’ve used pretty much all of them, so I’ll pass on the best of the best.
Note* I’ve included only apps available on both iOS and Android.
I love this app! Variety is important to me when it comes to my yoga practice. I love Vinyasa because it’s always different. Switching up the sequence keeps me from boredom, and I’m sure many of you are the same.
- Suitable for all levels of practice
- The sequence is never the same
- Each practice is adjustable by difficulty level and length
- The app plays music during your practice, making it much like a Vinyasa class
- You can tailor your practice to target zones, such as twists, lower back and abs
- It’s only $8/month, and yearly plans are available as well
- It keeps perfect track of the days you’ve practiced
I go back and forth constantly between subscriptions to Down Dog and Daily Yoga. Daily Yoga is great for when I’m feeling like I want to stick to a stricter workout plan instead of just a go with the flow practice.
- Completely suitable for students of all levels
- Over 200 classes
- Not restricted to yoga (pilates and meditation too!)
- Workout plans
- Step by step instructions for difficult moves
- Only $20/year
5 Minute Yoga
This app is not as involved as the other two, but is great for a little pick me up throughout the day! If you have a job that doesn’t involve a ton of movement, then 5 minute yoga is perfect to grab a good stretch.
- Quick, full body five minute yoga sessions
- Minimalist app for those who like to keep it simple
- Basic, foundation poses
- Timer to make sure you’re doing the poses for the correct amount of time
- Option to upgrade to a premium version
- Affordable, ranging from $2-$10 (one time payment)
Let’s face it, our world is digital. These aren’t the only apps out there suited to yoga. You’ll find dozens more tailored to iOS specifically and the same goes for Android users.
I recommend downloading several and trying them out before you make a commitment. The great thing about monthly payments is that you can always cancel after a month and try out another one!
That might not even be necessary, as most of these apps offer free versions that will make your decision for you.
Where Can I Get My Gear?
You’ve weighed the options on where and when you want to start your yoga practice. It doesn’t matter if you’ve gone the studio route or chosen a few good pins off Pinterest, you’ve finally arrived at the best part of your journey (besides yoga itself).
Thanks to the popularity of a little fashion craze called athleisure, the yoga wear possibilities are abundant and endless. You can get your hands on yoga appropriate clothing almost anywhere, ranging from stores like Wal-Mart to Nordstrom.
Like everything, the quality will differ from brand to brand. I honestly could go on and on about yoga pants alone, but for this beginner guide I’ll reel in my excitement and break it down to where you can buy the best gear no matter what your budget!
What’s The Best High End Yoga Gear?
Let’s take a peek at a couple yoga lines that will make you question just how badly you actually need groceries.
Spiritual Gangster offers everything from a fresh, fun lines for men and women, hats and even kids wear. You’re unlikely to find anything that will fit you as well as a pair of SG high waisted leggings, but at around $120 a pair, they can make your yoga practice add up quickly.
Must Have: Namaste Water Bottle
Lululemon is another incredibly mainstream, popular high end brand that will never steer you in the wrong direction. You will be happy with pretty much any purchase you make. If you just can’t decide what to start with…choose their Energy Bra. It will last you forever.
Men: Invest in a DrySense Hoodie. It’s perfect for everything.
When you buy from either of these brands, you can rest assured that your money will be well spent. The pieces will last you forever, and I can personally recommend any of the gear from either line.
Lululemon yoga mats are complete perfection. They don’t slide, and they’re super easy to clean.
What’s The Best Budget Friendly Yoga Gear?
On a budget? Me too.
The good news is, decent yoga gear does not have to cost you an arm and a leg. In fact, it’s been proven through my own social experiments, that if you take Target yoga pants and carry them in a Spiritual Gangster bag, people will assume that’s where you bought everything.
Not that you should give a hoot what anyone thinks. We’re here to focus on the self. Anyway…
Old Navy carries my favorite budget friendly yoga pants. They are incredibly comfortable, and they stay in place. You can’t beat the price either!
Forever 21 has a fantastic, affordable and very well made line of yoga wear. It’s my go-to when I need new gear, and a great place to go to grab a few things for your first class.
Pick yourself up a brand new mat from Target and you’ll be good to go!
Getting Ready For Your First Class
It’s time! You’ve chosen a studio or gym and you’ve got your gear, there’s not much left to do except a few minor preparations here and there.
Yoga is relatively gentle on the body, especially when you’re first starting out. If you’re feeling the need to prepare and get in yoga mode, there are a few things that you can do.
