How To Do Yoga
Early writings on yoga were transcribed on palm leaves that were easily damaged or lost. However, what we do know that the development of yoga can be traced back to over 5000 years ago, although some researchers believe the practice of yoga may date back over 10,000 years.
Since its beginnings in Northern India, yoga has developed into a practice with millions of followers all over the world. For the beginner, yoga might seem a bit daunting at the start. Firstly, the vocabulary can be difficult – as pretty as Sanskrit is to look at, many of the words can make the unpractised eye glaze over (try reading the words pashchimottanasana and paravairagya quickly).
Also, even common practices may require a bit of an explanation – for example, in the nasal wash or jalaneti: “You want me to rinse saline water from one nostril to another?” Then there are the poses, some of which look too challenging to be probable. And of course, there are questions like what to wear, what to bring, and how to prepare for class. Here at Ripple, we want to make it easy for you to begin your yoga journey, so here are our top tips that will nourish the joys of yoga for a long time.
How to do yoga
This may seem like a silly question, but it’s definitely one of the most popular. Yoga is best done in clothes you feel comfortable in. There are many different styles of yoga pants and tops, but you don’t have to buy anything special. Any comfortable exercise pants of shorts will do, and fitted (not baggy) tops work best. Basically, wear something that allows freedom of movement in the arms, shoulders and legs. Yoga is often done barefoot, so you don’t even have to worry about shoes.
- What to bring
If you’re headed to your very first class, don’t worry about buying a mat if you don’t have one. Most yoga studios have mats available for rent. When you decide to keep going to class, or once you feel ready to practice at home, investing in your own mat is a good idea.
Do bring a water bottle so that you can have a drink after class; this is especially important if you are doing hot yoga (bikram yoga). A hand towel is also a good thing to have. As for props, most studios provide blocks and straps, so it’s not necessary for you to have your own at first.
It’s best not to eat a heavy meal right before a session. You don’t want to feel too bloated or full when moving through the various poses. A light snack an hour or two before class is fine.
Plan to arrive a few minutes before class so you can get pick a spot to set up and ask any questions you might have. If you’re new to yoga, it’s good to pick a spot in the middle or toward the back, where you can see the teacher and also glance around at others around you. Arriving early also gives you time to warm-up or prepare yourself mentally for the class.
- Pick a class that fits your goals
Do a bit of research and find a class with a description that aligns with your goals. For example, if you prefer something more athletic and want to sweat, try hot yoga, or look for words like “power flow” and “strong” in the class description. If you want to chill out, find a “restorative” or “gentle flow” class.
- Ease into it
Like learning to play the piano or preparing for a marathon, yoga takes time and dedication. You don’t have to start out super flexible in order to do yoga. Take it slowly and go easy on yourself; don’t judge yourself based on what someone is doing next to you. In fact, you’ll find that with regular practice comes increased flexibility, both physically, mentally and spiritually.
- Focus on your breath
It is important to understand the critical role that the breath plays in yoga. Instead of rushing into a pose or pushing yourself too hard, allow your breath to be your guide, and pace yourself so that you don’t find yourself short of breath. Breathing is also a powerful tool for managing stress, and you’ll find that even just five minutes of breath awareness can recharge your mind. It’s worth incorporating breathing awareness into your daily life, not just in the practice of yoga.
Yoga is not just about asana practice or poses. Don’t neglect relaxation or meditation, as it will help you feel better, both physically and mentally. A balanced combination of asana practice and meditation will create inner strength and equilibrium.
- Respect your body
Defer to your own judgement about what you can and cannot do. Instead of forcing your body beyond its current abilities, focus your energy on poses or movements that make you feel great. There is no hurry to get into any specific pose, and acknowledge that not every pose will happen on every day. Listen to your body, and respect what it tells you about how to do yoga techniques.
- Ask questions and be open to advice
If you don’t understand something, be it about yoga etiquette, or physical poses, it’s always good to ask the teacher, or more practiced yoga students. And when a teacher offers you an adjustment in a pose, they are not picking on you, but rather giving you an opportunity to evolve your practice and experience the pose in a different way.
Finally, now that you’re armed with our top tips on how to do yoga, go out there and try it. Celebrate the fact that you have the courage to try something out of your comfort zone. Most importantly, enjoy yourself, and relax. You’ve got this.