What is Yoga: A Beginner’s Guide

  1. Basics of Yoga For Beginners
  • The age to begin yoga.
  • How long should a beginner should do yoga?
  • Is it okay to do yoga every day?
  • The best time to do yoga.
  1. Benefits Of Yoga For Beginners.
  2. Tips For Yoga For Beginners
    • Preparing before first yoga class
    • Yoga Class Etiquette
  3. Yoga Routine For Beginners – 5 yoga poses(beginner level), 2 Pranayama exercises, simple meditation practice and then relaxation at the end of the class.
  4. Common mistakes yoga beginners do and how to fix them.
  5. Yoga Diet For Beginners.

The meaning of the word “Yoga” is “Union”. It is literally the union of mind, body, and soul to live a full and healthy life. The purpose of yoga is to strengthen the body, energize the soul and relax the mind. Having said that one has to begin somewhere, nobody is born with divine enlightenment. If you are a newbie or a beginner, this is the perfect place to start. In our yoga for beginners guide, we shall help you take those first tiny steps, which are always the most difficult, in the right direction.

Basics Of Yoga

In the basics of yoga for beginners, we shall answer those questions which will get you started and prepared to move forward in your journey to become an ardent yoga disciple.

  • What is the right age to begin yoga?

The younger you begin, the better it is if you wish to reap long term benefits. What most people don’t know is that one can start practicing yoga form as young an age as 6 weeks. In babies, yoga helps in mother and child bonding and also improves the baby’s body dexterity. However, you can begin practicing yoga at any age. There is no age limitation.

  • What is the best time to do yoga?

The best time to practice yoga is early morning before breakfast but after your morning ablutions. If for some reason this time is not suitable, you can also do yoga in the evening around sunset. However, with the busy lives that we live, it is advisable to do yoga at any time that works for you. The key takeaway is that whatever time you decide to practice yoga your stomach should be relatively empty and your mind not on other tasks.

  • How long should a beginner do yoga?

Yoga for beginners should not exceed 15 – 20 mins. It is best to start slow and then increase the time gradually. This will give your body time to get used to the routine of exercising without any stressful consequences.

  • Is it okay to do yoga every day?

Every yoga beginner is faced with the dilemma whether it is okay to do yoga every day. Rest assured, practicing yoga is a matter of individual choice. How often you practice it should ideally depend on what you wish to achieve out of it. The best practice is to do it at least every other day if not every day.

Benefits Of Yoga For Beginners

There is a reason why yoga is becoming more and more popular amongst the masses. The reason lies in the benefits that it offers to one and all. Benefits of yoga for beginners can be assimilated from the following points:

  • Yoga helps to stretch and tone the muscles of your body.
  • Yoga provides that extra spurt of energy which keeps you going the whole day.
  • It helps to bring down stress through breathing and meditation exercises.
  • It provides all the benefits of a gym but in a safe, peaceful and holistic manner.
  • It fuels the metabolism and helps reduce weight.
  • Yoga helps clear the mind of all doubts and confusions by increasing mindfulness.

Tips For Yoga For Beginners

There are a few tips and tricks which if followed diligently will give you the maximum benefit from each yoga session. It is invariably assumed that people know about these tips while the truth is that you may know about some of them but not all. So instead of assuming let us just put our heads down and learn about tips for yoga for beginners.  

  • Preparing for the first yoga class – There are certain things that you need to ensure in order to prepare for the first yoga class as well as the subsequent ones.
  • Come well hydrated for the class but avoid caffeinated drinks.
  • Eat a light meal or snack at least 1 – 2 hrs before the class. If the class is in the early morning you can also come empty stomach.
  • Bring a yoga mat, a towel and a bottle of water with you.
  • Wear comfortable and breathable clothing which allows freedom of movement.
  • Yoga Class Etiquette – Following yoga class etiquette will ensure there are no disruptions in the class. These include –
  • You cannot wear shoes in the class so remember to take them off.
  • Be a little early for the class rather than being late.
  • Maintain silence during the yoga session.
  • Do not carry mobile phones in the classroom.
  • Be mindful of body odor and heavy fragrances it can be distracting to others.

