Questions about Yoga for beginners
What is the best yoga for beginners?
This really depends on you as an individual – how comfortable you are trying something new, whether you do any other exercise, and whether you have any conditions, disabilities or injuries.
I would recommend a beginners class or series first. I regularly run Foundations of Yoga workshops for beginners, sign up to my mailing list at the bottom of this page if you want kept up to date with when those are.
If you have a condition, disability or injury, you might want to start with the www.yogable.org
classes, then, when you have developed confidence and ways to adapt your practice, you might feel confident enough to join other yoga classes.
Restorative Yoga can also be good for beginners. It’s a relaxing yoga class that doesn’t require getting up and down from the floor, it introduces you to what a yoga class is like and how to get used to a slower, more meditative type of exercise.
What do I need for yoga?
Wear anything you feel comfortable in that will allow you to move about freely. I like to wear trousers that are the right amount of baggy or leggings with a lot of elasticity, and a t-shirt, vest or sports top. Bring an extra layer and a blanket for relaxation.
Bring water, and a towel if you’re prone to working up a sweat. It’s preferable to practice in bare feet, but you can get yoga socks that have grips and holes for your toes. I find they get in the way, but they would be better than normal socks (very slippy).
If you plan to practice regularly, I would recommend a mat and two blocks (really worth the small investment). I prefer brick blocks and two of the same size.
Mats range from £5 to £150. I think a reasonable amount to spend on a mat if you are planning on using it several times a week for a year or two, is between £30 and £60. Online, I really like www.yogamatters.com, in shops, you can often get a really good buy at TK Maxx where you will get blocks too.
I like a relatively thick, grippy mat – better for downward dog and for balancing on your hands. A nice, soft, cushioned one can be good for delicate knees, but they can be more difficult to balance on and might stretch when you are in Warrior and other standing postures. Another option is to buy a knee pad, which you can pick up relatively cheap – or have a cushion or blanket within reach.
How much do yoga classes cost?
Now there is a question… The cost of yoga classes varies greatly worldwide. I have based my prices on the average price for yoga classes in Ayrshire, where I am from. That is generally between £5 and £10 per class. Most yoga teachers, including me, have packages and discounts available. My classes are £7 pay as you go, and I have subscriptions and class passes available. I have an On-Demand Library of classes that you can pay for monthly and use as much a you like in your own time. I have discount rates available for the pay as you go classes for anyone who can’t afford the full price.
You can get classes cheaper or free (often subsidised by local authorities or charities) and you can get free online yoga classes on YouTube. I regularly practice on Youtube and pay for some subscriptions with classes and local teachers I love.
What are the different styles of yoga?
There are many, many different styles of yoga including but not limited to:
Hatha Yoga (including Sivananda Yoga)
What is a chaturanga and why is it so hard?
Chaturanga dandasana means four (chatur) limb (anga) staff (danda) pose (asana). In English, we call it low plank.
You go into a high plank, then you lower your body down until the elbows are in line with the shoulders. You can bring your knees down to lower down.
And why is chaturanga so hard?? It’s basically a slow push up in reverse with your elbows tucked in – or a reverse triceps push up. It requires a lot of shoulder, back and core strength. You do not have to do it to practice Vinyasa Flow or any of my classes, but if you want to be really strong – learn how to do it properly. Check out this video with some props and tips if you are a beginner.
Will I be able to do yoga even if I am stiff and not flexible?
I love this meme, because it is so true! I was not flexible in all parts of my body when I started yoga. I could not touch my toes, I could not do the splits, I could not step my foot in between my hands from Downward Dog. Over time, you will become more flexible in your muscles where that is possible. But remember, the point is to move, stretch, strengthen and care for your body - not to look a certain way.
Am I too fat/old/unfit for yoga?
Nobody is too anything for yoga. I always recommend trying a few different teachers when you start out so that you can find a teacher and a class that you feel comfortable with. I would say that in Ayrshire, yoga is mostly taught by inclusive teachers to classes with a wide mix of ages, sizes and capabilities.
Is Savasana or Yoga Nidra just like having a nap?
The intention is to stay awake in Savasana and Yoga Nidra, but particularly when it is guided, people drift in and out of consciousness. And yes, some people fall asleep.
There are great benefits to entering deep relaxation while keeping an awareness of breath and body without distracting thoughts. Sleep has its own benefits, but it’s different.
“Relaxing has been shown to improve our mood and cognitive functioning, like decision making and memory, and lowers the risk for depression, anxiety, and other heart-related issues. Additionally, when we relax, we boost our immunity and this can sometimes curb our desire of sugary fatty treats!” (https://psychprofessionals.com.au/rest-vs-relaxation/
So try to stay awake, but I say, if you are exhausted – then take the 10 minutes rest however it comes.
I can’t get my mind to shut off during breathing, relaxation or meditations, what should I do?
Stop trying so hard. Being able to sit or lie still and let whatever is going on happen without resistance takes practice – like everything else in yoga.
In many of my classes, we start with a body scan – to take our awareness inside the body and observe whatever sensations come up. We try to do that with the mind as well as the body.
The most important thing is not to judge yourself about anything. Don’t try and fight thoughts, don’t let your inner critic commentate on the fact that you can’t be still. Just let thoughts come and go. It’s not about emptying your mind. Your mind creates thoughts naturally, there is nothing wrong about that. You simply observe the mind doing whatever it is doing – kindly and without judgement.
Will yoga help my mental health?
I have found a great change in my mental health since taking up yoga. There are many reasons for this – physical, mental and spiritual. Yoga helps you to feel connected to yourself and to everything else – in a really subtle way. This has made me much more accepting of my body, my mind, my life, the Universe…
Many, many people say that they sleep better after yoga and particularly after a live class, and usually there is a feeling of overall wellbeing.
When you begin to follow the philosophy of yoga or Buddhism, including self-inquiry and meditation, you begin to look at all the habits you have formed that are causing your suffering, and you begin to find ways to let go of your hold on things. For example, letting go of the need to be right, the need to feel in control, the need to be liked, of grudges, judgments and blaming yourself and others. A huge part of my yoga and meditation practice has been forgiving myself and others and cultivating peace of mind and compassion. That has greatly improved my acceptance of myself and of the life I find myself living.
There is also an undeniable link between physical health and mental health, and so when your physical body is healthy, it has a positive effect on your mental health.
For more about this infographic go to yogaed.com/resource/your-brain-on-yoga
What are the benefits of yoga?
Yoga has many physical benefits, including strengthening your muscles and increasing your flexibility. It will also teach you about your relationship to your body, your numerous senses (there are way more than five and as many as 21), how you approach challenges and discomfort, how to relax, how to focus and many more things. Check out my blog on the Unexpected Benefits of Yoga for more.
The physical aspect of moving through yoga asanas (postures) is just one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, there are seven others, which include - yama (abstinences), niyama (observances), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption).
In very simple terms, yoga is about learning to feel connected to your mind, body and spirit. You can learn all about the why and what and how come, or you can just experience it.
In regular weekly classes, I often focus on a theme or encourage you to draw your attention to something – whether that is a body part, or a philosophical idea.
In workshops, we often delve more into the philosophy and the self-inquiry side of it - go to my page www.vhairislavenyoga.com/workshops for a list of all online and live yoga workshops in Ayrshire.