First of all, congratulations on your decision to look into the subject of Yoga!
Second of all, free yourself of any big expectations toward yourself and toward big results from your first few practices.
You will notice effects for sure but stay realistic and humble; you won’t be super-flexible after one session when you haven’t been before and maybe it will take quite a while before you achieve a proper headstand. But fair enough because that’s already part of the game.
The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means to connect, to unite or to unify. So, from a philosophical perspective, Yoga refers to the connection of the individual and the universal consciousness. From a more fleshly, practical point of view, Yoga means the balance between body, mind and emotions.
When we first look on the physical aspects, Yoga is not about how flexible you are or how you appear on the mat. It is about your interest to work patiently on your flexibility and strength in the same time and therefore being honest to yourself. Do it, but do not overdo it, accept where you are without judging yourself. Instead, focus where you want to go one day within each asana, which is the Sanskrit name for the poses in Yoga.
Yoga is all about letting go; physically letting go of tensions and tightness and mentally letting go of fears, unhealthy memories or habits or whatever you need to let go of.
In the long run Yoga is about letting go of negative patterns and maybe changing some ways of behaving and acting in the everyday life. For example, maybe not getting too angry so fast anymore because of having learned to be more accepting or maybe being more thankful having learned to value every little progress within your practice.
Our bodies are constantly dealing with lots of patterns and tensions, sometimes for years and years, so don’t expect to change this within a few sessions. The same is true of your mind by the way. If you can do this, you have successfully completed the first step already and regular Yoga practices will get you moving forward – physically and mentally.
And don’t take things too seriously! Practice with fun and enjoy all the things you can explore including falling out of a pose and trying it again – just like children do. And allow yourself to see Yoga as a playground!
There are different styles of Yoga, so take your time to give them all a try and find out which style fits you best. Go to classes or choose online platforms and tutorials and explore the broad variety of styles and teachers.
Like children go to a playground to do different things, Yoga too is a very personal thing regarding what you like and what you maybe don’t like. There is no right or wrong, no good or bad. It’s all about finding what suits and is beneficial for you.
And also, just like a playground, you don’t lots need fancy equipment to get started! While there is stuff you can buy, all you really need for your first practice is not-too-stretchy mat (my favourites mats explained here), an open mind, and some non-restrictive clothes.
When it comes to Yoga, proper breathing is essential and is a big part of all yoga practice. In Yoga we use the word of pranayama which basically means the control of the breath. Prana describes the vital force which the life energy circulating in all things and beings. Ayama means control and also means a kind of extension of all things.
To be very precise, pranayama is about extending the dimension of the life energy prana. So, in general, the pranayama techniques help us to activate and to regulate our life energy and thereby gain a higher energy level. You’ll soon learn that breathing is a very powerful part of Yoga.
As Yoga is about the balance between body, mind and emotions, the breath is the most important thing to connect your body and mind. So, don’t get mad in your first few sessions when you mix up your breathing and the movements, for forget to breathe while you focus on a new pose. Instead, take your time to explore your breathing and enjoy getting used to controlling your breath.
Changing the way you breath can really help you to calm down when stressed or even cool down with when you get too hot. You’ll learn these useful techniques in time.
So let’s start getting a feeling for breathing!
Sit in an upright position, lengthen your spine, relax your shoulders away from your ears, gently close your eyes and just breath. Focus on the way the air moves while you inhale – nose, throat, chest and lungs and all the way down to the belly.
And then do the same as it goes back the other way – exhale all the air out from the belly, the rib-cage, the throat and the nostrils.
Do it a couple of times and try to exhale for as long as you inhale.
This is the basic breathing method that you’ll use in your Yoga sessions to connect or re-connect your body and your mind. Take another breath? More yoga breathing tips here.
Start your meditation
What does Meditation mean? Meditation is not about sitting high up on a mountain for ages to find enlightenment, although that is a very nice goal to reach! Who wouldn’t want to be able to sit for hours in mediation and find deep insights?
In more simple terms, meditation a state of awareness. Anything you do with full attention and full awareness, whenever you can focus your mind 100 percent of your focus and are free from mental distraction is kind of mediation. So focusing on your breath can be your meditation, or watching the ocean, or dancing with complete abandon can be your perfect state of mediation.
Many people think they cannot meditate because they can’t stop thinking. But our minds are made to think so thinking is the natural state of mind. Meditation is not really about stopping thinking. It is more about calming the mind in terms of observing the habitual patterns of our thoughts.
By making the commitment to sit still for a certain period, we make the most important step regarding meditation. Imagine stepping back a little and watching your thoughts, your breath and the sensations in your body. Be an observer of yourself and watch what is there to be observed. No more, no less.
Learn more about Meditation and give it a try to meditate here
Start with a beginner’s pose
As in any field of physical movement, you need to warm up your body at the beginning of every Yoga session to avoid injuries. This is true for beginners as well as experts.
The Yogis say that the spine is the place where our prana, our life energy flows. As most of us sit or stand a lot (or too much!) during the day, the spine always is more than happy to get some mobilizing as such movements are like a gentle wakeup call for the life energy as well as for the bones, joints and muscles.
