Yoga can boost your immune system, lower your blood pressure, increase serotonin levels, release stress, and strengthen your body and mind.
If you plan on taking up yoga and reaping the innumerable health and well-being benefits, here are 10 tips to help you on your way.
1. Invest in a good-quality yoga mat
A mat is an essential piece of yoga equipment and will provide comfort and protection between you and the cold, hard floor. Plus, it will offer traction for your hands and feet so you don’t slip and slide as you heat up (especially important for Bikram and hot yoga).
Although most yoga studios offer mats for you to borrow, you may prefer to purchase your own for hygiene reasons and so you can practice in your own time and space. A thicker mat will generally provide greater comfort, whereas a thinner, lighter mat is easier to transport and store. Weigh up what’s most important to you and your needs.
2. Don’t wear light-coloured or poor-quality pants
Feel comfortable and confident by choosing yoga pants that won’t go see-through when stretched.
3. Wear light, absorbent and flexible clothes
Choose yoga clothes that will move with your body as you stretch through the poses and that are form-fitting to provide coverage when you’re stretching upside down and inside out. Also look for clothes that absorb moisture to keep you dry and comfortable, and are lightweight and breathable.
4. Don’t wear shoes or socks
Practice yoga barefoot to improve your grip and balance.
5. Invest in yoga accessories, like straps and blocks
Yoga straps and blocks are excellent yoga essentials for beginners as they help you achieve correct poses while you're working on your flexibility.
6. Don’t eat a big meal beforehand
In order for your body to bend, twist and turn freely, your stomach can’t be digesting something heavy. Similarly, try not to drink too much water during the class unless you really need to. Try munching on a protein bar if you're really hungry.
7. Arrive to your yoga class early, or at least on time
Arriving early gives you time to mentally switch off from the daily grind and focus on the 'now'. It gives you time to organise your mat, towel, drink bottle and accessories and, especially if you’re new, it gives you time to introduce yourself to the teacher and mention any injuries or medical conditions.
8. Don’t be competitive
Forget about the other students in the room, focus on your own practice and try to become unattached to results. We all have different bodies and physical strengths and weaknesses and some people will be naturally better at certain poses than others. Yoga is not about being the best in the room.
9. Be patient
Don’t force your body into a pose. Just do your best without straining or injuring yourself.
10. Don’t leave early
The yoga nidra, the deep relaxation at the end of the class, is an integral part of yoga practice that helps cool and calm the mind and body. It may not be pushing your body physically, but it will be working wonders with your mind.