I’ve created this Beginners Yoga Guide to help prepare you for your first online or in-person yoga class.
What is yoga?
Yoga is an ancient practice, which originated in India. The practice has evolved over the years, largely adapting to the needs and demands of the Western world.
Yoga is both a physical and spiritual practice, which uses a combination of breathing techniques, breath awareness, poses, exercises and meditation. Together this can help increase flexibility and strength, prevent injury and help aid recovery. It can also be used to help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and create a sense of relaxation.
Many doctors and health professional support the benefits of yoga. However, if you’re new to practicing yoga, have any medical issues or any other conditions (such as pregnancy), it’s always best to check with your doctor first. And if possible let the teacher know prior to the start of the class.
It’s up to the individual to assess whether they are ready for the class they’ve chosen. It’s also important to listen to your body and work within your personal limitations. If you feel any pain, then please gently come out of the pose.
Finding the right class for you
As well as lots of different teachers, there are lots of different types of yoga, which we’ll explore a bit in the next section.
Finding the right class for you will depend on a number of factors, but largely will depend on what you are wanting to achieve. Are you looking for something that will relax the body, or do you want to sweat and create lots of energy? Perhaps you are wanting to target a specific area of the body, or improve flexibility. You also need to take into consideration any medical conditions or other conditions you might be experiencing. For example, if you’re pregnant you might consider contacting a teacher that specialises in pregnancy yoga. If you have issues getting up and down from the floor, you might prefer chair yoga.
You can try finding the right class for you by asking yourself, what do you want from your yoga class. Then try and match that up to the class description or type.
Personally for me, I like to use a bit of trial and error to workout what I like. This might mean trying a few classes I don’t like, before finding something I love. And that ‘something I love’ might not be what I first expected.
Remember, there are lots of different yoga classes out there. So if you don’t like your first yoga class, don’t let that put you off.
The different types of yoga
If you’ve ever looked at a yoga class schedule you’ve probably noticed a lot of different yoga classes and wondered what the difference is between them.
This is a list of some of the most common classes you might come across, however there are a lot more out there.
One of the most popular yoga types in the Western world. If the class doesn’t mention the type of yoga taught, it’s likely going to be a form of Hatha yoga.
A slow paced, mediative class where poses can be held anywhere from 1.5 minutes to 10 minutes. Props are often used in Yin classes to help support the body and relax the muscles. Yin targets the connective tissues, rather than the muscles.
If you want to try a Yin yoga class, I’ve posted a free beginners Yin yoga class and added in a bit more information about Yin yoga and the difference between Yin and other styles of yoga. I’ve also created a Yin yoga for beginners course, which will give you the confidence and knowledge to build your home Yin practice.
Like Yin yoga poses are held for a long period of time, the practice is quite meditative and props are usually used.
Unlike Yin yoga we want to completely relax the body, so we’re not working the connective tissues or the muscles, but trying to bring the body back to it’s optimum.
If you looking to restore and relax then try this Restorative Bedtime class.
In Vinyasa yoga you’ll move breath to movement from one pose to another. The breath cues can seem a little overwhelming at first, however try not to worry too much if you can’t follow them completely. It’s something that comes with practice and once you’ve become more familiar with the different yoga poses.
Vinyasa can either be fast and energetic or slower and more restorative.
A very strong physical yoga practice. This type of yoga is physically very challenging. Though most people would say it’s not really designed for beginners, if you did want a challenge you could try following this beginners guide to Ashtanga.
Translates into “Yogic sleep” and is a type of guided relaxation, usually practiced lying on your back. There are lots of benefits to Yoga Nidra, including improving sleep, soothing the nervous system and relaxing the mind and body. You can sign up to receive two free Yoga Nidra MP3s here.
What do I need?
What should I wear?
- Comfortable clothes that you can easily move in. If you wear a baggy top, you might like to have a fitter top beneath (stops you flashing when in forward bends, where you top might come up).
- Yoga is practiced bare foot, so you don’t need any specific socks or shoes. I do like to have socks near by for the relaxation at the end of class.
- I usually like to take a warm jumper/ sweater (particularly if practicing in a church hall or community centre), this just means you can stay warm during the relaxation at the end of class.
What should I take/ what else do I need?
If attending an in-person class, you might like to ask the teacher whether you need to bring a yoga mat or any props. Most teachers are able to provide these items, but it’s always worth checking.
For your home practice, I’ve created a short video on the different type of yoga props you might come across and the house hold objects you can use in their place. As a minimum I suggest investing in yoga mat and maybe a couple of yoga blocks, but even without these you can still practice yoga.
For both class types, you’ll also want to have some water or a drink.