The most famous yoga sequence is called sun salutation which is a dynamic flow of some basic asanas – yoga poses. In Sanskrit, the sun salutations are called Surya Namaskara. A few sun salutations each morning help you shed tiredness as well as stiffness and increase your flexibility as they ease, stretch, and activate the joints, the muscles and the organs.
With all the different schools and styles of Yoga, there several different variations of sun salutations and so I invite you to find your own personal Surya Namaskara. And I won’t stop repeating this – take your time and help yourself. Find your own pace, go with your breathing, and when you need to use a hand to help place your foot in the right position because it is not yet ready to make it in one movement, do so and just accept it.
Here is one suggested variaiton of sun salutation.
End with a relaxation pose
Yoga sessions always end with a relaxing cool down. Depending on the flow of the session, there are special asanas to cool down. What you should always have at the end is a proper Shavasana.
For Shavasana, you simply lie down for a couple of minutes and relax your whole body.
Some say this is he most important pose in every practice as the body now can fully absorb and balance the special effects of all the poses done before. They say that, if the body is completely relaxed, awareness can extend throughout the body first and then also on more subtle levels which leads to so called Pratyahara – the drawing back of the senses from the sensations. Anyway, Shavasana is very nice pose and you should never miss it!
Yoga for weight loss
Yoga is a way to a better health because Yoga teaches body awareness and conscious movement and therefore can support people that are aiming for weight loss.
Yoga does not work like a crash diet by saving calories and nor is it a sport that burns thousands of calories off. Instead, Yoga is a holistic way of living.
When you start practicing Yoga you will experience a new awareness of your own body as Yoga teaches us to feel and to listen to the body and its needs. On a mental level, Yoga teaches self-respect and self-love. Because of this, many people quickly acquire a stronger longing for healthy, nutritious food and become consciously more aware of the importance of taking care of themselves.
On the physical level, Yoga helps to mobilize the whole body and the spine and so activates the whole metabolism. As the Yoga practice has a both a strengthening and stretching effect, your muscles get toned and subsequently you will gain a better posture.
As Yoga is about doing everything very consciously, to lose weight, I invite you to start watching your eating habits very honestly. Try to find out if there are situations that trigger cravings for foods with high amounts of sugar, fat and calories but that are low in nutritional value containing few vitamins and minerals.
Then try to find out what you are longing for in these situations. Are you really hungry? Or is it just a pattern you have cultivated over a long time? Don’t get me wrong, having some rituals and a cheat-day now and then is very logical but you should also decide actively when you if you need it or want only really want it. Needing and wanting are two very different things!
There is nothing wrong with the occasional treat. Just make it something special and celebrate it. Maybe allow yourself one conscious cheat-day a week and for the other days try to change the habit. Instead of going for a muffin, go for fresh fruits or a hand full of nuts. Enjoy this fully aware you are doing yourself some good.
And of course, there are some asanas supposed to be especially helpful in terms of weight loss, find here practical examples.
Regular Yoga Practise at Home
As we all must balance work and home life, it is not always possible to go to a studio several times a week. However, you can practice Yoga at home of course. You can choose from many of the online courses now available or work from a book to create your own step-by-step sequence. Any Yoga is better than doing no Yoga!
If you do your Yoga at home, it isn’t necessary to do a 90-minute session whenever you practice. You’ll get a lot of great benefits from doing a few asanas to mobilize your body and spine or practicing some sun salutations a few times a week. Short, regular practices will always a good start into the day.
There are many options for online courses, most of which you can test for free for a couple of days to see if they suits you. Check out the different styles and teachers available until you find one you like. I highly recommend that you schedule your online classes so you are more likely to stick to them. Set realistic goals such as 30-minutes, twice a week but if f you can manage more then please do so!
In the coming months we will test and review some online Yoga course so keep checking back so we can keep you posted.
And remember; no matter when and where you do your yoga, you should practice with a nearly empty stomach. More tips about how to do your yoga practise at home here.
Yoga at classes
I highly recommend that you take some classes in a yoga studio when you start practicing Yoga. Why? Because it’s the best way to learn the all-important basics regarding the correct alignment of the poses.
Also, it is very helpful to receive some assistance from a Yoga teacher to learn and feel the sometimes very subtle movements that make a pose effective.
Assistance can also give you an idea where the pose could go one day and in general it is always nice and motivating to practice together with others.
When you go to classes, remember that Yoga is all about your own practice. Try to resist comparing yourself to others or becoming envious of your mat neighbor who is maybe more flexible than you. Always remember that each one of us is different and you are on the mat for you and no one else.
Following this guideline means you will only go as far as is good for you – and that can differ from day to day. And when you need a rest, take a rest. You’ll soon discover the subtle point between challenging but not overburdening yourself. It is about what is possible today, not what you want to be possible today. And this includes resisting the temptation to be lazy not challenging yourself at all.
Find your studio at home or on travel. More about yoga classes here.