Meditate: Yoga is all about connection to self, and nothing can get you there quite like meditation. It doesn’t have to be long, two or three minutes will do. YouTube is full of guided meditations to help you through.
Stretch: Get your limbs ready and your body limber with a light stretch session before you hit the studio. Try this routine to get in the game mentally and physically.
Hydrate: No matter what type of yoga class you decided to try, be sure to keep hydrated. Proper hydration helps you feel great, and boosts physical performance.
Sleep: Fall asleep early the night before your first class. Re-energize and regenerate those cells! Nothing will prep you for your first class better than a good night’s sleep.
Perfume: Skip the scents. There is nothing more distracting in a yoga class than someone who has on a really heavy perfume or lotion.
Hair: If you’ve got long hair, be sure to sweep it back away from your face for class. A good headband is a game changer, and you’ll love the patterns and fit of these. Men with long hair, Lulu’s got you covered.
While we’re on the topic of hair, good yoga hair is not a necessity, but a fantastic accessory! There are a ton of different styles out there as far as hair goes, but I discovered this tutorial on YouTube about a year ago, and keep each of these in constant rotation.
What Can I Expect During My First Class?
You are going to have fun. Probably so much fun that you can’t wait to go back. As far as the actual progression of the class, well that can differ from teacher to teacher.
Throughout your yoga journey, should you decide to continue it past class one, you will find that every teacher is vastly different. Some are chatty, some are quiet. Some will take you through every pose from the front of the class, while others come around and adjust you accordingly.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself with a teacher who uses affirmations throughout. You might feel like you’ve joined a cult at first, but once you get used to them, positive affirmations leave you feeling on top of the world.
You’ll come across teachers that are serious, and those who prefer to joke around a bit. Whatever you encounter, make sure that it’s a good fit for you. I am rarely serious, so it’s important to me to have a yoga teacher that isn’t strictly business and nothing else.
Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions! You are there to learn something new, and questions are a part of any learning process.
Remember this above all else: you probably won’t be good right away. If you are, then two thumbs up!
I’ve been at this whole yoga thing for years and I still can’t do a headstand. It’s okay to jumble poses, lose your balance and laugh at yourself. If it’s not fun, then what’s the point?
Class tip: If you find yourself in Warrior III and you’re about to fall over, place your foot on the mat immediately instead of grabbing the person next to you and knocking them over too. They might be okay with it, but in my experience there’s just anger.
What Poses Will I See in a Beginner Yoga Class?
Believe it or not, there are over 300 yoga practice poses. Knowing the basics, the poses that you’ll constantly return to throughout any form of yoga, is vital to your practice as a whole.
It is common for many yoga instructors to use the Sanskrit term when referring to poses. You will learn them quickly and they will soon come as naturally to you as the English.
In any class, the Sanskrit term typically follows the English to lessen confusion and also to help you learn through association.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Come to a standing position with your feet hip width apart. Do not lock your knees back, but keep your legs straight. Balance evenly through each foot. The crown of your head reaches up, drop your shoulder blades back and reach fingers towards the floor.
Mountain pose will strengthen your thighs, ankles and knees. Learn it here.
Plank is executed like a traditional plank pose that you’ve probably encountered at the gym or on that one episode of The Office. You’ll hold your body parallel to your mat, arms perpendicular to the floor and completely outstretched. Hold your shoulders over your wrists.
Plank pose strengthens your arms and core. Learn it here.
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Start on all fours, and lift your knees away from the floor. Press them back. Push your rear to the sky and stretch your heels toward the floor. Straight arms, palms flat on the floor, fingers and thumb form an L shape.
Down dog strengthens arms and legs, while stretching hamstrings and calves. Learn it here.
Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)
Start with your feet apart. Step one foot back (you’ll likely do both sides in class) and fall into a lunge with the other. Arms stay outstretched, perpendicular to the floor and up above your head, parallel to each other. Reach your crown up, tuck your tailbone, stay tall and breathe.
Warrior I strengthens your ankles, legs and arms.Learn it here.
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
Similar to Warrior I, start with feet apart and step one foot back to bring you into a lunge. Arms raise out to the side, one outstretched over each leg. Pull your crown up, tuck your tailbone in and ground through your feet. Tummy stays tight
Warrior II strengthens your ankles, legs and arms and stretches the lungs. Learn it here.
One of my all time favorite poses. Begin in mountain pose. Bring your hands together at your heart. Shift your weight slowly to your right leg. Reach down and grab your left ankle. Pull it up to your calf, knee or inner thigh and rest the left foot on your right leg. Balance.
Tree Post strengthens your spine and legs. Learn it here.
