Doing yoga at home has increased in the last few months as many countries have undergone some sort of lockdown. Even my non-yogi friends have also asked for easy tips to help them do yoga at home.
Yoga can be frustrating if you try to focus on learning too many things at once – pose names, pose alignment, how to move, how to breathe… you get it. Unless you focus on the right things, it is easy to say that yoga is “too difficult”.
Here’s my personal take on starting yoga for complete beginners:
You do not need to start with full-length video classes, which is what everyone is doing. In fact, I believe that videos are harder for beginners to focus on because you have to listen, perform the poses, look at the video, all at once.
Instead, try to find a good guide that provides simple poses with detailed guidelines so that you can practise at your own pace. This can be in the form of video tutorials or books. Get familiar with these poses before moving on to video-based yoga classes.
It should help you get a more positive experience (and health benefits)!
So this post aims to simplify the whole idea of doing yoga at home. It highlights the top 8 tips to get you started and introduces some basic yoga poses that bring great health benefits and are commonly practised in yoga.
Top 8 Tips for Beginner Yogis
1. Find a program you like
There are a lot of yoga programs available for flexibility, strength, stress relief, etc. These can be in the format of videos or books. Some are suitable for beginners, and some are not.
Try to find a beginner program that provides all of the basics to yoga before progressing further.
If you are not able to find a program that suits you, you may wish to consider private yoga classes. These are taught individually where your yoga teacher will define a yoga program that suits your experience, goals, preferences and needs. This means that you do not need to fear not following a class, or going for a class that is too challenging/easy for you.
Private yoga classes can be delivered online (these tend to be more affordable) or face-to-face in your preferred location (these tend to be more convenient but more expensive).
2. Create a plan and stick to it
Once you have found a program you like, create a plan that works for you. If you only have 30 minutes to spare in the morning, try not to plan for a full 60-minute session. Try not to be overly ambitious – start small and ramp up the intensity/duration over time when you get used to the yoga practice.
Write down your plan – yes, even in this digital world it is important to have your plan printed or written in paper format.
Pin your plan on somewhere visible.
Stick to it.
Even if you are not able to complete a practice, coming to the mat a few minutes daily is more effective than practising one long session every month.
3. Keep Breathing
Always remember to breathe deeply, by that I mean breathing into your belly and mid-body and not just your chest. Whether you are sitting down, resting, or performing any yoga pose, remember to breathe deeply.
This will help you to stay calm and aware of your mind and body.
4. Listen to your body. Don’t compare.
Everyone’s body is different – we all have different limitations and abilities.
While it is important to learn from the experienced yogis, the best teacher is still your body. Learn to stay very aware of how your body feels while doing a yoga pose. If something feels wrong or hurts, stop what you are doing regardless of what the teacher is saying.
This is why I lean towards a self-practice at home – it is possibly the most conducive environment to learning to stay conscious and present to your body. You start practising slower than usual (for the sake of safety), and you start tuning into your mind and body more keenly.
5. Rest in child’s pose whenever you need to
Again, this follows the message of listening to your body. It doesn’t matter if the whole class can do a Downward Dog for minutes on end and you seem to be the only one who is struggling.
When you find that your breath is becoming laboured and you are unable to keep up, then stop. Take a break. Come into Child’s Pose or pause the video if you are taking an online class.
It is more important to honour your body than to push through your limits. This can risk injury and even health issues.
6. Modify, modify, modify
Whether you are suffering from injuries, chronic pain or muscular limitations, remember to modify poses to work for your body.
This means using props such as straps or blocks to help you reach comfortably without straining your muscles.
This means bending your knees to protect your joints.
This means going for easy variations instead of aiming for the toughest one.
Treat your body like a temple and modify poses to benefit rather than hurt it.
7. Find like-minded friends to support you on your journey
Join a community! This can be in the form of an online community or with your studio friends or anyone whom you can look to for motivation and support as you start your yoga journey.
When I first started yoga, studios were not as popular as they are today. My support system came from the few online yoga groups and blog communities available on the internet.
Today you have a lot more choices than I had. Find a community that is rooted in the yogic tradition, that promotes holistic wellness and self-care rather than focuses only on yoga poses. Find one that you can go to regularly for motivation.
8. Journal your progress and thoughts
Everyone has a different reason for coming to yoga. Some people are searching for ways to reduce stress, some to increase flexibility and strength, and others to become healthier and balanced.
Whatever your reason, start to journal your practice. While we start yoga from different starting points and reasons, most of us end up growing in the process, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically.
Journaling is a way to help you see how far you have come when you look back months or years in the future.
It helps you to stay encouraged as you see measurable progress in your health.
It also helps you to stay patient, because you will find that change occurs when you keep putting in the effort – it doesn’t occur overnight.