A look at what you need to know for your first yoga practice....
Welcome to your first encounter with yoga! One of the many reasons to do yoga is that it will make you feel great. Yoga will relax and re-energise you, and it will make you stronger and more flexible.
If you're new to yoga, please take some time to read this article, so you are prepared for your first yoga class.
Stay away from pain
The first thing to know is that you should never do anything that hurts. Of course, you are going to exercise your body, so you will feel your muscles stretching. This can sometimes be a bit painful, but that generally feels like a 'good pain' - the ache of exertion, not the warning pain of injury.
Strengthening your body can be hard work, but again, that feels different than your body trying to alert you that something is not right for you. If you feel a type of “warning” pain, for example sharpness or pinching, ease off. Either the pose you are practising isn’t right for you right now or there could be something wrong with the alignment of your body. Either way, when your body tells you to stop, listen to it! However, if your body reacts with “this is hard” keep going. You are trying to strengthen and change the body, sometimes that means hard work, but trust me it’s worth it.
How often and for how long should I practise yoga?
Even if you practise for 1 hour a week, you will feel so much better. For some people that is enough. Others, because they feel so good with it, will naturally want to practise more. If you can, practise two to three times a week at least. Try to do an hour, or an hour and a half when you can. However, don't let unrealistic expectations stop you from practising 20 minutes, or even 10 minutes! When my life is busy I practise 20 minutes every day and that is all I need to stay balanced, strong and flexible.
Practise however much you can, when you can. Focus on, and be proud of what you do, rather than focusing on what you want to do.
So practise however much you can, when you can. Focus on, and be proud of what you do, rather than focusing on what you want to do.
What is the best time to practise?
The morning is a great time to practise; you wake up stiff from the night, so opening up your body with some yoga sets you up nicely for the day. In the evening, yoga can be a nice way to unwind. In the afternoon it can be a great way to release tiredness from the working day and re-energise after work. Basically, it comes down to whenever you can fit yoga in, that’s the right time for you!
Can I eat before yoga?
You want to have a more or less empty stomach during a yoga session, so leave at least two hours between a main meal and yoga. Digestion of food requires energy and when you do yoga after a meal, your energy goes to the muscles you’re exercising and the body can’t digest the food properly. It is not healthy and won’t feel good to practice yoga on a full stomach. I personally might have half a banana or a handful of nuts if I feel I’m too hungry to practise, to give me the fuel I need.
Try these easy Post Yoga Bites.
What are the benefits of yoga?
Yoga has many physical benefits: It creates a flexible, toned and strong body and it improves breathing, energy and metabolism. Yoga improves circulatory and cardiac health. It improves fitness levels, relieves pain and improves posture. Yoga also provides mental benefits: it makes you happier, more balanced and emotionally calmer. It helps you relax so you can handle stress better. Yoga encourages self-confidence and helps you to focus your energy.
The spiritual benefits of yoga are also key: Yoga teaches you to be aware of what is going on inside and outside of you. Yoga teaches you to be present in your surroundings and open to what is all around!
You will feel some benefits immediately, such as physically feeling tension release and the body opening and muscle strengthening - the "feel good" feeling that keeps people hooked on yoga. Other benefits depend on how much you practise and every person is different. But most people will feel a positive change after a few weeks, if not before.
Can I practise yoga when I am menstruating?
Some women prefer to stop practising yoga when they have their period while others keep going. Most teachers advise not to do inversions (Headstand, Handstand, Forearm Balances) which interrupt the downward flow. Strong twists can be uncomfortable as well. It really depends on the individual however so listen to what your body tells you! A slower, more restorative class might be more beneficial and pleasant for you.
"It really depends on the individual however so listen to what your body tells you!"
One of our teachers Irina Verwer has designed a programme around your cycle. Yoga for Women helps to support you in all phases of your life.
I have a medical problem. Can I still do yoga?
Many people practise yoga as a way to manage their health conditions. There are many different types of classes which suit different health needs and can also be adapted and modified for injuries. However, if you have medical condition or an injury, you should consult a medical practitioner before starting any exercise including yoga. We can not offer medical advice. If you have a medical problem or injury and have not practised yoga before we recommend that you speak to an experienced yoga teacher (or a physical therapist with knowledge of yoga) to check your alignment in poses and to get advice about any poses or movements you need to avoid.
Take a look at some of our Therapeutic classes on specific ailments and body parts.
Can I do yoga while pregnant?
First of all, consult your doctor. You should consult a medical practitioner before attempting any exercise and particularly yoga, to ensure that you do not injure yourself. This is particularly important if you are pregnant.
If you have never done yoga before, the general recommendation is to not start during the first three months of pregnancy, since your body isn’t used to it. If your body is used to doing yoga, however, you can continue. You also need to be aware that during pregnancy the body produces hormones (relaxin) which will make you more flexible especially in the hips and pelvis. Therefore you will need to work on maintaining stability in the joints more so that you do not overstretch them.
Read some advice on yoga during pregnancy from Sandra Carson.
So there you go. There's always more to learn but these are the main topics to get you started. Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments below.
Now it's time to start yoga! Visit our beginners page to help you get started.
Enjoy your practice