Begin in Warrior II. Straighten your front leg, keeping your arms out, one above each leg. Bend at the hip and start to stretch your body toward your front leg. Once you’ve reached your limit, bring your front arm down to rest on your shin. Extend your other arm to the sky. Look up.
Triangle Pose strengthens the knees and thighs while stretching the hips. Learn it here.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Start on all fours (tabletop). Pull your hips back and lets your knees bend. You can keep your knees right underneath you, or pull them to the outside edges of your mat. Push your hips to the back of the mat, and let your torso and chest rest on the mat. Stretch your arms out straight, reaching your fingertips to the front of the mat.
Child’s Pose stretches your thigh, hip and ankle. Learn it here.
Begin in tabletop. Let your lower back/belly drop toward your mat, lift your head high and open your chest.
From cow, pull your core in and arch your back up. Push through your arms and stretch your shoulder blades up as well. Tuck your tail. Repeat.
Cat Cow stretches your back, torso and neck while gently toning abdominal muscles. Learn it here.
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
Sit on your mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Tuck your sitting bones directly underneath you, and bend at the hips. Stretch forward as far as possible, hooking your hands around your feet. Let your elbows fall wide.
Seated forward bend stretches your hamstrings and spine. Learn it here.
Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Begin in plank. Let your hips drop down to the floor. Ground the tops of your feet and press them into the floor. Keep your arms straight, pull your shoulder blades back and open your chest.
Upward Dog stretches your arms, wrists and back. Learn it here.
Are There Any Downsides to Yoga?!
There isn’t one. It hurt my heart to even type that. However, there are a few light warnings and issues to consider when starting an exercise routine of any kind.
Consult with Your Doctor
Always have a quick consultation with your general practitioner before you embark on your yoga journey. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and you want to make sure you aren’t putting yourself in any poses that could aggravate a past or present injury.
Take it Slow
Speaking of injuries, start out with a somewhat gentle beginner class. Unless you are already in a regular high impact workout routine and are looking for something gentler, start out slow. Yoga is meant to prevent injury, not cause it.
If you’ve already got back pain that you’re looking to manage, a one on one practice at a yoga studio might be best for you. It’s important to make sure you’re stretching the correct areas, and not causing more pain. The same goes for any chronic physical ailment, such as arthritis.
When you’re joining yoga, you’re joining a community. While yoga is pretty much all about the self, true yogi’s never forget that giving back makes your own heart happy.
There are a bunch of fantastic yoga based organizations that you can volunteer or advocate for, and it’s incredible to see the difference that just a few yoga poses can make in someone’s life. Of course, it’s more a sense of comradery than anything.
Give Back Yoga is a wonderful non-profit that focuses on bringing yoga to areas in every community where it’s not widely available, if it all.
Their programs are clinically tested, and used in prisons, addiction rehabilitation centers, cancer centers and support groups that work to maintain a positive body image. They also provide supplies to yoga programs in need nationwide.
Their overall mission is pretty cool, and a rewarding thing to be a part of. You can get involved here.
Exhale to Inhale is another amazing non-profit organization that is dedicated to empowering women through yoga practice.
Currently hosting weekly classes in domestic violence shelters in New York and Los Angeles, Exhale to Inhale is bringing mental and physical strength to women who may have been temporarily stripped of that mindset.
Yoga can help you find your way back to yourself, remember who you are and give you mental confidence through physical strength. You can support Exhale to Inhale here.
Your donation will go to class expansion and bringing yoga into the lives of as many domestic violence survivors as possible.
Both of these programs (and many more), play on the mental benefits that yoga has to offer. When you change your mindset, the rest follows naturally.
Yoga is not a cure for trauma, but it certainly is an effective management tool.
Conclusion (Hats off to you for making it to the end!)
You made it! You now know everything there is to know about your first yoga class. I do hope that you decide to give a studio group setting a try, but if you can’t, remember that yoga is available through so many outlets. Don’t hesitate to try them all.
Each yoga journey is different, and yours should be just what you want it to be. Within a few short weeks of beginning your practice, you will find that you’re starting to evolve mentally and physically.
You will feel lighter and more energized. You will start to make better food and lifestyle choices and you will genuinely look forward to your time on the mat.
Yoga is just for you and you alone. It’s a half hour a day to focus on yourself, your energy, your mood and your vibration.
No matter path you choose when it comes to your kicking off your practice, I hope it finds you well. The first time I ever tried yoga, I knew with complete certainty that it was the only form of exercise that I would regularly take part in ever again.
Until next time, friends. Namaste.