The Beginners Guide to Yoga
Yoga can provide a multitude of benefits to both the mind and the body. For some, practising regularly can be life changing, providing greater focus and clarity to the mind, as well as strengthening the body and improving overall wellbeing.
To the beginner, yoga can appear complex which results in feeling unsure of where to get started. With a variety of types of yoga, as well as names and terms that mean very little to those that don’t already practice, it can be tricky to know what will suit your needs and ability level best.
The first step to get started with yoga is to better understand the different types of yoga, so that you can decide what might suit you best…
Hatha yoga is a great option for a beginner, as Hatha is generally slower in pace than many other yoga styles. The name ‘hatha’ is an umbrella term for all postures of yoga, and this practice incorporates other styles of yoga such as Iyengar and Ashtanga.
This style of yoga is one of the most popular options. Blending both breathing and physical exercises, it’s physically challenging but also provides a multitude of benefits to the nervous system and mind. A typical hatha class might include some flowing movements, holding some poses for longer, beginners poses as well as more advanced options, and breathing exercises including a restful shavasana to finish.
Ashtanga translates to mean ‘eight limb path’, and is known as being one of the more physically demanding types of yoga. While it might be recommended to the more experienced yoga, if you’re a beginner this doesn’t mean you can’t start with Ashtanga. While there are some challenging poses and as Ashtanga follows a set sequence, you might be expected to give each pose a go, but there’s no harm in trying your best and working towards achieving the poses.
This practice typically involves moving through five sun salutation A’s, followed by five sun salutation B’s. Ashtanga then moves into a series of standing and floor poses. You could also consider trying Mysore-led Ashtanga, which is a form of this practice but at your own pace. It’s generally led by an experienced Ashtanga instructor, but you should get to know the series first so that you can carry out much of the practice yourself, with just a little help from your practitioner.
Adapted from Ashtanga in the 1980s, Vinyasa translates to mean ‘to place in a special way’. The name suggests how this practice is carried out - flowing from one pose to another. Vinyasa can often be fast moving and is considered to be a more athletic form of yoga.
Vinyasa styles and the pace typically depends on the teacher, but what you can be sure of is that you won’t stay still for very long. While Hatha is good for holding poses for a long time and building strength, Vinyasa is good for increasing your heart rate and working up a sweat. Vinyasa can be a good choice for a beginner, you just have to be comfortable with the idea of moving quite quickly. Don’t worry if you get a little left behind from time to time, after a few classes you’ll soon pick up the rhythm.
Also known as hot yoga, Bikram is practiced in a hot and humid room to encourage sweating. Named after its founder Bikram Choudhury, this practice typically includes a sequence of set poses in a room that’s set to around 105 degrees and at 40% humidity. The sequence will include a set of 26 basic postures, and during a class you run through this sequence twice. Bikram isn’t for the faint hearted, but if you’re up for getting really really sweaty while practising yoga, then it’s worth a go.
With a greater focus on the spiritual side, Kundalini is split equally between the physical and the spiritual. ‘Kundalini’ is an energy, which is said to be trapped in the lower spine. The practice focuses on releasing this, by working your core and using fast-paced breathing exercises.
Kundalini can be a bit intense for the beginner, as the breathing exercises can seem unusual, along with chanting, mantra and meditation. This practice is ideal though if you’re looking for a very spiritual form of yoga that will benefit both the mind and body.
Understanding the different types of yoga is the first step towards feeling confident enough to try a new class. In gaining an idea of what might best suit you, or what you might feel most comfortable trying to begin with is half of the battle when it comes to trying something new. Once you find your yoga, you won’t look back.