Beginner Yoga Exercises – How to Start a Successful Yoga Practice
May 1, 2020
Starting a yoga practice can be daunting to say the least. You may have seen photos of slender yogis doing intimidating poses and thought, “there’s no way I can do that”. Or you may believe that you are not at the right level of fitness or flexibility to even get started with yoga. Well I am here to introduce to you the beginner yoga exercises that will help anyone, even YOU, to get started with a successful yoga practice.
When I say this, I am not referring so much to actual yoga poses (although later in this article I will walk you through some basic moves) instead, I will lay out the steps (aka exercises) to take in order to set yourself up for success in beginning a yoga practice.
I have broken the process down into 4 easy to follow steps:
- Decide where you are comfortable doing yoga and what level of instruction you wish to receive.
- Create space in your life for this new activity.
- Get yourself the right equipment to practice with.
- Lastly and most importantly, stick with it!
1. Find an Environment that Resonates with You
First thing is first, decide where you want to do your yoga. This is a big step in the beginning because if you are not comfortable with the environment or instructor that you have chosen, then you are not likely to keep doing it. Pick somewhere, someone or something that you like and that you resonate with, and you will be much more likely to stick with a consistent practice.
You have 3 main choices to get started with beginner yoga exercises:
- Find a public class to attend
- Get private instruction
- Do yoga online
I will walk you through the pros and cons of each of these choices so that you can make the decision that works best for you and your life.
1. Public or Studio Classes
One of the most accessible and effective ways to start a yoga practice, is to find a yoga studio or a place within your community that offers yoga classes. Nowadays, depending on where you live, there are usually many different studios and classes to choose from.
The classes at a yoga studio will most likely be labeled to indicate the level and the style of class. To begin, I recommend looking for a level one class, or a class that indicates that it is geared toward beginner students. The particular type of yoga does not matter too much at this point, you will figure out what style you like as you progress and try different things.
Pros of Public Classes
- Yoga studios offer the most ideal environment in which to practice
- Live instructor in the room to keep you safe and give you correction on your form
- Group dynamic can inspire, energize and keep you going
- Group dynamic tends to hold you accountable to stay in the room and not give up
- Can be done with friends, and can create community and new connections
- Lots of class options with varying price ranges
Cons of Public Classes
- It can be hard to get personalized instruction in a group setting, depending on the class size
- You must show up for designated class times and practice on studios schedule
- Can be intimidating when you are new, or if you are self-conscious
To find classes in your area, you can do a quick google search. Search for either “yoga classes near me” or “yoga studios near me”. This should give you an idea on where to start. Also, your local community center, YMCA, church, college, etc. may provide classes. Yoga is growing in popularity every day, so it should be relatively easy to find something near you.
2. Private Yoga Instruction
Private yoga instruction can be great when you are a beginner because you get personalized, one on one instruction with an experienced yoga teacher. While this option will cost you the most, it can be highly effective and encouraging when first getting started. You will most likely see the fastest results with this option because the instruction is personalized and you will get real time correction on your form.
Pros of Private Instruction
- Personalized yoga classes, tailored to your specific body, needs and goals
- Can have more flexible scheduling options, depending on the teacher
- Can be done at your home or other private venue
- If you are self-conscious about doing yoga in front of others, this is a more comfortable option
- A more relaxed environment, encouraging questions and an open dialogue about your body and the practice
- Private instructor will hold you more accountable to stay on track with your goals
Cons of Private Instruction
- Typically the most expensive option for yoga instruction
- If practicing at your own home, there can be more distractions
- No group dynamic or energy
- Lacks community aspect of public classes
You may be asking, “How do I find or choose a teacher for private instruction?” This can be a difficult question, especially if you are new to the yoga world. If you haven’t taken any studio classes that you like, or have a recommendation from someone else, the best way to find a teacher would be to go into your local yoga studios and inquire about private instruction. The studios will most likely be able to recommend a teacher or at least be able to point you in the right direction. From there, choose someone that you like and that you will feel comfortable spending time with.
3. Online Classes
The final option is to begin your yoga practice online. This choice has been gaining a lot of momentum over the past few years and may now be the #1 way in which people get started with yoga.
Pros of Online Classes
- Most affordable way to practice, sometimes even free
- Most flexible scheduling options, do yoga when and where you want
- Practice in the privacy of your own home or other place of choice
- If you are self-conscious about doing yoga in front of others, this is the most comfortable option
- Most accessible option, especially if there are no classes or studios near you
Cons of Online Classes
- No personalized form correction, hard to know if you are doing it correctly or staying safe
- There can be more distractions when practicing in your own home; phones, pets, kids etc.
- No group dynamic or energy, lacks community aspect
- No one to hold you accountable or help you stay focused
These days there are a ton of online yoga classes to choose from, ranging from completely free to paying a relatively low monthly subscription fee. A quick internet search will give you many options. From there you are welcome to try different teachers and styles and choose something or someone that you like. As a beginner, and especially without a live instructor to help you out, please start slow with classes geared toward beginners and be safe.
2. Create Space
Step #2 when beginning a yoga practice is to create space in your life for this new activity. Whether that means creating space in your busy schedule, in your mind, or quite literally in your home for yoga, make this a priority.
One of the biggest excuses that people make when starting something new, is that they don’t have the time. The truth is, is that if it is important to you, you will make the time to do it. If you can commit to dedicating just a few hours per week to a yoga practice, and stick with it, you will see tangible results in no time.
