I’m so happy that you are thinking about beginning your yoga journey!
To help you to get the most out of your yoga practice – whether in a live class, on YouTube or in a one to one session – please take a little time to read these guidelines that I have put together for you. By doing so, you will feel informed and well-prepared for class.
Is yoga for you?
Firstly, if you are on the fence about whether or not yoga is right for you, let me assure you that it is! Yoga isn’t just for gymnasts, the super bendy or hippies! Although, if you fall into any of those categories you are more than welcome too!
Yoga is for everyone at every level, and yoga can fit into every lifestyle.
Yoga is inclusive and everyone can benefit from a physically, mentally and even spiritually. But one step at a time!
What do you need to bring / wear?
Dress in unrestrictive clothing that will allow you to move. Natural materials such as cotton or bamboo promote the free flow of energy but the main thing is that you feel comfortable in what you are wearing.
Bring some water and a yoga mat, if you have one. You can practice on a blanket if you don’t have a mat – just like the ancient yogis used to do! You might also like to bring a cosy jumper for the relaxation time at the end of the practice.
For in-person classes, please avoid wearing strong scents as they can affect the breathing. It is advisable to have a wash before practice not just for hygiene purposes but also to psychologically wash away any thoughts or emotions that may prevent you from focusing on our practice.
If you are not already exercising regularly, it is highly advisable to see your GP before you begin your yoga practice or any other exercise routine. Many common conditions such as high blood pressure can be aggravated by certain yoga postures (inversions, arms over head, isometric holds etc.) Provided that you are open about any medical conditions, your yoga teacher can modify these poses safely and discreetly for you.
Please make sure you declare any conditions before attending class.
If in doubt, declare it anyway. As yoga teachers, we can never be too well-informed about the needs of our class participants.
What does a typical class look like?
The class is teacher-led by me, Paula. I will guide you safely from start to finish providing modifications and alternatives along the way. Instructions will be clear and concise, but, during in-person classes, it may be necessary for your teacher to help you to better access a posture by physically moving your body into the correct position. For example, they might place their hands on your lower back in order to lengthen your spine. If you are not comfortable with this, please let your teacher know at the start of the class. In these changing times, please be assured that Social Distancing regulations will always be adhered to.
Classes begin seated or lying on your yoga mat with a few minutes of breathwork to help us to clear our minds and get ready for the rest of our physical practice.
Next, in a Vinyasa class, we will warm up our muscles and joints with some gentle repetitive movements. A typical practice will then include some Sun Salutations (moving from standing to lying in a set sequence) to give the heart and lungs a workout before practising some standing poses which may include some balancing and twisting poses.
Many classes will include breath to movement sequences where we change position with each inhale and each exhale. There will also be a number of poses that are held for a duration of 3 or 4 breaths.
Although some classes will focus more on a specific area such as opening the chest and shoulders, every class will contain poses and counter-poses that work and / or stretch opposing muscle groups.
Towards the end of the class, we will wind down with some seated stretches before lying on our backs in our final relaxation pose – Savasana (Corpse pose).
If this doesn’t sound right for you, there’s good news! There are many other styles of yoga available with me – Yin (deep stretch), Restorative (deep relaxation) and Yoga Nidra (guided meditation). See individual class descriptions for more detail.
What level is the class?
Unless advertised, all classes are open to all ability levels.
As a guide, if you are fit enough to walk at a moderate pace for 30 minutes, you are fit enough to join the class.
Every body is different and each individual’s body is able to move in different ways on different days. At all times, you should be mindful of how you feel in a posture. There may be some postures that you are not able to access. Your teacher will modify postures throughout the class but, ultimately, you are responsible for how you move. If a pose doesn’t feel right for you on any given day, please do not attempt to push through the discomfort.
Aim to work at no more than 70% of what you think you are capable of and you will be operating at a safe level.
Yoga should not be painful. You may feel a stretch gradually deepening or muscles switching on to work. This is good ‘pain’. However, if you feel any sharp, sudden or stabbing pains, stop immediately and ask your teacher for an alternative or rest in Child’s pose or any other comfortable position.
I invite you to do this any time you need to during the class until you feel ready to continue with the practice.
Will we go topsy-turvy?
A quick online search for ‘yoga poses’ will undoubtedly reveal images of yogis upside down balancing on their hands, heads or shoulders. Inversions are a common feature of a yoga practice and have many health benefits. However, they must be approached with caution as there can be a number of contraindications for certain population groups such as those with heart conditions, eye problems or even for women during their period of menstruation. Where inversions feature in a class, I will provide an alternative for those who find that they are not advantageous to their practice.
When is the best time to do yoga?
It is perfectly possible to practise yoga at any time of day. However, we should be aware that of our bodies’ needs which will differ from morning to night. In the morning, our bodies are stiff after a night’s sleep. This is where we benefit from a gentle practice that slowly increases energises and prepares us for the day ahead. By comparison, in the evening, our bodies are supple and our minds are active. This is when we are physically more able to perform complex postures but our minds benefit from a practice that helps us to slow down to prepare for a more restful sleep.
Yoga should be practised on an empty stomach. If this isn’t possible, it’s advisable to wait at least 30 minutes after eating a piece of fruit; an hour after eating a light meal; and 2 hours after a full meal. Aim to eat foods that are nourishing and wholesome. Eat fresh and unprocessed foods wherever possible.
It is important that you do not practice when you are sleep-deprived. However, if you really want to get on your yoga mat after a poor night’s sleep, simply spending a few minutes doing some gentle restorative postures such as Child’s pose and Savasana will give your body the care and attention that it needs.
How can you look after yourself on your yoga journey?
Remember that this is your yoga journey – nobody else’s. Yoga is not competitive; it is not a sport. Your yoga is personal to you. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and remember that each time your step onto your mat is a new day. Your body might respond differently to the last time you practised – even if it was only the day before!
Remember that there is no need to rush to accomplish every pose.
They aren’t going anywhere! Savour every moment of each posture. In particular, take your time to really get to know the basic poses such as Warriors I and II, Dandasana and Mountain pose. Learn to develop an awareness and mastery over your own body in these wonderfully beneficial postures.
You might want to start a journal to record how you feel before and after your practice. Notice any changes in your mind and emotions as well as in your physical being.
A physical practice is a great way to start on your yoga journey.
But yoga is about the union of the physical, mental and spiritual in all that we do – not just on our mats.
Little by little, the calm focus that you develop in your physical practice may become evident in everyday activities or start to positively influence relationships in every area of your life. As the author of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali, says, yoga is not just the short amount of time that you spend on your mat.
Enjoy the journey!
PS If you still have questions after reading these guidelines, please don’t hesitate to contact me to chat!