How to Start a Yoga Asana Practice
It seems like everywhere I look, I see something related to yoga. Yoga pants, yoga studios, instagram yoga, you name it; even my mom wears yoga pants to workout! As mainstream as yoga asanas (poses) and paraphernalia are in the Western world these days, there is still something to be desired in terms of accessibility and inclusion. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that yoga practitioners are thin, fair-skinned women who are Gumby flexible, totally zenned out and that all others need not apply to the practice. However, the reality of the situation is that yogis come in all shapes, sizes, genders, races, etc and, contrary to popular belief, not all yogis are flexible. Yoga asana benefits the practitioner regardless of the outward flair that we generally associate with the practice in the West.
I've had too many people tell me that they always wanted to start yoga but didn't think they could due to body type, flexibility level, financial accessibility, or feelings of not fitting their perception of who a yogi is. A yoga practice is an individual experience, and everyone's practice looks different, but everyone can develop a practice of their own. These are my tips for how to start a yoga asana practice. I hope you find them useful in your journey because, if you let it, yoga can change your life... it did for me.
1. Get the equipment.
You don't need anything fancy to start a yoga asana practice. Dress in comfortable clothes that allow a free range of motion. Use a yoga mat for cushioning and grip on hard surfaces and blocks and straps for support and limb extension during your practice. Again, you don't need anything flashy to develop a practice. I first started practicing with a Walmart mat, block and strap starter set. You can probably find a starter set for $20 or less and if that's too high of a price point, you can always make substitutions until you're willing to make that investment. For instance, a rug or towel can replace a mat, thick books can replace blocks and long fabric strips can replace straps.
2. Know your body & health history.
Always be mindful of the condition of your body and be knowledgable about your health history. While a yoga asana practice can be physically challenging, you should always listen to your body. If something hurts, stop. If you have a pre-existing condition that prevents certain movements, don't perform the movements. Make sure to move intentionally and have an open dialogue with your body.
3. Find a space to practice.
There are lots of great places for you to start a yoga asana practice, each with their own advantages. The following are my suggestions for practice spaces but always feel free to shop around until you feel comfortable; each category opens up lots of options.
Studios with beginners classes are an excellent place to start your journey. Certified yoga teachers will be able to help you move safely through the poses, show you appropriate modifications and talk to you one-on-one about your practice. You can participate in group classes or private sessions depending on your budget and/or preferences.
Apps and Youtube videos give you the flexibility to practice anywhere, anytime. It's easy to find free beginners videos and apps online. So once you find something you like, it's simple to clear some space for your mat and get moving!
Meetups or community yoga groups can be great ways to get involved in the yoga community, make friends and also participate in free or low-cost yoga sessions. Look for groups on sites such as Meetup.com or Facebook for yoga groups in your area.
I hope you find these tips for starting a yoga asana practice helpful and are able to begin your journey. Keep your eyes peeled for more information about my upcoming Youtube channel so we can practice together! And for those of you in the Bay Area, I will be sharing my plans for a community group and my teaching schedule soon. Please feel free to contact me for private sessions, to teach in your space, or to share any suggestions.