Yoga through the ages has been more of a way of life than a simple teaching method. With a philosophy strongly centered around your health and well-being, when you fully embrace yoga, you go beyond simple meditation techniques. Yoga can extend to healthy, clean eating habits, and even the way you bathe. You can even apply yoga to social or business interactions.
A 2016 Yoga Journal study shows that 36.7 million Americans practice yoga. This is a massive jump from just over 20 million people in 2012. Of these 36.7 million, almost ¾ have been practicing for less than 5 years.
Since more and more people are attracted to the many health benefits yoga can bring today, we have some simple tips for beginners. When you’re just starting out, there are a few standard pitfalls that are not tough to pinpoint and avoid.
Read on and get the very most out of your yoga sessions…
1. Overdoing it… strike a balance
Yoga is a much more delicate discipline than a punishing cardio or weights session.
In many other sports, the old cliché, “No pain, no gain” is fairly accurate. You need to push your limits to experience many benefits. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can be a sign that you’ve trained well.
With yoga, you shouldn’t experience pain. This is not to say you shouldn’t be putting in any effort, just don’t overdo it. If things start to twinge, ease off or stop.
Focus more on the therapeutic benefits of yoga rather than treating it like other forms of exercise and hitting it too hard.
2. Being out of place: Choose your spot in class wisely
Yoga’s a bit like going to the movie theater…
Your position can mean the difference between a thoroughly enjoyable experience and a sore neck from sitting too close to the screen.
A common error is to place too much importance on being front and center. Sure, you’ll get a great view some of the time. The reality, though, is that the instructor spends a lot of time wandering around. The moment they move, there goes your view.
The optimum spot is the second-to-last row. The majority of the time, you’ll have a clear line of sight on the instructor. On the occasions when you need to conduct moves facing the back of the room, you’ll still have someone to follow.
Not all spots are equal so choose wisely.
3. Not interacting enough
If you choose to attend a yoga class, make sure you don’t just passively go through the motions.
For standardized courses with no personal touch, it’s easy enough to get DVDs or watch videos online.
When you pay for a class, take advantage of your instructor and interact. Whether you’re pregnant or injured, communicate so you are not unwittingly directed to poses that might do more harm than good.
The whole idea of heading to an organized class is to enjoy a program specifically tailored to your personal requirements. The easy way to achieve this is to overcome any shyness or reluctance and make yourself heard!
4. Choosing the wrong type of class
Don’t fall into the trap of imagining that all yoga classes are roughly the same.
If you’re looking for a very gentle session, booking a hardcore Bikram class with postures performed in 100°F heat and 40% humidity is not your best bet.
Take the time to read about the different yoga styles at your disposal. Be honest about your requirements and desired outcome. If you do your research and don’t rush headlong into the first class you see advertised, you can find something in line with your needs and ability.
5. To eat or not to eat?
While eating before exercise fuels your body, you don’t want to leave this until minutes before yoga class.
The last thing you want is for your muscles to lose out because your blood supply is busy processing your food. Also, many yoga positions could feel outright painful with a bloated stomach.
You should sidestep food for 1-2 hours before practicing yoga.
If you’re stuck for ideas, check out some suitable snacks here. Whether it’s peanut butter smeared on a banana or some chicken, the key is to eat a small portion and to do so well in advance of class.
By eating smartly and at the right time, you can make your yoga experience far more comfortable.
6. Running before you can walk
Don’t get carried away and immediately aim for advanced poses without mastering the basics.
Getting to grips with some foundational postures will ensure that you’re ready when it comes to more sophisticated positions.
If you try to take a short cut, it’s unlikely you’ll have the balance, flexibility, and strength to master advanced moves right off the bat.
Yoga is about the journey, not the destination. Don’t rush and short change yourself.
7. Improper Form
Whether you’re practicing yoga at home in front of the mirror or in a formal class, form really is crucial.
If you run into any problems, try chatting with your instructor before or after class to work out what’s wrong with your posture.
Yoga is meant to be a healing art. Don’t use poor form and end up injuring yourself instead.
8. Obsessing about perfect form: Just do it instead!
The keyword here is perfect.
While we’ve just made it clear that you need to focus on correct and proper form, hankering after perfection at the cost of any kind of progress is equally bad.
Like with many things in life, it’s all about balance.
Rather than thinking about the perfect pose, think about the perfect pose for you. If you’re struggling with part of a posture, get your instructor to break it down and give you a variation you can handle.
9. Failing to breathe
It’s funny that such a natural action can seem challenging at times.
Here’s a detailed look at the importance of proper breathing.
Learning to breathe correctly is another learning curve so embrace it if you’re practicing yoga. Failing to do so can lead to impaired performance and possibly even a fall if you get things wrong.
10. Cutting corners by skipping your warm-up and warm-down
Everyone is busy these days. Even fitting in time for a yoga class can be difficult.
It’s tempting to try to save time by skipping your warm-up and warm-down but this is really inadvisable.
Here’s a very easy yoga warm-up to get you ready for class.
This video walks you through a warm-down so you can minimize the chance of any injuries and relax your way into the rest of your day.
If you’re just starting out with yoga, we hope you’ve found some useful tips here on what not to do.
Take things slowly, embrace all aspects of this versatile discipline and you can reap many health benefits from yoga.
Now go and hit the mats!