10 Tips For Getting Started With Yoga

10 Tips For Getting Started With Yoga

If you’re looking to build strength, flexibility and clear your mind, there’s rarely been a better time to get started with yoga. Whether you’re a total beginner or looking for a refresh, here’s what three of London’s top yogis recommend…

Understand The Benefits

“There are so many benefits to yoga.  Most people start by finding the physical benefits, increased flexibility and mobility as well as stronger, leaner muscles.  The other benefits are increased recovery time from other training, better circulation, improved sleep, digestion and other processes in the body. The mental health benefits are probably the most life changing, with reduced cortisol (stress hormone) and higher oxytocin (happy hormone) leaving your nervous system more balanced and you feeling more calm, content and focused.” – Gemma Soul, head of yoga at Psycle London


It’ll Keep You Grounded 

“Yoga makes you feel more integrated, so you feel grounded, responsive and receptive. It helps you focus and creates a space of time where you feel sharp and awake. It helps change negative thought patterns by teaching you how to be conscious of the present moment. It helps you rest and sleep well and it's a great way to enjoy your body, exploring how it likes to be moved and working with the breath to shift sensations. It's also great for your improving your orgasms and sex life. You’ll feel completely amazing after your first class – you’ll feel smooth and sharp, fresh, open and clean.” – Gabrielle Hales, founder of The Secret Yoga Club


Know The Etiquette

“Once yoga studios are open again, it’s important to know the etiquette. Take off your shoes when entering a studio — we do this out of respect, and to honour tradition. Get to class a good ten minutes before it starts in order to make yourself comfortable and introduce yourself to the teacher. And don’t leave in the middle of savasana (the final resting pose where you lie back quietly for five or ten minutes) — it’s the best part of class, and ‘seals’ in the effects of a full practice.” – Genny Wilkinson Priest, yoga director at Triyoga


It’s For Everyone

“Yoga is great for everyone — that’s the beauty of it. You’ll reap the benefits whether you are young, old, pregnant, stiff, bigger bodied, athletic, disabled or sick. Yoga is the great leveller in that sense — it’s open to everyone and closed to no-one.” – Genny 


Do It On An Empty Stomach

“It’s best to not eat for around two hours before a yoga class (unless you are pregnant — then it’s okay to eat whenever you feel is right.) Practising yoga directs energy toward the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, and away from the digestive one. Besides, twisting from side-to-side and bending forwards and back just isn’t comfortable on a full stomach.” – Genny


Forget Your Ego

“If you’re a beginner, don’t start with a dynamic, vinyasa or flow practice. If in doubt, ask your studio which class they recommend and respect their answer. It's so much better to go to an accessible and inclusive class, rather than injuring yourself or spending the whole session annoyed at your body. If you don't enjoy your first experience, try another teacher. Also, it's probably going to be an ego hit (unless you’re a professional dancer or gymnast) but you have to learn to take it slow and put the time in at the beginning.” – Gabrielle


Rethink The Workout

“It's good to preserve your yoga practice as a time to slow down and breathe deeply, moving with awareness. Really hardcore, dynamic practices can actually be counter intuitive. You have to balance it out by doing something slower, with more awareness. Your body likes to linger and enjoy. The thing beginners struggle with most is committing to moving slowly and practicing purely for the sake of it. It's not about being able to touch your toes, do the splits or a handstand – to me a practice is all about heightening awareness and presence.” – Gabrielle


Breathing Is A Skill

“The ujjayi breath is central to yoga. The sound of ujjai is like the ocean, it whispers at the back of your throat. You can explore it by taking a breath in through your nose and breathing out through your mouth, as if you were misting up glass. Do it a few times and then close your mouth, and allow the air to enter in through the nostrils. It can be tricky to focus on the breathing with a more dynamic practice – often we hold our breath when we are concentrating or doing something difficult. If you're able to train yourself to breathe through the moments when your body is tense and contracted then that is amazing.” – Gabrielle


Get The Right Kit

“If you’re practicing in a studio, you don’t necessarily need your own mat, but if you do want to invest, Lululemon mats are the best. Just make sure it’s a sticky mat, otherwise you’ll be slipping all over the place.” – Gemma


Just Get Going

“Remember, everyone’s a beginner at some point and it’s so much better to start now than wonder ‘what if’ further down the line. Sometimes we start yoga for one reason and end up staying for much more, and that was definitely the case for me. It’s important to let go of trying to ‘do yoga right’ and instead see it as an exploration of yourself, yoga is a continuous journey and so being comfortable with where you are at is key.” – Gemma

Secret Yoga Club
 by Gabrielle Hales (published by Aster) is out now. Order it here. 

Secret Yoga Club, Triyoga and Psycle are all currently offering online classes.

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