Yoga Q & A: Common Beginner Questions

Yoga is such a wonderful form of exercise and, really, much more than that. It’s my first fitness love and the thing that I connect with most as far as exercise. They say there’s a form of exercise for everyone so if you haven’t found yours, keep looking and try yoga! No matter who you are, it will increase your flexibility and reduce your stress. Depending on the style, it might also help you tone up and if you’re a mom, it’s great for the whole family. Both of my kids already do (and love!) yoga.

poses-12_gpp (2)Since the day I set foot in the front of a yoga class, I have loved teaching beginners. I feel a commonality with the crowd because I will always be a beginner in some aspect of yoga! Honestly, be very weary of any yoga teacher who self proclaims to be an expert or guru! From the beginning, I just wanted to share yoga with as many people as possible because I knew how great it could make them feel and, in the beginning, I couldn’t really do any of the ‘fancy’ poses so some of the more advanced students intimidated me as a new instructor. Now, I am happy to teach anyone that rolls out their mat with me but I’ll always have a soft spot for newbie yogis! I’ve recently scheduled one of my favorite workshops, Yoga for Beginners, in the coming months and my only regular class at the moment is Back to Basics Yoga so, keeping in line with that theme, here are a few questions I’ve heard so many times over the years:

  1. What do I do if my wrists hurt?
    Part of this is just getting used to your hands bearing weight. Think about it. Throughout our normal, daily lives, we don’t put a lot of weight on our hands. If it isn’t progressively getting better or it’s really painful:
    – Place a rolled up gym/hand towel under just the bottom half of your palm.
    – Make sure your fingers are spread wide and you’re evenly distributing weight among all parts (aside from the center of the palm) of both hands.
    – Take breaks when you need! No one is judging in yoga!
  2. I am not flexible so yoga is probably not for me, right?
    Yoga will help you gain flexibility so this is exactly the opposite of a good reason to avoid the mat!
  3. What should I wear?
    Wear something comfortable and flexible and, if you’re planning to attend heated or hot yoga, make sure it’s breathable, athletic fabric. Even if you don’t yet know how to do downward facing dog (the first pose pictured above), make sure your clothing choice would cover everything in that or similar positions. Make sure loose shirts will stay tucked in or, if you like to wear loose shorts, consider compression shorts underneath.
  4. What should I bring to class?
    Check with your studio or gym. Often there will be mats for free, for rent or for purchase and, almost always, if you’re partial to your own mat, you’re welcome to use it instead of a studio or gym mat. As far as props, everything you need should be available to use during class. Look at what is next to the instructor’s mat and grab the same props.
  5. What are they saying!?
    The ‘yoga language’ you hear in class is Sanskrit and some instructors use it more than others. Most often, you’ll hear an English translation right after a Sanskrit pose name and, just like anything, these terms will get more familiar over time.
  6. What if I can’t do something the instructor says?
    Try out the beginning few instructions and take it as far as you feel comfortable. For example, if your instructor is leading the class into a challenging arm balance (so only your hands would be on the mat in the full expression of the pose), you can start with your hands on the mat and begin to learn the alignment before balancing at all. Just because something is new or looks uncomfortable, doesn’t mean you can’t do part of it to start. However, if you are tired or in pain, rest, rest, rest!!! Yoga is not a ‘no pain, no gain’ exercise and you’ll get so much more out of the practice if you listen to your body. This means to rest when you need and challenge yourself when appropriate.
  7. What kind of yoga should I try?
    Just like I mentioned above that there is a form of exercise for everyone, I honestly believe there is a yoga for almost everyone. There are so many styles and intensity levels and, even when you narrow that down, each instructor can create a completely different experience within the same style and studio! Here are my suggestions to narrow down your options:
    – If you already belong to a gym or fitness studio that offers yoga, start there.
    – If you already do other higher intensity workouts or need to rehab from an injury, look for restorative, Yin, gentle or slow flow classes.
    – If you would like yoga to be your main form of flexibility and strength exercise, try Vinyasa or flow classes.
    – If you like a lot of verbal instruction and enjoy learning, attend a beginners class or a workshop that will break down poses even further and with even more direction.

Enjoy your practice!
❤️ Andrea

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