How to begin yoga

So, you’ve heard a lot about yoga and maybe even tried a class or two to see what all the fuss is about. But somewhere deep down, you don’t really think it is for you. Usual reasons include any or all of the following:

  1. I felt no burn, this yoga is clearly useless…or maybe better suited to vegan types and I clearly need something more hard-core.
  2. I fell asleep when the teacher asked us to close our eyes at the end of the class.
  3. I’m scared of being surrounded by soul-searching and hippie types. I’m sure the next class will involve talking about feelings.
  4. I couldn’t do a single pose in class. Oh well, maybe the yoga ship has sailed with those who got on early. Too late for me.
  5. I have no time.
  6. I run a mile everyday, surely I don’t need yoga! (chuckle)

Well, chances are, you’ve just started off on the wrong foot (maybe even literally). There are several challenges that one faces in trying to begin a yoga practice today – misconceptions, chronic ‘busy-ness’ and yoga classes that go too fast even though they’re marked for ‘all levels’. Hopefully this article will help you give yoga a chance.

Firstly, NEWSFLASH: YOGA IS NOT AN EXERCISE REGIME. While it is true that yoga has many health and physical benefits, its primary significance is as a spiritual process. For more on this, see What yoga is really about and The real purpose of meditation. If you’re ready to give it a try, here are some tips from Living-Wise to get you started.

First, start in your own home. While classes can be motivating and definitely necessary to learn how to do ‘asanas’ or poses correctly, chances are that your first class or two will be rather de-motivating when you see others in the class doing complex poses with ease while you flail around on the floor feeling decidedly foolish. See below 3 recommended videos for complete beginners. You can then graduate to other ‘beginner’ videos until you feel confident enough to enter the yoga studio.

Second, start slow. While it might be tempting to try out complicated poses, the best policy is really to start with very simple and basic exercises. The aim is not to break a sweat or perfect a pose but to observe your body and your breath. This brings us to the next point.

Third, understand the philosophy and context. It is important to instil in yourself from day one that the aim of yoga is to transform yourself from within. This is why, I think it is absolutely essential to incorporate even 5 minutes of ‘pranayama’ (breathing exercise) at the end of every yoga practice. The most basic benefits of these is to clear your mind, balance your energies or just learning to breathe properly! ‘Alternate nostril breathing’ is something I think everyone should try – for an explanation, see here. Finally, yoga needs a commitment so even if you can spare only 10 mins a day, do it everyday.

Here are 3 videos I recommend for complete novices wishing to embark on the yoga path. They’re all quite different, so hopefully everyone finds one they like.

‘Upa Yoga’ by Isha Foundation: ‘upa yoga’ means pre-yoga and these practices are therefore very basic but very effective. This video does a good job of introducing the philosophy of yoga and has the whole package of simple breathing and meditation included. (Skip to 13.20 mins if you want to get straight to the practices and skip the intro).

Yoga Vidya: this video provides a relaxing yoga routine, giving helpful pointers to encourage mindfulness in your initial practice which will  set a good foundation.

Yoga with Adriene: I think Adriene’s videos are great and she does a great job of helping you make yoga your own. Her style is much more casual than the above videos.

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Shruti Bakshi
Shruti Bakshi is the Founder of the LivingWise Project. She has worked for several years in banking and financial services in London, Paris and Mumbai and holds an MBA (INSEAD) and MPhil in Finance (Cambridge). Shruti writes about life at the intersection of spirituality and modern society. Her debut novel 'From Dior to Dharma' was released in May 2017.


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38 Replies to “How to begin yoga”

  1. tamarasuz

    I think you gave every excuse I have had. I am terribly non-flexible (I don’t think that is a real word) and lose my patience easily. This is a great post and puts yoga in perspective.

  2. Juanita

    Really appreciate this blog. Going to check out the videos, I’ve been looking for some yoga I could do at home. Looking forward to what you might post next!

    • Shruti Bakshi

      I’m glad to hear more people giving it a go! Yoga should definitely help reduce your stress and you could also try meditation (I did a post on that too a couple of days ago).

    • Shruti Bakshi

      Sorry I don’t as I’ve not used yoga DVDs myself… I started with some of the videos on You Tube and then learned the more proper asanas in a class which I think is important so that you can be corrected (you will definitely need to be in the beginning!). After that you just develop your own practice putting together the different asanas you have learned. I don’t think it’s important to have a different routine each time you practice; in fact rather the opposite. It’s better to just stick to some asanas and keep practising those (e.g. some people only practice the Surya Namaskar everyday) so you learn to be at ease with them. If you want to challenge yourself, then rather than looking for new routines, try holding the same poses for longer or with deeper breaths. That’s what I’ve learned through my yoga teachers – hope it helps!

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