3. Set Yourself Up for Success with the Right Equipment
The next step is to get yourself some proper yoga equipment. This is an important and often overlooked step when beginning a yoga practice. The good news is that you don’t really need much to practice yoga, but there are a few key items that will definitely set you up for success right off the bat:
- A decent yoga mat
- Proper yoga attire
- Yoga props
1. If you only purchase 1 piece of yoga equipment, get a decent yoga mat! All yoga mats are not created equally and newbies often think that any old mat will do (usually the cheapest option). This is simply not the case if you want to start out your practice strong and successfully. A decent yoga mat will run you anywhere from around $30-$150 but will last for many years and is truly a worthy investment.
The biggest problem with cheap yoga mats is that there is not enough grip and you will find your hands and feet sliding around on the mat. This can be incredibly distracting and makes your practice more difficult (and less safe) than it needs to be. The cheaper mats will also fall apart much quicker and you will end up spending the same amount in the long run,
To find the best mat for your particular needs, I recommend doing a google search for “best yoga mats” and making comparisons from there. My personal favorite brands for yoga mats are Manduka, Liforme, and Lululemon.
2. Proper yoga attire. While most gym or athletic wear will also work just fine, to determine if you have the proper attire for yoga, ask your self these questions:
- Can I move in all directions, bend over and stretch comfortably and without restriction in these clothes?
- For Women – Is my bra or top supportive for low impact activity and does it provide enough coverage on all sides?
- For Men – Do my shorts provide enough support and coverage when moving in various ways?
- Are my leggings, pants or shorts see through when I bend over? (The answer should be NO here)
If you answered YES to all these questions except the last one, then you are good to go! If not, then you may want to think about getting an outfit designed for yoga practice. There are pretty affordable options available at places like Target, Walmat or sports outlet stores, so don’t feel the need to splurge on high end yoga brands.
3. Yoga props include things like yoga blocks, yoga straps and bolsters. These can be very helpful when starting a yoga practice to make the poses more accessible and help you achieve the proper form and alignment.
While props can be super helpful, they are not always 100% necessary, so you can make the decision to invest in these or not. Most yoga studios will have props available for use, and if practicing at home there are many household items that you can improvise with. If working on a budget, focus on getting yourself a decent mat and proper attire first.
4. Stick With It – Consistency is Key
This final step is pretty self-explanatory and ties in big time with step #2. Create space in your life for a yoga practice and then STICK WITH IT! It really can be that simple if you make the commitment to do it. If you are able to, aim to practice yoga 2-4 days per week. If one day is all you can squeeze in, that’s great too, it’s definitely a start.
The key here is to create a yoga schedule that works with your life and that you can commit to on a regular basis. This will help you to develop a routine that you will be more likely to continue with. For example, it’s better to do one yoga class per week consistently, then to do 3 classes in one week and then take 3 weeks off.
Obviously, the more time you put in to this new activity, the quicker you will experience results, but try not to stress yourself out over getting it done. After all, yoga is supposed to help you relieve stress right? Like any activity, if you create a stressful situation in your mind about doing it, then you will probably be miserable and soon give up on it.
My advice is to be patient with yourself, breathe and enjoy the process. If yoga is something that resonates with you, you will find the time for it.
Beginner Yoga Exercises to Try Right Now
Now that you have all the info on how to begin a successful yoga practice, here are some super simple beginner yoga exercises that you can try right away:
1. Breath with Movement – Arms Overhead
This is a great beginner yoga exercise to learn to start breathing deeper and uniting your breath with your movement.
- Stand up nice and tall with your feet hips width apart
- Take the time to ground down through all four corners of both feet and feel equally balanced between them
- Engage your legs and direct your tailbone toward the earth
- Elongate your spine, draw your core in and then broaden through your chest and collar bones
- Lengthen your neck and center the crown of your head over the rest of your body
- Breathe in through your nose as you reach your arms out to the side and overhead.
- Sync your breath with your movement and take your entire inhale to get your arms overhead
- Relax your shoulders away from your ears
- Breathe out through your nose as you return your arms to your sides
- No need rush, take your entire exhale breath to lower your arms
- Repeat this motion many times as you build a continuity between your breath and your movement
2. Standing Forward Fold
This pose will help you to release tension and lengthen both your hamstring and your spine.
- Start standing with your feet hips width apart
- Place your hands on your hips and lengthen your spine
- Bend your knees a lot and with a flat back, hinge from your hips and fold forward over your legs
- Release your hands from your hips and either place them on the ground or grab for opposite elbows
- Keep your knees bent and aim to connect your belly with your thighs
- Shift your weight more toward the balls of your feet equally
- Allow the weight of your upper body to release and lengthen your spine, especially your low back
- Stay here for several deep breaths
- When you are ready to come out, release your hands toward the ground
- Keep your knees bent and slowly roll up to a standing position
One of the most important poses in all of yoga, this pose will teach you to relax completely and clear your mind.
- Lie down on your back on your yoga mat or on the ground
- If your low back is sensitive here, option to place a rolled up towel under each knee
- Take up space, allow your legs to be separate and roll your toes naturally outward
- Bring your arms away from your body so they are not touching your sides
- Allow the ground to comfortably support your entire body
- If comfortable with it, close your eyes
- Try to allow your mind to relax and think of nothing
- Stay here and breathe for 2-5 minutes
- When ready to exit, slowly roll over to one side and push your self up to a comfortable seat
Congrats on Committing to Your Health & Wellness
Congratulations on wanting to get started with yoga, and taking a step toward your overall health & wellness!! Yoga is a vast and wonderful practice and when done consistently, can greatly enhance your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being.
In this article, I have laid out some simple and effective tips to help you get started with a yoga practice. I hope that you have found it helpful! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Best of luck to you as you begin your yoga journey! Stay tuned and know that I am here as your friend, as a guide and as a fellow human trying to live and understand this life the best that I can.
The light in me, sees and honors that light in you.