You’ve decided you want to add yoga into your weekly routine, but where do you start? Yoga, like anything new, can be intimidating at first. However, one of the beautiful things about yoga is its Zen nature. The basic nature of Zen is non-judgment, no expectation, and non-attachment.
As an athlete it can take some time to incorporate these aspects into your life. However, it is quite refreshing and liberating to fully embrace these qualities. If you can apply non-judgment to your yoga practice you will find when you are not comparing yourself to “Miss Bendy Beth” you can go deep into the poses. If you can attend a class without having any expectation of its outcome, you will enjoy it so much more. When you allow yourself to breathe through the challenging poses without attaching a label to the sensations, i.e. tension or pain, then you are truly on the path to becoming a yogi.
Now that you know the basic essence of yoga, here are four simple questions and answers to get you started on the mat:
What Kindof Yoga Class is Best for Me?
There are several different styles of yoga to choose from. If you are wanting yoga to provide a workout then choose a Vinyasa Flow or Power Yoga class. These classes will incorporate strengthening poses using your own body weight as resistance. You will most likely sweat in these classes as you will be moving in and out of poses in a dynamic way. You will stretch some too, but the emphasis is on building body heat.
If you are looking to only stretch then try a Yin yoga class. You will hold the poses for three to five minutes each to release the fascia - the sheath around the muscles. Just because it is a stretching class does not mean it is easy. You may be challenged in a different way as your muscles adapt to a new form of lengthening.
If you are looking for something not quite Power Yoga and not fully Yin Yoga, check out a Hatha yoga class. Hatha is really the umbrella term to describe any physical kind of yoga. In the United States, Hatha classes are usually well balanced and include some dynamic movements (sun salutations), some standing poses, some stretches, and a deep relaxation at the end. In general, Hatha classes will move at a slower pace than Vinyasa Flow or Power Yoga classes.
What "Level" Yogi Am I?
The common labeling of yoga classes in the U.S. is Level 1, Level 1/2, or Level 2/3. You will also find many “Mixed Levels” or “All Levels” classes. It can be hard to find a place where you fit in as an athlete. You are aware of your body, strong, and up for a challenge. That said, you are still new to yoga and may have injuries or very tight muscles. So where should you really start?
Try to put your ego aside and start with a level 1 or 1/2 class to learn the names of the poses and proper form. You don’t want to be the new student in a level 2/3 class who doesn’t know the names of anything. This can not only be embarrassing but also confusing, and you may end up unknowingly doing something dangerous for your body. Build a solid yoga foundation before you venture into something more challenging.
How Often Shoud I Go?
Like anything, yoga gives you more benefits the more you go. If you are looking to incorporate yoga as part of your cross-training routine or for general fitness, aim for a minimum of two to three yoga sessions a week. If three sessions seems unattainable, then aim for two classes a week. If that is the case, additionally dedicate twenty minutes of stretching at home three times a week.
A sample weekly yoga schedule:
- Power Yoga or Vinyasa Flow class on your off day
- Vinyasa Flow or Hatha yoga class on a light day
- Yin yoga class after an intense workout.
What Should I Know So I Don't Look Like a Newbie?
- Arrive at the yoga studio ten minutes early to fill out new student paperwork.
- Wear comfortable, stretchy clothing. Also keep in mind that you may be upside down with one leg lifted so be aware that you are fully covered in all the right places.
- It is best to do yoga on an empty stomach. You may eat something light an hour before class, but give yourself three or four hours after a heavy meal.
- Don’t wear heavy perfumes, as everyone will be breathing deeply the entire class.
- Most importantly, relax and have fun!
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.