First of all, welcome to the world of yoga! You are about to join the other millions of people worldwide who practice yoga for fitness, health, healing, relaxation, spirituality and self-development. As you have an interest in yoga for complete beginners you may have questions, you may be excited but also a little apprehensive of what to expect. Depending on how much you know about yoga already from friends, family or from reading, will depend how prepared you feel. It is highly likely you will find the yoga world very welcoming, and it’s easy to grasp basic yoga poses and techniques in a short space of time.
What is yoga?
For complete beginners, it helps to get a basic understanding of what yoga is, and, what it isn’t.
Yoga actually means to “unite”, coming from the Sanskrit word “yuj”, so as as you can see, even it’s very meaning includes bringing people together and integration.
Whilst there is significant history surrounding the practice of yoga, which was created in the East, and caught up more recently in the West, any yoga practice is considered a personal journey and therefore no individual’s yoga practice, definition or relationship to yoga is exactly the same.
Some “yogis” (someone who practices yoga), do so simply to shed a few pounds each week, and perhaps “sweat it out” for an energy buzz in a Bikram yoga session.
Others may practice several times a week, working consciously to develop their practice, deepen their stretches, perfect their breathing technique and connect with their inner-self through learning the are of meditation.
For many yoga actually becomes a way of life, which, is how it was originally intended, taking the concepts of yoga into the outside world and always working towards a higher state of being.
So simply – “what is yoga“? Well, it can in reality, be anything you want it to be.
History of yoga
To provide a little more background about the origins of yoga and it’s pioneers.
Yoga is in fact, a 5,000 year old practice developed in India. Roughly 2,000 years ago the Indian sage Pantanjali created the Yoga Sutras, which bought together yoga practice from many historical traditions.
These 195 or so statements still make up the foundations of yoga as it is practised today.
During the medieval era, the Yoga Sutras were the most translated ancient Indian text, being available in forty Indian languages as well as Old Javanese and Arabic. However, Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras were lost for a long time, from the 12th to the 19th century, falling into obscurity.
Swami Vivekananda was responsible for bringing the Yoga Sutras back into activity in the 20th century, and it’s importance has now reached new heights, being considered a key part of classical yoga philosophy.
The yoga sutras make up the foundations of yoga practice, and they are designed as a way of life. The practice of yoga is aimed to help implement these and reach “samadhi”, which is enlightenment or liberation.
- Restraints (yamas)
- Observances (niyamas)
- Postures (asana)
- Breathing (pranayama)
- Withdrawal of senses (pratyahara)
- Concentration (dharana)
- Meditation (dhyani)
- Absorption (samadhi)
In yoga classes, particularly for complete beginners, yoga teachers focus on the asanas, (the postures) as well as pranayama (breathing). As practice develops, yogis will focus on dharana (concentration) and dhyani (meditation) too.
Yoga for complete beginners
Aside from understanding a bit about the history of yoga, there are a number of things that you can do to familiarise yourself with the practice of yoga as a complete beginner.
- Research which of the types of yoga will suit your goals. This isn’t to say that you have to choose and stick to one type, but make sure you join a class that covers basic yoga:
- Hatha yoga is a good choice for understanding the traditonal yoga asanas that filter through many other types of yoga. Perhaps considered the best yoga for complete beginners.
- Ashtanga or Bikram are also good for their repetition nature, as this can help beginners to memorise and progress their yoga sequence quickly – it’s a bit addictive!
- Vinyasa yoga too is suitable for beginners and this type of yoga isn’t so rigid – it’s good for fitness whilst allowing some room to be creative and “flow” at your own pace
- Think about your personal health goals. What are the benefits you are looking for from yoga? What are your goals? The benefits of yoga go far and wide and many people practice yoga simply for a way to bring together looking after the mind and the body.
- Speak to local yoga centres in your area, including yoga teachers to decide the best route. You will find receptionists at yoga centres very helpful and keen to encourage complete beginners to come along and try a few different types of yoga classes, if they offer a range, which most do.
- Prepare for your first class by wearing the right clothes and turning up feeling light and hydrated. You don’t need to kit yourself out with anything specific for yoga, but wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows you to stretch and not be restricted. If doing Bikram yoga, the fewer clothes the better, as it gets HOT! It’s important to drink plenty of water before and during practicing yoga too and watch what you eat before class; typically it is suggested to not eat any full meals for a few hours before.
Read more – Beginners yoga checklist
Yoga positions for beginners
If you want to learn a few poses suitable for complete beginners, then there are plenty of resources available.
Yoga poses do vary depending on the type of yoga and yoga teachers do vary their teaching style. Finding a good yoga class and a good yoga teacher is the key to cementing the enthusiasm and commitment needed to develop the practice of yoga.
Read more – Yoga poses for beginners
With a good yoga class, you will find you can advance fairly quickly.
It is not unusual to see yoga students be able to touch their toes in a Forward Bend in a matter of weeks, or be able to master the Sun Salutation sequence.