Archive for The Dork’s Guide…

The Downward Dork’s Guide to Beginner Courses

On Wednesday I had my first true beginner’s yoga class. I have been taking the intermediate class at my studio for a few weeks and really enjoy it, but I wanted a stronger foundation for my poses. Beginner’s classes are a great way to learn more about the yoga style of breathing (this is one of my weaknesses – I tend to hold my breath without realizing it!) and proper alignment even if you are already familiar with the basics.

If you have been practicing yoga for a little while, you may find a beginner’s course too slow for you. Poses are taught stage by stage, and then the stages are combined. Poses are repeated multiple times so that the students can ‘get’ it while focusing on correct breathing and position.

Some simple yoga poses like the cow pose and the cat pose are good for beginners.(Picture Source)

Poses you might encounter in your first class are cow or dog pose and cat pose, pictured above, downward dog, Warrior I & II, tree pose, mountain pose, forward fold, and corpse pose, pictured below.

These courses are for those with no experience (as the term ‘beginner’ tends to suggest), and hopefully your class will be small enough that the instructor will be able to provide one-on-one support to each student. This aims to provide a fun and supportive atmosphere for new yogis. Beginner’s courses are also great for going back to the basics if you are a bit more experienced or getting back into yoga after a long break.

You will probably also encounter people from every age group. The amazing woman next to me was 70 years old and had never tried yoga before in her life. If she can do it, we certainly can! She was a real trooper and truly shows that you can start practicing yoga at any age and for any reason.

Corpse Pose(Picture Source)

Each class will likely conclude with savasana, also known as corpse pose. The class itself may be a bit fragmented as everyone picks things up at their own speed and the instructor comes around to assist individuals, but everyone comes together at the end for a bit of relaxation prior to leaving the studio.

All courses are different, as are all instructors, so you may find your experience is not quite the same as mine. If you have been considering yoga, a beginner’s course is a great place to start. You could always jump right into a class with a faster pace, but it is better to learn the correct alignment and positioning. You don’t want to accidentally pick up any bad habits! They are also extremely helpful if you decide to practice at home between classes.

Leave a Comment

The Downward Dork’s Guide to Starting Yoga

I always wanted to take a yoga class. For years I tried to contort myself into positions on a tiny patch of floor in my student accommodation, and when classes were available, there was always a reason (or an excuse) why it wasn’t going to work for me – classes were at the wrong time of day, were too far away, too expensive.

Forget the excuses! Forget not being able to find the time – make the time! I finally did and I’m going to share a few pointers to help you on your way. 🙂

Someday I hope to be able to do this pose!(Picture Source)

Yoga is a relatively gentle form of exercise (especially if you are taking beginner classes) but if you have had any injuries or ailments that might affect your practice or you aren’t sure about a new exercise regime’s impact on your body, the best thing you can do is talk to your doctor.

If that’s all good and you’re ready to go, it’s time to dive right in!

Find a yoga studio or a gym that offers yoga classes in your city or town. As a former bedroom yogi, I know it is possible to do yoga in the comfort of your own home (even in your pajamas). But I can’t stress enough how valuable it is to attend a few classes to make sure your form is correct and that you are focusing on the right thing at the right time. Even if you do want to growl through tiger pose in the middle of your living room, taking some classes is a fantastic way to meet new people and make a commitment to doing yoga at a certain time of the week. If you are in the UK, check out localyogaclasses.co.uk or do a Google search for classes in your area. If you’re in the USA and have an iPhone, try out the Mindbody app which will locate a nearby yoga class. Friends might be able to recommend a studio or maybe your local gym holds yoga classes. They’re out there – you just have to find them!

Recruit a friend. Doing a yoga class together can be as good as meeting for coffee or going to a movie with a good friend. You will have a chance to catch up before and after class and learn something new together, which will give you even more to talk about! If you can’t find a friend willing to take a class with you, take one anyway – it can take a bit of courage to walk into the yoga studio alone for the first time, but I’m sure you won’t regret it!

Capris like these are great for yoga.(Picture Source)

Get yourself some yoga-friendly clothes. This might be easier than you’d expect because you can wear anything you want to practice yoga! The capris above are from Sweaty Betty and I wear similar ones which I also use for running. As long as you are comfortable in it, you can wear it while doing yoga. Do be aware that yoga involves a lot of bending and moving – make sure your underwear (or worse!) stays well hidden by doing some squats in the changing room or your bedroom before purchasing/wearing your chosen garments. As for the top half of your body, I would recommend a shirt that fits you well – it’s not fun to get a face full of t-shirt when you do your first downward dog. This doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive either – the t-shirt I wear was £4 from H&M and, truth be told, sometimes I wear old shirts that were consigned to the pajama drawer just because they fit snugly and won’t get in my way.

If you are going to be doing Bikram or hot yoga, it is best to keep clothing as minimal as possible (while still looking like the classy person you are, of course). Shorts and a tank top are a good choice because you can expect to get exceptionally hot and sweaty in these classes!

Also on this topic is the issue of a bra. I practice in the same bra I use for running, but it may not be necessary for you to invest in a proper sports bra for yoga. Again, go with what you are comfortable with, something that will hold you in but not restrict any of your movements. You may also be able to buy a tank top that has built-in support (not necessarily from Luluemon!).

Expensive mats are nice but not necessary if you are just starting out.(Picture Source)

Don’t invest in an expensive mat. If you are new to yoga, you certainly don’t need one. Even if you are old to yoga, you may choose not to buy a mat because most studios or gyms will offer them to students free or at a very minimal charge. If you do decide to practice at home, you probably will need to buy a mat. Do your research before buying one, though, as there are a wide range of mats available in different lengths, thicknesses, and prices, and you want to make sure you buy the one that’s right for your practice.

Triangle pose.

(Picture Source)

Don’t be afraid to modify poses, especially when you are first starting out. Chances are you won’t be alone, and like all exercise, you don’t want to risk injuring yourself. Doing a pose with a block – or two – is not a sign that you aren’t good at yoga. Some poses require blocks and you’re not ‘tough’ or ‘a pro’ if try not to use one. It is better to look like a newbie than an idiot 🙂

If you are especially tight in a certain area, ask your yoga teacher for some help. In my first class, we had ten minutes of individual reflection and practice, and I sat on my mat confused and helpless, watching the people around me as they flowed from one pose to another. This was when I was able to ask the teacher what to do about my stiff, tight shoulders, and she showed me some moves (the top half of Eagle pose, as I found out a week later) that not only gave me something to practice, but brought relief to my weary sitting-at-a-desk-all-day muscles.

If this cat can do yoga, so can you!(Picture Source)

Keep your mind and your heart open, and don’t get discouraged. I am about as flexible as a piece of Swedish-made furniture (I can only bend so far before breaking!) and initially I wasn’t sure I would be able to get anything out of yoga. If you enjoy your class or your practice, and you feel empowered or relaxed by it, then there’s no good reason to stop. Practice makes perfect with everything, including yoga!

Comments (2)