A guest blog written by Jane Grates
Beginning exercise for the first time in your life, or for the first time after a significant time away, can be fairly intimidating. We all know that there are a whole host of benefits to be gained from regular exercise, but many of us come up with many excuses and reasons — valid or invalid — that preclude us from taking up this daily or near-daily habit. Here’s the thing, though: what if I told you that you could figure out a way to exercise most every day, make some physical and emotional gains from it, and do something positive for your body and your stress level in the process? Did I mention that you could also do this from the comfort of your living room, if you wanted?
The routine: your very own yoga practice.
Yoga has been around for literally thousands of years, and its popularity seems to have surged in the past decade, no doubt in part due to social media exploding. Many people have misconceptions about what yoga is or isn’t, like that it’s something slow and boring or only for senior citizens, or that you have to be a complete hippie to do it, but one compelling thing about yoga is its versatility. There’s really some type of yoga out there for everyone.
When you’re first getting started with yoga, you may be overwhelmed with it; this is normal! Just think: when was the last time you did something, some activity, that you’ve never done before, and you were an absolute expert at it from the get-go? (Answer: probably never). There’s always a learning curve involved when we try something new; that’s part of what makes the experience fun and exciting.
Below, I’ll provide you with some tips for how you can start your own yoga practice. Though I’m not a licensed or certificated yoga instructor, I love the sport just as much as any other athlete out there, and I speak from experience with my tips.
Do a needs or wants assessment. Before you begin your own yoga practice, ask yourself what you’re seeking to get out of your yoga practice. What are your wants — or needs — that you’d like to derive from this activity? This is an important question, with important ramifications, because it can determine the actual type of yoga you practice. Someone with limited mobility, for example, will likely not do the same type of yoga as a professional endurance athlete, nor will someone doing yoga for stress relief do the same type of yoga as either of the aforementioned. Ask yourself what you’d like to gain from your practice, and that will help direct you accordingly.
Do some research. Once you know what, exactly, you’d like to get from your yoga practice, do some research. Read online about the different types of yoga that are available, ask your friends who already practice, and if you’re feeling particularly ambitious, talk to some local yoga studios and see if you can do some drop-in, complimentary, no-obligation classes. Before you shell over any money to your new hobby, it’d behoove you to find something that you think will help satisfy for wants/needs.
If you’re feeling uneasy, stay at home. The internet makes it easy to access tons of yoga for free online, and all different types, too, which makes it pretty convenient to practice from the comfort of your own living space. In addition, following along with online yoga videos allows you to do things at your own pace — allowing you to start and stop as you need to — and you’re not financially on the hook for anything, unless you’ve already purchased the basics, like a mat or some yoga blocks and props. The downside, of course, is that you won’t be working under the tutelage of a trained instructor who could help you make modifications or correct your form, but the convenience of practicing at home is pretty sweet. Plus, you may feel intimidated or silly when you’re first beginning; that’s ok! You can still get in a good practice at home.
If you’re feeling ready, go for it, and connect with local studios. If you feel like you’ll get a better practice and experience by going to a brick and mortar yoga studio in your community, go for it. When you’re learning something new like yoga, it can be tremendously helpful to do it in person with someone who’s qualified in instructing others, someone who can also help you with any changes you need to make or who can help answer your questions. It can be inconvenient or more expensive to go to an actual studio, but you’ll also get a different, perhaps richer, experience, too. If your schedule and finances allow for it, practicing at a local studio may be an excellent way for you to begin your practice and then elevate it, taking your abilities to the next level.
We all stand to benefit so much from incorporating more regular activity, and from reducing stress, in our lives, and getting into a consistent yoga practice is a fantastic way of doing both. There are pros and cons to practicing yoga at home versus in a yoga studio, but ultimately, you can glean benefits from both; it’s just a matter of finding the best fit for you and your life. Lastly, remember to pace yourself and to be patient with yourself when you’re first beginning your yoga practice. It can be easy — tempting, even — to want to quit quickly because you may feel like you’re not mastering the basics, but go easy on yourself. Enjoy the process and journey of learning something new. Your health will be glad you did.
Jane Grates is an award-winning web lover and the Co-manager of Health sites like Runner click, Gear We Are , That Sweet Gift and Born Cute. A travel scholar, writer, health enthusiast and food and health practitioner.