NEW TO YOGA?
I don’t want anyone else to feel that way (yoga is for everyone!), so I’ve made this “Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Yoga” FAQ to help clear up the confusion and answer some common questions. I hope you find it helpful in your yoga journey!
What is yoga?
Yoga is basically the union of the body, mind, and spirit. The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” which means “to yoke or to bind.”
A sage named Patanjali created the Yoga Sutras about 2,000 years ago and it serves as a philosophical guidebook of sorts. It also discusses the eight limbs of yoga: the yamas (ethical standards), niyamas (self-discipline), asana (the poses), pranayama (breathing techniques), pratyahara (detachment), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (bliss).
Most people today are mainly practicing the 3rd limb, which are the physical yoga postures. But I urge you to explore all 8 limbs of yoga for a more holistic and complete yogic experience. When you add in meditation, mindfulness, and breath work (along with the other limbs), you will truly start to reap the full transformative effects of a yoga practice.
Read about the many health benefits of yoga here.
I'm not flexible. Can I still do yoga?
It makes me sad that the “flexibility myth” keeps people away from trying yoga. Being flexible isn’t necessary for yoga, and it’s also not even the end goal. Come as you are. Take it step by step.
The bendy people you see on Instagram practicing yoga were NOT that bendy before they started practicing. Believe me, your body will adapt and become more flexible as you practice. It won’t happen right away. But it will happen. Along with added strength, balance, coordination, and overall well-being.
Just remember: Yoga isn’t about touching your toes; it’s about what you learn on the way down.
What are the different types of yoga?
What does Namaste mean?
“The light in me sees the the light in you.” Sometimes also translated as, “The teacher in me bows down to the teacher in you,” or “My soul honors your soul.”
Here in the West, we use Namaste to open or close a yoga class with hands in Anjali Mudra (hands pressed together in front of the heart).
What is "Om"?
It can feel strange to chant it at first, but give it a try. The sound vibrations will relax your nervous system and enhance a calm state of mind.
What do I wear to a yoga class?
Is Yoga a religion?
I like how Gary Kraftsow (founder of Viniyoga) put it: “[Yoga] was always connected to spirituality, and spirituality was never separated from religion. But the spiritual dimensions of yoga were used by many different religions. Although religious-specific faiths taught yoga, the actual yoga teachings were used by many different religions. So I think this distinction between yoga as a spiritual journey that supports religion versus yoga as a religion is very useful.”
Do I need any equipment?
Not really. I agree with Rodney Yee when he said “The most important pieces of equipment you need for doing yoga are your body and your mind.”
That said, a quality grippy mat makes all the difference. I had a lot of wrist problems when I first started yoga, and my hands would slide all over my cheap mat (I think I got it from T.J.Maxx) which didn’t help at all. It was incredibly frustrating. I eventually invested in a better mat and it completely changed my practice for the better.
I use the Manduka Pro at home, and the Jade Harmony when I’m traveling to a studio. They are both a bit pricy, but the investment was worth it to me. Manduka and Jade are considered two of the top mat brands, but I want to emphasize that there’s no need to buy anything high-end (especially to start out). That said, when you do take the plunge and make a purchase, at least read the reviews online first and invest in a mat that’s grippy/sticky.
As for props, two blocks and a strap will help you enhance your alignment. But they are not necessary. And if you’re taking class at a studio (or you’re taking private classes with me) those props will be provided!
How often should I practice?
Any other general advice for people brand new to yoga?
Have fun with it! Stay open to learning and absorb what you can. Don’t take yourself (or the yoga) too seriously. Laugh at the challenges your mind and body present, and then do your best to accept and overcome them. And above all, be patient with yourself. It’s all about the journey. They call it a practice for a reason.