20 Things You Must Know Before You Start Practicing Yoga

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Nichole Dandrea-Russert, MS, RDN
Written by Shirin Mehdi

Yoga is such an exciting practice. Its awareness is spreading across the world like wildfire. Everyone seems to be extremely curious to know how a practice that involves stretching can be a solution to so many problems. If you are one among them, here is a guide to what you should know before you join the yoga club.

At the outset, yoga is all about discovering that much-required awareness of your body in both space and time. Whether you assume an inversion, or you are asked to pay attention to a certain movement in your body, when you begin your practice, it may seem awkward. But, consider being open to that learning curve. It’s not as challenging as it may seem – you just need to give it time. With the help of this basic guide, you will know what to expect in your very first class.

A Peep Into The World Of Yoga

A. Embracing The Yoga Basics
B. All About The Practice
C. Beware And Be Aware
D. Yoga Terminology
E. The Fruits Of Yoga

A. Embracing The Yoga Basics

These pointers will prepare you with the basics that you need to join a yoga class. Knowing the few basic rules will give you a little confidence before you enter that class.

1. The Right Clothes And Accessories

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Yoga doesn’t need anything fancy. All you need are loose, comfortable clothes that will allow you to move your body easily. The stretching involves a full range of motion of your limbs. Hence, your clothes should be loose enough to allow for movement, and tight enough to avoid embarrassing situations.

You may also want to invest in a good yoga mat. If you’re unsure if you’ll love yoga, consider purchasing a less expensive mat until you are committed. Once you fall in love with yoga, you could invest in the right mat, depending on the form of yoga you chose. Some yoga studio offer yoga mats for free or a minimal fee.

2. Eat On Time

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It is essential that your stomach and bowels are empty before you commence your practice. You must leave a gap of two to four hours between your last meal and your workout. Practicing on a full stomach may make you uncomfortable.

3. Leave Your Phone And Footwear Outside

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Yoga is practiced with bare feet. It’s all about grounding and connecting your body, therefore, shoes are not required. Leave them on the rack outside of the yoga space.

Yoga requires you to be present in the moment and be fully aware of each and every sensation you experience. A ringing phone will not only distract you but will also disturb those around you. Turn the phone on silent before you enter your yoga class.

4. Do Not Quit Impulsively

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You might love the idea of yoga, but might be disappointed after you join a class. Well, do not lose hope just yet. Try at least three different studios and styles of yoga before you decide that yoga is not for you.

A large bit of the practice also depends on the teacher you chose to guide you through your yoga journey. In fact, it is a must to practice yoga under an experienced trainer. It is alright if you like one teacher more than the other. It is important to connect with and understand your instructor.

Never hesitate to ask your teacher or yoga studio if you need clarification about something. Seek and you shall find!

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B. All About The Practice

Now that you’ve had a glimpse of the essentials, it might be a good idea to know what to expect from a class, and what your approach to yoga should be.

5. Do It For Yourself

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Yoga gives you the much-required break. It is time for yourself. You may find yourself being introspective and focused on you as a being. You may notice this more and more as you continue the yoga practice. Indulge in what feels good, and experiment so that you can discover something new about yourself every time you get on the mat. Everyone’s body is different, so do what feels best for you.

6. Allow Yourself To Relax

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It is sad that in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we deem relaxation as a luxury. Resting and relaxing are necessary. Creating that zen or balance in life is essential. Yoga helps release trapped stress and makes you relax.

Also, take time to rest in between postures if you feel the need. If you feel a posture getting too intense, and your body craves a break, assume Balasana or Child’s Pose. Listen to your body.

7. Pay Attention To Your Breath

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The postures and breathing go hand in hand. It is imperative to focus on your breath and coordinate the movements every time you inhale and exhale. Breathing helps you focus your mind and relax your body. Remember, you will be able to progress better when you are aware of your breathing.

8. Push Yourself, But Do Not Force A Pose

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You have to listen to your body. While it is important to push yourself to progress, if your body says no, listen to it and stop immediately. Yoga is about breaking free of inhibitions, and not going through pain. Also, you must gradually progress. You may not achieve a pose completely, but you can work in that direction. It is important to do each pose with integrity and intention, which builds character off the mat and in daily life.

Every pose has a modification and advancement. If you do not get the current posture right, you do not have to progress to the next step.

Also, remember that injury is a reality, and it does happen in yoga. Follow the teacher’s guidance, listen to your body and minimize any risks.

9. Do Not Compare

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Never compare yourself with your fellow practitioners. Yoga is a non-competitive practice. Just be aware of your own abilities.

Yoga can be done by just about anyone irrespective of age, fitness levels, health, etc. It is important to understand that yoga is a journey and not a destination. It is all about the union of the mind, body, and spirit. Concentrate on that, and not on what or how the person next to you performs.

