Happy International Day of Yoga!
Since today is a celebration of all things yoga, I thought I would write a little bit about beginning a yoga practice. I, myself, am fairly new to this whole thing, but I have learned a few things here and there in the short time I have been doing it. I’m not going to show any poses or talk about sequences or anything, but I do have some general thoughts on beginning yoga.
First off…you do not have to go to a fancy gym to do yoga. I do enjoy going to classes every now and then, but I’m equally happy doing it at home by myself. Since I am an amateur yogi, I am in no way knowledgable enough to do it without some kind of assistance though. I usually just use an app on my iPad or take advantage of various YouTube yoga channels to guide me through different poses. (If it were up to me, I would probably just stay in the savasana pose the whole time. Ha!) Gyms are great, but if you’re like me and on a budget, at-home yoga is a little more practical. Plus, I feel more relaxed when I’m not in a room with 30 other people who are way better at yoga than me. Just find a quiet place at home with lots of space, maybe light a candle, and get to yogaing.
Types of Yoga
There are several different types of yoga, but I’m honestly only familiar with a few (Hatha, Vinyasa, Bikram, and Ashtanga). Hatha is the most widely practiced type. It’s slower and incorporates more of the basic postures, which makes it good for newbies. I’ve also done Bikram yoga (the hot one), but I still can’t decide if I like it or not. It may be just a bit much for me at this point in my life. I would probably not recommend starting out with Bikram or hot yoga classes, because I think it’s little intense for the amateur yogi (unless you really like sweating your ass off.) Although if you are curious about it, I guess you could just go outside and do some yoga considering most of the U.S. is experiencing a serious heat wave right now. (Bikram and hot yoga are usually practiced in a room heated somewhere between 95 and 108 degrees so you would probably get a pretty good idea of how hot an actual hot yoga class is if your current temp is somewhere in that range. I know mine is.)
As far as Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga go….I’ve never really done either so I’m not super familiar with those, but I know they are both a bit more on the advanced side. Both are faster-paced and more intense where you flow quickly from one pose to the next. Again, probably not the best type of yoga if you are just starting out. Stick with Hatha yoga for now.
I’m all about free, online yoga “classes.” Yoga with Adriene is my favorite yoga channel on YouTube. She has tons of different playlists and hundreds of videos to choose from based on what kind of practice you want to do. My favorite playlists are Yoga for Beginners, Morning Yoga Routines, Yoga for Healing, and Yoga for Busy People. She also has her own website where you can watch free videos, purchase her e-courses, and read her blog. There are, of course, tons of YouTube channels dedicated to yoga, but I’ve been following Adriene for years and find her to have the best variety of classes. Plus, her videos are super down-to-earth and simple (she does most of her videos at her home), and her warm, carefree personality creates more of a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.
You can also download various yoga apps for your phone or tablet. I have been using the Yoga Studio app for a few years now, but they recently switched to a subscription-based model (without notifying customers who had already paid for the app’s content!! I’m not bitter…), so I’m kind of boycotting them and looking for a new app to use. (Let me know if you have any good recommendations!) The most popular yoga apps seem to be Daily Yoga, Down Dog, Pocket Yoga, and Yoga Workout – Meditation and Fitness Plan, but I haven’t used any of them yet so I’m not sure how good they are. I will get back to you on that one.
Yoga Journal is also a good overall resource. It’s actually a magazine, but they have a pretty good website with lots of different tips, videos, articles, and advice for all experience levels.
Yoga AccessoriesYou really don’t need a ton of stuff to start doing yoga. Yes, it’s fun to have cute yoga mats and trendy yoga tights, but all you really need is comfortable clothing that that you can move in, a yoga mat, and some space to stretch out. Obviously some water if you are doing hot yoga or yoga outside. Lots of water. I will admit that over the years, I have somehow amassed quite the collection of unnecessary yoga accessories. You won’t need much when you are first starting out, though. If you are like me and really not flexible at all, you might want to pick up a yoga block or bolster to help make some of the poses easier. Other than that, everything else is pretty much optional. I opted to get a couple of towels and a pair of grippy, toe socks because I sweat a lot (even with the smallest amount of physical exertion…it’s annoying), but you won’t necessarily need to buy those. Going barefoot and using a plain, old bath towel are perfectly acceptable.
If you are looking for some good yoga clothing and/or accessories, however, I do have a few suggestions. Let me first start off by saying that yoga clothing can be pretty expensive. The athleisure trend is big right now (I am a huge fan of the trend myself), so a lot of companies are producing yoga and fitness merchandise that serve little to no purpose for actual yoga. To keep up with competition, these companies have to come up with cool, new, innovative ideas and designs for such clothing, which is why people end up paying $130 for a piece of polyester and spandex (I’m talking to you, Lululemon). Anyway…if you aren’t into going into debt because of yoga pants, I suggest checking out Target, Old Navy, and Marshall’s or TJ Maxx. I have several pairs of tights from Marshall’s that I paid like $15 for, and quite a few shirts and shorts from Target and Old Navy that I’m pretty sure I got for under $10. I will say, however, that I have learned that you kinda do get what you pay for. My Target shirts were pilling and developed “runs” in the fabric after a couple of washes, and my tights from Marshall’s already are looking quite worn. (In all fairness, however, I do wear my yoga/fitness stuff for more than just yoga.) My Old Navy stuff, however has held up considerably well. I’m impressed.
If you want higher quality yoga clothing (or just really great athleisure wear), I suggest Athleta, prAna, or Lucy. Clothing from these companies are quite a bit more expensive (yoga pants from these brands run about $70-$90) than what you would find at big-box or discount stores, but I bet you they will last 5 times longer. Athleta and prAna also use sustainable fabrics in a lot of their clothing (prAna even has some fair trade certified pieces), while Lucy and Athleta offer extended sizing on a lot of their stuff. Whatever route you go, the most important thing is just finding something you are comfortable in.
Anyone can start doing yoga. You can do it in your living room, outside at a park, or even on a paddleboard. (Yes, stand-up paddleboard yoga is a thing and it looks awesome.) Yoga has so many health benefits, and it can be relatively cheap and easy to do. The trick is getting into a routine. Do some quick sun salutations in the morning before work, or spend an hour practicing yoga at night before bed. You don’t necessarily have to do it every day (although it would be more beneficial), but 3-4 times a week should be enough to improve several physical and mental aspects of your life.
On that note…I’m off to do some yoga!
P.S. Happy First Day of Summer today too!