I get asked pretty often about how to start doing yoga and how I started, if I have any tips for doing yoga at home, or (maybe the most common) how I am able to practice yoga everyday. So I thought I would put together another post (I did one last year about hot yoga, filled with tips). I am not a teacher so my tips come from a fellow students, point of view. I kick my self in the face everyday (kidding, I wish I could raise my foot that high) for not “practicing” yoga regularly so so much sooner. I say practicing, because I used to go to a yoga class every once in a while. Maybe every couple weeks or so, but I wasn’t practicing – I was just attending. And I didn’t actually know there was a difference until I became a full fledged got-to-have-my-daily-yoga-fix addict. So let’s start from the beginning (the attending), and hopefully I can share a few tips along the way. click to read more (it’s a long one)…
I first tried yoga when my very best friend took her teacher training, I liked it a lot and tried to go often. Mostly I used it as a tool to help calm my anxiety (I wrote down a list of benefits here, and it’s about the same). But I could never find the time to go often, or a style of yoga that seemed to work for me, or a studio that felt like home and the money to pay for it. So I just went once in a while, when I could and when I remembered. Before I even went to my first class, since I was so scared I would look like a doofus and not be able to do any of the moves. I got a book, it was a simple book filled with stick men doing poses. Which helped me understand the basics of poses, without feeling totally inadequate looking at someone who was obviously very advanced. Then I started going to classes on Fridays, a lot of studios hold Karma classes on Fridays – it’s a pay what you can class (and the proceeds go to charity) and a great way to test out yoga without making a $$ commitment.
tips for beginning:
- get a book. sometimes it’s easier to stay focused when you have a physical book, then you aren’t always looking at the clock and you are away from the distracting computer. also I recommend a stickman book (I wish I still had the one I bought, so I could reference a title), it’s less daunting when you aren’t looking at someone who’s blow-your-mind-amazing (at least at the beginning).
- try to find karma classes. these classes are usually the busiest, but a great way to test different studios/styles and get yourself going to a studio.
- find a friend to go with you. sometimes it’s uncomfortable to try new things, and it’s always easier when you have a friend.
I really liked yoga, but like I said: it was out of my price range, the class timing wasn’t working or whatever other reasons I had (probably made up a lot of them in my head). So I tried the home practice, I tried a few videos but none were really engaging. I really loved the P90X yoga dvd, but I found he talked a wee bit too much. I actually really stunk at doing yoga at home, until I developed a strong regular practice. Now if I can’t go to the studio, I just fit it in – it feels like my day isn’t complete without it, and I get lost in each practice not thinking about when it will be over.
tips for doing yoga at home:
- find a great video. my dear friend drea, wrote an excellent post about doing yoga at home with kids – and she included a bunch of links to videos she uses. I would also recommend one of the Moksha series videos, Moksha yoga is one of the styles I practice regularly and the sequence is great for beginners to experts. Edit: My Yoga Daily has really great online classes, by tons of fantastic teachers. The Ultimate Yogi is a really great yoga DVD set, especially if you are really interested in the fitness aspect.
- attend a class. it’s really hard, if not impossible to make sure you are doing the poses correctly when you are beginning and home alone (heck, scratch the beginner and just leave home alone). the teachers in classes will give you proper direction and sometimes provide some hands on adjustment. doing a pose improperly can do major damage to your body, so even if you can go to a class once a month it will greatly improve your practice and make sure you are practicing healthy. this link of posture tips, is really great for those times you cannot get to a class – but in no way a substitute for what a class can do for your poses.
- find a quiet space or time. with kids this is hard, but when you are beginning the less distractions the better. try to practice in the morning before everyone gets up, naptime or after bedtime. I like to practice near a window, and away from the kiddo clutter and distractions.
- put your yoga attire on. act as though you are in a class, make the whole thing even the set up part of your ritual.
- how to make it a priority. more tips
I have already seen new styles I haven’t even had a chance to try them all (Spyaga, acrobatic yoga, the list goes from classic to cool real quick), and as far as hot yoga goes it seems every studio has it’s own name for it. Many people fall in love with one style and then graduate to another, or mix in different styles depending on what their body needs. Personally I practice a lot of HOT styles of yoga (I love the sweat): Moksha, a style of hot yoga that is founded on social consciousness and more dynamic in terms of poses (is sort of a mix of Bikram, Vinyasa and Ashtanga – depending on the teacher). Vinyaysa (sometimes called power or flow), you move with breathe and it’s filled with lot’s of flows and sometimes more advanced postures. Yin, a practice filled with stretching, joint and hip openers – I love this style for when I’m feeling super tight. And sometimes I sprinkle in some Pilates (maybe hot) and Hatha. I wrote a post last year specifically about beginner tips for getting started and why I love hot yoga. Finding a style that suits you can be the hardest part, that’s where trying different videos, studios and classes comes in.
tips for finding a style:
- try different studios. sometimes it’s the studio that feels like home and then the style follows suit. also sometimes a studio only offers one or two types of yoga, it’s good to try a couple studios out and test the waters. same goes for videos, there are many great resources for free yoga videos online – test a few out before committing on a video that focuses on one style.