Yoga Routine For Beginners

Yoga for beginners seems especially difficult. This is mainly because they don’t know where to begin and how to begin. Obviously, classes help a lot but some of us might not be able to attend them because of one reason or the other. So, for those of you determined enough to start here is a basic yoga routine for beginners.

5 Yoga Poses For Beginners:

To get you started here are 5 yoga poses for beginners, which can easily be done at home.

  1. Mountain Pose or Tadasana 

A mountain stands tall and straight and that is exactly the purpose of this pose. Stand straight with your feet together, arms at the side and shoulders relaxed. Make sure that your weight is evenly distributed through your feet. Now take a deep breath and bring your hands in front of you raising them above your head with the palms facing each other. Keeping your arms straight at all times try to reach for the sky with your fingertips. Exhale and bring your hands down. This exercise is good for improving overall body balance and also strengthens your core muscles.

  1. Downward Dog or Adho Mukho Svanasana

For this, you have to be on all fours. Your hands and feet should be firmly planted on the ground. Start with your hands directly under your shoulders and feet spread hip-width apart. Walk your hands a couple of inches forward, spread your fingers wide and press your palms into the mat. Once your hands are in a straight incline raise your hips towards the ceiling by appropriately stretching your legs. What you are looking for is an inverted “V” shape. 

  1. Warrior or Virabhadrasana

Begin with your legs spread 3 – 4 feet apart. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees and slightly turn in the left foot. Now keeping your shoulders relaxed bring your arm to your hips. With palms down extend your arms out to the sides. Bend your right knee to 90 degrees ensuring that the knee is in a straight line with the ankle. Look out over your stretched right hand. Hold this pose for at least a minute. Switch the sides and repeat the exercise.

  1. Tree Pose or Vrikshasana

Stand straight with your arms at sides. Shift your weight onto your left leg, lift your right foot and place its sole inside your left calf. If at first, this seems difficult you can keep the toes of your right foot on the floor. Gradually as your balance improves rise it to the calf. Once you are sufficiently balanced bring your hands in front of you in praying position. Inhale and extend your arms over the shoulders straight up, palms separated but facing each other. Hold the position for 30 seconds. Lower your arms and legs and repeat for the opposite side.  

  1. Child’s Pose or Balasana

Start on all fours bringing your feet and knees together. Sit back on your butt with the butt touching your heels. Stretch your arms out forward and lower your forehead to the mat. Your chest should be as close to your knees as comfortably possible. Hold the pose for a couple of breaths.

2 Pranayama Exercises :

“Prana” means breath and “ayama” means control. So Pranayama is nothing but breath control exercises. These exercises help attain a higher state of awareness. Two Pranayama exercises good for any yoga beginner are:

  1. Kapalbhati Pranayama or Skull Cleansing Breath – Cross your legs and sit on the yoga mat. Keeping your spine straight put your right palm flat on your stomach. Inhale slowly and deeply to fill your lungs. Now exhale forcefully. Repeat the exercise 20 – 25 times.
  2. Anulom a Viloma Pranayama or Alternate Nostril Breathing

Again you need to be seated on the yoga mat for this one in the same cross-legged manner. Keeping your back straight close your right nostril using your right thumb. The middle and index fingers of your hand will be between your eyebrows. Thee ring finger will be near your left nostril, close but not touching. Now inhale deeply. At the peak of inhalation release your right nostril and close the left nostril by pressing the ring and small finger against it. Exhale through the left nostril. Do at least ten rounds of this exercise for each nostril.

Meditation Tips for Beginner

Meditation or “Dhyana” is the state of achieving pure consciousness. Meditation is a necessary part of yoga because it increases concentration powers and cleanses the soul of all dark thoughts and negativity. For this part of yoga, you have to sit in an easy cross-legged pose or “Sukhasana”. Keeping your arms relaxed place them on your thighs with the palms facing either up or down. Meditation yoga for beginners would mean concentrating on an object like a burning candle or establishing a point of focus like the center of a “Chakra”. You can keep your eyes open or closed during this exercise. Silently repeating or chanting a word like “Om” helps to center yourself and concentrate better. There is no fixed time for how long you meditate. Begin with 10 minutes and increase up to whatever time it takes to finally get rid of all thoughts in your mind.

