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The ultimate beginner's guide to yoga

Yoga has so many benefits.

From building strength and balance, to alleviating back pain and stiffness, and even promoting mindfulness and greater wellbeing.

But if you haven’t tried yoga before, it can feel like an intimidating world.

The spirituality, the sheer number of different classes and types of yoga, the fear of not being able to do the moves – it can feel like too much to get your head around.

So, we’ve brought in an expert with more than 12 years of experience to lay out the basics to help get you started.

Laura Pearce is the founder of Kin Yoga and and a senior yoga teacher, breathwork practitioner, and positive psychologist.

Laura has answered the common questions that yoga beginners often ask her. So, if you’re a novice but hoping to get involved – read on:

What type of yoga is best for beginners?

‘The beauty of yoga is that there are really no limits to who can practice, and at what age,’ says Laura.

‘However, the way yoga has developed and evolved in the west means that a lot of modern day yoga classes are at the rather more physical, dynamic end of the spectrum and often put an emphasis on extreme flexibility.

‘These big flexible shapes have become synonymous with yoga, and can be rather intimidating to potential new students.

‘I would first like to reassure all yoga newbies, that any good yoga teacher woth their salt teaching an all-levels or beginners class, should do their best to accommodate you, and make you feel comfortable, welcome, and hopefully not intimidated at all.’

If you would like to try a more gentle yoga style, Laura suggests heading to classes labeled ‘Hatha’ ‘Restorative’ ‘Slow Flow’ ‘Mindful Flow’ or ‘level 1’.

‘You can even try “Yin”, which isn’t necessarily easy, but uses a lot of props to hold you up, and is the slowest of all the yoga modalities,’ she adds.

‘Classes on the more “power” end of the spectrum might be “Ashtanga”, most “Vinyasa” classes, “Jivamukti”, “Rocket”, and also “Dharma” – which tends to be for very advanced practitioners.

‘Hot Yoga tends to be a slower style, but I wouldn’t recommend it necessarily for beginners as the heat makes it super tough, plus people can be more susceptible to injuries in a hot yoga classroom, so a little experience there doesn’t hurt.’

What are the benefits of beginners yoga?

‘In my experience I’ve found that most beginners are drawn to yoga due to its stereotypical benefits; namely relaxation and flexibility improvement,’ says Laura.

But she adds that there is much more to it than that.

‘There are wide-ranging benefits, from improved balance and coordination to improved sleep and even mental acuity,’ says Laura.

‘One of the lovely things I hear from a lot of yoga newbies is the extent to which they feel their mind-body connection has improved; they feel more capable of feeling and understanding their body and the way it moves.

‘There is even a host of research that shows how helpful yoga can be to reduce mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

‘Even western medicine now extolls the virtues of this ancient Eastern practice, with more and more doctors recommending people take up yoga to help with issues such as chronic stress, high blood pressure, and anxiety disorders. There’s even a Guide to Yoga page on the NHS website now.’ 

How often should a beginner do yoga?

Laura says this is a question she gets asked a lot – but there really is no definite answer.

‘But I do feel the key is to keep a consistent practice,’ she says. ‘Even if it’s just the one class each week, make sure you keep it up.

‘If you’re time-poor then even a short practice of even just 10-20 minutes, say, every other day can make a huge difference.

‘Whatever you do, just make sure you do it consistently, and stick with it. You’ll notice the benefits before long, I promise.’

How can someone start doing yoga at home?

‘Youtube is your best friend for this,’ says Laura. ‘Try to get a recommendation from someone who follows a channel they like – there is so much Yoga content to wade through, and not all of it good, so it’s really about finding the right teacher and style for you.’

Laura adds that there is also a lot of free yoga content on Instagram.

‘Again, if you know someone who practices yoga, ask them who they follow and why,’ she says.

‘Whilst a lot of beginners prefer to start yoga in the privacy of their own home, I would actually encourage you to get to a few in-person classes as quickly as possible; you’ll find it’s an entirely different experience, and you’ll hopefully benefit from an IRL teacher’s adjustments, modification, and experience.

‘There really is no substitute for an in-person studio class lead by an experienced instructor.’ 

Is it possible to lose weight doing yoga for beginners?

‘This is another question I get asked a lot,’ says Laura.

‘If you don’t move anywhere else in your life, ie. if yoga is your only exercise outlet, then yes, of course it will help you to lose weight. 

‘If weight loss is your only goal, then I actually wouldn’t recommend yoga. You would be better off lifting weights or increasing your cardiovascular workouts and eating more healthfully.’

Laura adds that there is actually very little conclusive evidence that shows a correlation between yoga and weight loss. 

‘What yoga can definitely do, however, is improve things like your mobility, focus, and breathing technique, all of which will make you more proficient at weight lifting, running etc,’ says Laura. ‘And so, holistically speaking, it will keep you in better nick, and help support your body – whatever your goals are.’

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