Yoga is an amazing form of exercise with many benefits, but it can be intimidating if you’ve never tried yoga before. Read our beginner yoga guide that covers everything to know about basic yoga.
There are countless reasons why people of all backgrounds are drawn to yoga. The practice offers a great introduction to meditation, mindfulness and basic breath work, which reap incredible mental health benefits. Yoga is also a great low-intensity way to practice moderate cardio exercise or with added weights and variations, can be a true a butt-kicking workout. This makes the studio a one-stop-shop for wellness and yoga an ultimate “a la carte” practice: it can be anything you want it to be and you can fit on any spectrum of yogis and athletes.
Whatever draws you to your mat, we’ve created a guide to help you get comfortable and prepared to start off on your yoga journey.
What is the best yoga for beginners?
Start by putting away any envy you’ve ever felt towards the super-impressive poses you’ve seen posted on Instagram. Even the most elite yogis started somewhere! See below for some of the most popular types of yoga that are accessible to beginners.
The basis of most types of Western yoga, Hatha focuses on finding alignment in core poses with slower transitions and 30-second holds. It’s great for acquainting yourself with core poses, but it can be more challenging than classes than involve switching between poses more quickly, such as in Vinyasa Flow.
Inspired by Hatha, Vinyasa Flow introduces breathwork to a traditional sequence as you transition between different poses. Poses are held for less time and transitions are quicker than in Hatha yoga. Vinyasa Flow is great for learning the breathwork that helps reduce anxiety and is beneficial to know for all types of exercise. A typical class is usually fast-paced enough to qualify as moderate cardio exercise.
Focused on flexibility, yin is distinguished by the lack of muscle work involved within its poses and focuses on stretching the connective tissues within your joints. Relaxing into postures with longer holds allows you to find deeper expressions of poses.
Restorative yoga is rooted in meditation and prioritizes physical and mental relaxation through long holds, stillness and deep breathing. Not a bad place to start for beginners, it can help familiarize you with the concept of a simple yoga flow and the gear used in a class. Added props, such as pillows and blankets might be used on top of your standard mat, blocks and strap. Be prepared that you will leave super relaxed and maybe a little sleepy!
How to do basic yoga as a beginner
The best thing about stepping into the world of yoga is how little you need to get started – in fact, you can forget about socks and shoes. Ideally, show up 10 minutes early to your class to give yourself time to set up your mat, do some deep breathing and let go of your day.
What to bring to your first yoga class
It’s a good idea to bring a water bottle and a hand towel if you anticipate getting sweaty. If you don’t have your own mat yet, ask in advance whether the studio provides them for free or a small fee. All studios offer the blocks and straps used in class. Grab those and you’re good to go.
What to wear to your first yoga class
Stretchy and sweat-wicking apparel is ideal to wear to yoga class, so your clothes can move with you while helping to keep you dry. While loose pants and tops are suitable for restorative yoga or warming up and cooling down, you might find them distracting during fast-paced flows and want to stick to form-fitting pieces.
What to expect from your first yoga class
Most classes run between 45 and 90 minutes. Depending on the level of intensity, you can expect to feel lighter mentally and physically after rolling up your mat.
How intense is beginners yoga?
A range of beginners’ yoga options are a great choice to explore for all types of athletes, whether you’re a runner, a CrossFitter or you’re early in your fitness journey. Beginners’ yoga classes are generally advertised as such: Beginner’s Yoga, Slow Flow or Level 1, for example. Restorative yoga is friendly for yogis of all levels.
Basic yoga poses you should know
Sun salutation is the bedrock of almost every type of yoga. Beginners’ sequences are simple to learn and they’re very easy to pick up and start doing on your own. Do them first thing in the morning or whenever you need a simple stretch throughout your day. Familiarize yourself with these poses to help prepare yourself for longer sessions later on.
Stand at the front of your mat with your feet shoulder-length apart, reaching your hands toward the sky. Inhale as you reach and put your palms together.
Exhale as you fold at the hips and drop your hands to touch the floor. Move slowly to feel the movement through your spine and use a slight bend at the knees if you need.
With your hands on the floor, bend your knees and walk your feet back into a high plank position while engaging your core. Hold for a sequence of breaths.
From a high plank position, exhale while using your arms to slowly lower your body towards your mat while keeping your back straight. Your hips, chest and face should still be elevated from your mat, using strength from your arms and your core.
Uncurl your toes and lean into the top of your feet with your toes facing behind you, one foot after the other. Bring your heart forward and raise your shoulder blades back.
Downward facing dog
Curl your toes back toward the front of the room to grip your mat, raise your hips and use your core strength to straighten your back, raising your glutes toward the ceiling. Your legs may have a bit of bed and you can pedal out your feet one by one to feel a nice stretch. This pose challenges your shoulders and core while allowing a nice stretch in your hamstrings, calves and ankles. It’s also great for feet and beneficial for plantar fasciitis, making it a favorite post-run stretch for those stacking up their miles.
From down dog, you can enter into any variation of asanas by adding lunges and twists or you can simply walk your hands toward your feet to enter back into a standing position.
How to start yoga at home
While in-class experiences bring community and personalized instruction, one of the great things about yoga is that you can easily make the world your studio. Grab your mat and take off your shoes. Start flowing once you find a safe and comfortable space.
Final tips for beginner yogis
At the end of the day, your yoga journey is about your individual relationship with your body and mind. For beginners, even the most basic poses will seem complicated before building the required strength and muscle memory. Remember to listen to your body and have compassion for yourself as you grow in your practice.
On your mat, your thoughts, emotions and everyday stressors will come to mind and your practice will challenge how you face them. After you make your body busy enough, you’ll be encouraged to focus on the present moment and build resilience towards whatever is weighing you. Are you moving away from your inner light or towards it?