10. Yoga Can Be Intense – But It Doesn’t Have To Be

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There are different kinds of people all around, and while some like their workout to be fast-paced and intense, others like a smooth, slow sailing form of exercise. Yoga is a set of stretches, and depending on what you want, you could pick the faster paced Bikram Yoga, Hot Yoga, Vinyasa or Ashtanga Yoga, or the slower paced Yin Yoga, Iyengar Yoga or Kundalini Yoga forms. Whatever you choose, the benefits will remain the same. Yoga has something for everyone! A little bit of research and you will find your calling.

11. You Do Not Have To Be Ultra Flexible

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You might shun the idea of yoga, simply because you are not strong or flexible, and cannot even imagine doing the Ashtavakrasana, or whatever it is that your neighbor can.

While you are joining a yoga class to become strong and flexible, it is not a prerequisite. Nobody is watching you!

You must also remember that yoga is not about visual appearances. A typical yoga studio may not have mirrors. This is because the focus should be on your stretch and how you feel, and not on how you look.

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C. Beware And Be Aware

These are a few points of caution. Be clear and transparent about any issues at the outset. Only if your instructor knows your issues ahead of time, they will be able to help and guide you.

12. Let Your Teacher Know

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Inform your instructor of your injuries and ailments to make sure you have a safe practice. If you have high blood pressure, heart conditions, or dizziness, your teacher must know. These ailments may be contraindicated, and your guide might modify a certain asana if it is not meant for you.

Also, as you are new to the practice, the stretching might cause your body to react in certain ways. Notice how your body feels. If anything feels very off to you, let your instructor know. Otherwise, you may gently notice your body opening in areas that haven’t been open before!

13. Yoga During Menstruation And Pregnancy

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During your menstrual cycle, it is recommended to avoid inversions.

Also, if you are pregnant and want to start yoga, consult your doctor first. Consider prenatal classes. If you have been practicing yoga already, let your instructor know once your pregnancy is confirmed. She/he might modify some postures to make your practice comfortable. Meditation and relaxation techniques are highly recommended for the benefit of both mother and child.

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D. Yoga Terminology

It is important to know some basic yoga terms that your instructor is likely to use. In all likeliness, you will join a class that has been on for a while, so your teacher might use those terms anyway. If you know them, you won’t be lost.

14. Asana

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A yoga pose or posture is called an asana. It is a Sanskrit word.

15. A Full Yoga Breath

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A typical full yoga breath is when you inhale deeply, but without any force. The breath first goes into the lower lungs, thereby allowing your abdomen to rise visibly. It then fills the mid-portion of the lungs, where you will feel the sides of the ribs expand. You finally take the air to the top of the lungs, thereby feeling your chest rise. Once you have filled your lungs to their full capacity, exhale slowly, and relax.

Taking every breath of our lives like this is essential. Fortunately, yoga gives us a chance to do so.

16. Pranayama

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Pranayama or life force comprises of yogic breathing techniques. These are used as effective tools for both stress management and in the preparation of the mind for meditation.

17. Meditation

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Through meditation, you attain peace of mind. The techniques in this practice can be used to develop concentration, increase your focus and attention span, and relax completely. With meditation, you can overcome a restless mind with ease.

18. Yoga Nidra

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Yoga Nidra is another technique that allows deep relaxation. It works on the physical, mental, and spiritual levels, and allows you to expand and deepen your inner peace. It is a technique we could all use to instill tranquility in our stressful lives.

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E. The Fruits Of Yoga

All right! We’ve covered everything from what you need for a class to the practice itself, and some basic terms. But what will yoga do? Well, in this segment, we will talk about the benefits of this fantastic practice that some call, “an expression of life.”

19. Yoga Will Improve Not Only Your Health, But Also The Quality Of Life

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First and foremost, you must have patience when you practice yoga. Yoga does not yield results in a day, and it is only about a month after you begin practicing that you will see noticeable results. But you will see results for sure, and these are a few to name.

1. Reduced stress
2. Improved, enhanced posture
3. Enhanced flexibility and strength
4. Relaxed breathing
5. Clarity of thoughts
6. Improved self-esteem
7. Ideal weight
8. A boost of energy
9. Inner peace and happiness

20. Never Take Your Practice Too Seriously

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When I make a statement like this, it doesn’t mean you don’t practice with commitment; it just means that you must have fun as you practice. Enjoy this long and never-ending journey of improving your flexibility and activating your muscles. Yoga is not a passive practice – indulge in it, and take an interest in every move you make. Learn and improve as you go on, but most importantly, smile through your daily practice.

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This is all about the basics of yoga for beginners. Yoga is an incredible practice. You are bound to enjoy those yummy stretches and long breaths. I hope you can leave behind your apprehensions and dive head on to experience this wonderful exercise and all its benefits. If you have more doubts or questions, we will be happy to address them.

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A jack of many trades and a master of some, Shirin is a writer, a fashion designer, and a chef by her own acclaim. She loves food, and though she might want to call herself a great cook, she just falls short of seasoning. She also loves Yoga, and has extensive knowledge about the postures of the asanas. Always muddled up between traditions and modernism, she thinks she would have been a better fit in the vintage era. She loves life and believes in living it up to the fullest.