The question I get asked the most as a teacher is simply: how to start. A completely valid questions and yet one which is actually pretty difficult to answer as I am a big believer in that there is no right or wrong way to go about it. We are all so different; our bodies work differently, we are excited by different things, and so different things will work for each of us (how many times can you say different…?) – but despite all that, I’m going to try to answer the question the best I can because I truly believe that yoga will change your life.
It actually took me a long time to start my own practice; I had thought about it for quite some time before stepping foot on a mat. I followed lots of beautiful yoga accounts on Instagram and pinned about a million and one poses on Pinterest, hoping that I might be able to wiggle into them one day, but I didn’t do anything about it. Until one day when I reached out to a girl on Instagram and asked her this very same question, how do I start? and the answer? You just start. Little and often. But start.
So that’s what I did. I googled the Sun Salutations and worked out (kind of) how to do them. I YouTubed how to create flexibility in my hips and shoulders and back. I copied what I saw on Instagram (back before there were videos). And then I eventually signed up to a class.
Now that I’m a yoga teacher I feel that there are safer and more efficient ways to start, so I’ve shared them below. But my main advice is, and always will be, whatever you choose. Just start.
1. Get to a class
I know there is a chance that you don’t want to hear this. Maybe it’s because you don’t think you have the time. Maybe it’s because you’re scared you are too inflexible or not strong enough… But trust me, this is important. Going to a class allows you to start to understand flows. It helps you realise, when that hour zooms by in the blink of an eye, that yoga is about so much more than just poses. It teaches you safety and alignment.
It might take you a little while to find a class you like and that’s okay – the first time I went to a yoga class I hated it (yes, seriously!) we spent the hour lying on the floor, which just wasn’t for me. So you might have to shop around a little, but there will be one out there for you, you just have to find it. If you’re worried about the flexibility thing take it from someone who teaches over 18 classes a week: 1.You are no more inflexible than the majority of people who start yoga. 2. No one else cares what you are doing anyways because they are too busy focusing on their own practice to notice.
2. Home practice – little and often
For me practicing at home is important (even if you do get to that studio class once a week) because making yoga part of your day/week is how you see progress (physically yes, but also mentally). Being at home is so versatile; you can pull your mat out, stretch out those limbs and connect to your breath anywhere… even if it is only for ten minutes. You don’t have to spend hours on your mat, but you do need to commit to see the difference.
But how do you start a home practice? Especially if you are a beginner? Well to start I would advise following a YouTube video. I know a lot of people who love Yoga by Candace (here) and I love Shona Vertue's stuff. I’ll also be posting some of my own videos soon - you can find my channel here. Even if you are pretty regular practitioner - someone else telling you what to do is just so lovely sometimes.
If from there you want to start to create your own flows when I first started I liked to always have a focus; be that a theme or a peak pose. I move around that; I'll warm up and mobilise my body, then move into a flow, and then counter and cool down.
3. Find inspiration
Yoga is especially awesome because there is no ‘mastering’ something; there is always more you can do and learn; be that in terms of spirituality, flexibility, strength, or transitioning from one pose into the next… there is always more. For me, that’s what helps keep me motivated. Once I feel confident in one thing I can begin to add onto it. It means that your practice will always stay exciting.
So find something or someone inspiring to look up to and learn from. This might be your teacher, or even someone you follow on social media. But keep growing, in and out, it will help ground you and keep you on your mat everyday.
So, how do you start yoga? Well, in whatever way you want really. But go get out there. Just start.