- start with a style that offers progression. some styles, I know Ashtanga and Vinyasa can be a bit more daunting. they of course can be great for beginners – but are also stocked with a lot of advanced yogis which can make you feel a bit like a clumsy doofus when starting (I’m only speaking from experience). Hatha is a great beginner style or a non hot practice and Moksha for hot – in my personal option. you will have to try a couple classes for yourself, before you feel like you found a home and even then you will probably fall in love with a few styles. Passport to Prana, is a great way to test out studios and yoga styles without breaking the bank.
- try and find a studio close to home. this is huge when you are looking for excuses not to go, the close vicinity automatically takes at least 1 or 2 of those excuses away.
Arguably one of the hardest hurdles to get over when you start. As a society, time is always something we are short on. But if you have time to check your phone or watch a show at night, you probably have some time to fit in a regular (or semi regular) workout regime (even if yoga isn’t your thang). At first when I started out, I used to attend classes at night, or practice in the evening when everyone was occupied – but I found for me, the classes left me energized kept me up allll night. Then when I started a daily practice I would go at any time I saw an opening – I would be dressed and ready to go, so when my husband walked in the door I could run out. This was hard, but it worked. Then I realized I could wake up before everyone else and go to the earliest early morning class available. Chris wakes up with the kids and gets to spend a bit of alone time with them, before I come home and I get my physical activity/relaxation/alone time before the day even begins – win, win, winning. Basically I am addicted to 6:30 am classes. The money part, well this is tough and touchy. I had a really hard time making this work, but after doing the Karma classes, practicing at home (and sorta failing), I cut things out of my personal spending (hair cuts and clothes) and moved in daily yoga.
tips for finding time and money:
- attend cheaper karma classes. usually $5 to $7 a pop, but only once a week – if you can find a studio that does them. all Moksha studios have at least one a week (it’s hot though).
- try out the “beginner” packages at a few studios. who said you can’t get beginner package (ranging from 1 free class to $40 for a whole month, depending on the studio) at several studios before locking yourself in. this is also a great way to try different studios and styles.
- cut out other expenses. once you fall in love with yoga, it’s easy to dump a regular haircut, or cut back on monthly clothing/beauty whatever expenses. the way I see it, my healthy (body, mind and spirit health) is more important then some clothes or face cream.
- buy a membership or do an energy trade. after you have done the karma classes/beginner package route, check your studio of choice for membership packages. I pay a set fee, like a gym membership price – and I can go an unlimited amount. really this works out to sometimes making each class under $4, for the amount of times I go in a month. or look into energy trades, many studios offer free yoga if you trade a service or go in and clean/help out a few hours a week. EDIT: Passport to Prana is available in many major cities, it’s a $30 yearly pass to a long list of participating studios – a great affordable way to try different styles, studios and just go to yoga classes.
- find a time that works for you. this may take trial and error, or mean you go once a week – but testing out different times that feel the least stressful to make happen is your best bet.
Yoga clothes are not cheap, and who would have thunk since they don’t cover a lot of our body? Lululemon is by far my favorite, I have pants that I still wear every other day that I got back in 2006! Yoga mats, well this is one that is different for everyone. Lululemon seems to the the mat of choice, especially for when you are starting out – I have had mine for 8 years and it’s just now starting to fall apart, I’d say it’s been pretty good to me. I am now, just starting to look at other mats as I am looking for a mat to suit more specific needs.
tips for buying clothing and gear on a budget:
- start with one outfit. you can wash it every time and I am sure that no one will notice you only wear one outfit – and really who cares if they do. heck I personally only have two, that I wash every night – and I literally practice 6 – 7 days a week. It works and it’s economical.
- find a good mat that you can keep. don’t go super cheap, you will end up replacing it and spending more money in the long run. lululemon is a great place to start, but my yoga teaching best bud says Manduka or Jade mats are the bee’s knees – personally I am about to purchase a Jade, and am SO excited to get it! I maybe can talk more about mats once I update mine. and if it’s hot yoga we are talking about, a towel – those fancy sweat absorbing yoga towels are AMAZING. but a regular towel will do, I have one fancy towel that I save for harder classes when I know I need more grip and will sweat the most. otherwise, I have a stack of oldish towels that are now just for yoga (I like the older towels because they aren’t as fluffy, puffy and slippery).
Like I said, I am not a teacher. But after a year and a half of daily practicing, I feel like I can finally consider myself a yogi (felt like a term I shouldn’t take lightly). This doesn’t make me an expert, but a great person to share my experiences on the same level. Sometimes yoga can be scary, even daunting. You see pictures of these amazing yogis, and think “I’m not flexible enough or I could NEVER do that” but really they all started somewhere too – and usually those people are not the majority in a class. Yoga is what you make of it, and what your body needs that day. It’s not about pushing yourself to be the best (whatever that is), it’s about the breath, the calm and stillness and getting what you personally need in that moment out of that pose. Everyday is different, everybody is different. I know yoga comes across as culty and gives the impression that you need to be amazing and super hippe, and I promise it isn’t the case. It’s beautiful and lovely and it is what you make it to be.
*I am afraid I have become that person who talks about yoga all the time, but I cannot help it – it’s better the sliced bread and almost as good as sleeping. I try to keep it to a minimum on the blog, because I know not all you want to read about it – but sometimes I word vomit about it, it just comes out and I can’t stop.