  • Relaxation – Relaxation yoga is all about finding balance and serenity in life. However, it should never be confused with sleeping. Relaxation yoga is not about lying down comfortably and taking a rest. It is a disciplined and mindful way of taking a rest after continued exertion. It calms your mind, revitalizes your nerves and brings together scattered and fragmented thoughts. “Savasana” or the “Corpse Pose” is the most popular and easiest relaxation pose. For this, you need to lie flat on your back and remain motionless or immobile just like a dead body. And hence the name “Savasana”. Practicing this pose for 5 – 10 minutes will completely relax your body and soothe your muscles. 

Common Mistakes Yoga Beginners Do And How To Fix Them

To err is human. Important is to learn from your mistakes and even smarter is to learn from those of others. To make your job easier here is a list of common mistakes yoga beginners do and how to fix them.

  • Trying To Do Too Much Too Soon – Getting mastery in yoga is a gradual process. Trying to push yourself to achieve it quickly will not serve any positive purpose. Instead, it will trigger a fight or flight response which in turn will increase your stress levels.

How To Fix – Be realistic in approach. Take your time to learn each pose correctly and follow through the complete routine regularly. Time, patience and practice are the keys to success.

  • Going For Perfect Pose Not Feeling – There is a feeling that you need to achieve with each yoga pose. Often beginners try to achieve the perfect pose which makes the body tense and breath quiver.

How To Fix – The idea is to replicate the pose as closely as possible in the beginning while getting the feelings right. Once the right feeling is achieved, practice will make your pose perfect.

  • Forgetting To Breathe – Quite often beginners hold their breath thereby making the pose feel like a struggle. You have to breathe through each pose else you will start feeling shortness of breath and dizziness.

How To Fix – Allow yourself to breathe normally through each pose. Your breath will guide your movement and become a part of the complete exercise routine. 

  • Refusing Props – Props are supports which are used to prevent any unnecessary injury. Especially for beginners using props is important. Using them is not a disadvantage but helps to correct your posture and give you a fair estimate of what you are trying to achieve. 

How To Fix – Do not outright deny the props. If your teacher wants you to use them, do so. They will not cause you any harm but provide the necessary support to perform yoga better.

  • Using A Cheap Mat – A cheap mat mean a mat of inferior quality. As a beginner, you needn’t invest in the “Ferrari” of mats but buy a reasonably good one. Cheap mats tend to bunch, slip and tear thereby disturbing and disrupting your routine.

How To Fix – Buy a good quality mat which will stay in one place and allow you freedom of movement.

Yoga Diet For Beginners

Yoga diet for beginners or the Yogic Diet will help you get the maximum benefit out of your yoga routine. It is not necessary that you have to become a vegetarian to practice yoga. However, for holistic yoga practice, it is recommended to follow a vegetarian diet. Ideally, yoga diet consists of Ayurvedic or Sattvic food. In Sanskrit sattvic means something that has sattva or goodness and purity. These foods increase our physical and mental well-being thereby increasing the clarity of thoughts and peacefulness of mind. The essentials of a good yogic diet are:

  • Drink 8 – 1o glasses of water a day.
  • Eat plenty of fresh seasonal fruits.
  • Fresh vegetables should be consumed in salads.
  • Water with lemon should be taken first thing in the morning to detoxify the body. Herbal tea can be taken later in the day or evening.
  • Whole grains (wheat, rice & oats) and natural sugar (jaggery & molasses) should be used.
  • Food should be cooked in plant-based oils like sunflower oil, mustard oil, olive oil, etc.
  • Sweet spices like cinnamon, fennel, cumin, mint, basil, cardamom, etc. should be used to flavor the food.

A Wrap-Up

Yoga is a discipline aimed towards making your mind, body, and spirit healthy. It has no side effects what so ever. However, if you suffer from a chronic illness or a degenerative disease, it is advisable to practice yoga under the able guidance of a learned teacher. Whenever you start yoga remember to leave stress behind and just concentrate on centering your body. Yoga for beginners is all about starting slowly and gathering momentum steadily. Benefits of yoga are immense so take your time through each pose and try to get the feelings right before moving on to the next one. In the end, yoga is not about comparing yourself to how others are doing. So forget about others and do the exercises to the best of your ability.

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