What to expect in a yoga class
Whether in-person or online yoga classes tend to follow a similar structure. Classes tend to start either with a short meditation or breath awareness exercise. This helps to centre the body and to leave behind your ‘to do list’ or anything else that might be on your mind.
This is followed by a warm up – this warms up the muscles to help prevent injury and prepare the body for the poses to come.
Once the body is warm, the class may flow through several different sequences, maybe focusing on a specific theme or goal. Teachers will usually offer alternatives or modifications to poses – this is to help accommodate all practice levels. Don’t push yourself into the hardest option just because it’s offered. Because it’s offered it doesn’t mean you have to take that option. The teacher is just trying to accommodate everyone in the class, which might include students that have been practicing for many years. It’s important to listen to your body and take the option that feels good for you.
Next the class will move into a cool down, where poses are usually held for a bit longer, as the body is usually nice and warm at that point.
Most classes will end in a resting pose such as, Corpse Pose, with a guided meditation, breath awareness or sometimes just silence. This is one of the most important poses in yoga as it gives you time to process the practice, before return to your normal life or routine.
In-Person/ Live Stream classes
- Yoga is practiced barefoot – you may be asked to take your shoes off at the door.
- Let the teacher know in advance that you are new to yoga and also whether you have any injuries or anything else they might need to be made aware of. It’s also useful to let them know if you don’t want to be touched during the class (see next point).
- For in-person classes only, some teachers offer hands on adjustments – you can say ‘no’ to these adjustments if you like. Adjustments offered to help you get deeper into a pose or help correct alignment.
- It common in a yoga class for everyone to look different in a pose – even taking different poses at different points. If at any point, you want to come out of a pose or take a different pose – feel free to do that. The teacher will not be offended. Sometimes I even choose to take a resting pose in classes, if that’s what I feel like my body is asking for.
- Don’t leave during the relaxation at the end of class, unless the teacher asks you to do so – or you discuss this with the teacher prior to the start of class. This can disrupt the other students, particularly during an in-person class.
- Online classes vary from 10 minutes to 90 minutes – the structure of the class can vary. Short classes or sequences will usually only have time to focus on a couple of poses.
- Make yourself familiar with the teacher, the class description and also their disclaimer as this can have some useful information to consider.
Beginners Yoga Course
I’ve created a Yin yoga beginners course, which you can sign up for here. I’m also in the process of putting together an Online Beginner’s Yoga Course.
This course is designed to give you the confidence to attend a yoga class. We will breakdown all the common yoga poses and I’ll give you the tools and knowledge, so you know how you can modify each pose to suit you. This might mean using props to help you in the pose. Or maybe taking a different pose that still gives you the same benefits. We will then use these poses in a few different sequences and classes.
As a gift to my email subscribers, I’ll be offering a 50% off discount to anyone subscribed to my email list on the course launch date!
As a little bonus for signing up, you’ll also receive two Beginner Yoga Checklists to help you prepare for your first class. One checklist will help prepare you for your first online yoga class. The other will prepare you for your first in-person yoga class.
To be eligible for the 50% off discount and receive the checklist, just sign up to my email list in the right hand bar or you can sign up here.
Beginners Yoga Guide: Gentle Beginners Yoga Class
I’ve created this 45 minute Gentle Beginners Yoga Class, where I’ve included a few different options and modifications for different poses.
In this class I use a chair, however you can do that section seated or standing if you prefer. You might also like to have a couple of yoga blocks (or old books), a towel or strap/ belt and a pillow or blanket.
Of course, one class will not fit everyone, so if you didn’t enjoy this class, don’t let that put you off. You can always drop me an email and we could discuss some different options and try something else. I’m always open to suggestions.
I hope you found this Beginners Yoga Guide useful. If you did have any questions or would like me to add some more information to this guide, please let me know.
More guides and resources
For the Wrists
Wrist pain and discomfort is extremely common. Yoga often (but not always) involves poses where we are putting weight on our wrists and we don’t always know the best way to modify or change the pose to best support our wrists. For this reason I’ve created this Supporting the Wrists in Yoga Mini Guide.
If you’ve not done so already, you can sign up to my mailing list to receive a free beginners yoga guide checklist to help you prepare for you first class. You’ll also have access to my weekly Wednesday free yoga class and the 30 day morning yoga challenge, where you can try 10-15 minutes of yoga a day for 30 days. And I’ve created a new beginners yoga playlist on my YouTube.
I’ll be actively adding more resources for beginners and free classes. So feel free to check back and keep in touch.
If you enjoyed the class then please consider donating to my chosen charity the Avon Wildlife Trust here.