A quick scroll through Instagram would have you believe that yoga is a mythical and inaccessible practice. Every other photo involves someone precariously balancing on their head, and the everyday coffee-drinking office worker may feel overwhelmed by the focus on veganism, chakra systems and meditation.
However, yoga is for everyone. While it’s easy to feel intimidated by Sanskrit terminology, fancy studios and complicated postures, it’s inherently inclusive and suitable for all ability levels.
You don’t need to overhaul your lifestyle to start. Most importantly, you don’t need to be ultra-flexible, young or fanatical about fitness.
If you’re still nervous, this blog explores five ways yoga is beginner-friendly and answers your most pressing questions, including:
- Do you have to be flexible to start yoga?
- How often should a beginner practise yoga?
- Is yoga easy for beginners?
Do you have to be flexible to start yoga?
If I had a penny for every time someone told me they’re not flexible enough to start yoga, I’d be a millionaire. Mainly thanks to social media, there’s a common misconception that you have to walk into class elasticated, able to touch your toes and stick both legs behind your head.
It’s nonsense. Are you too weak to lift weights? Too slow to run? Flexibility is a by-product of yoga rather than a prerequisite.
Not to mention, flexibility isn’t the ultimate goal of most styles of yoga. Some prioritise passive holds and deep stretches, whereas others focus on strength-building and mobility.
How often should a beginner practise yoga?
The biggest mistake I see with beginner students is they take on too much, too fast. While it’s always lovely to witness their enthusiasm, jumping from zero to five classes a week leads to burnout. It’s comparable to any movement regime – before running a marathon, you start with shorter sessions and increase the mileage incrementally.
Above all else, aim for consistency. Fifteen minutes a day or one class a week is better than intense, irregular bursts. And remember, we practise yoga to live better rather than live to practise yoga.
What do I mean by this? Yoga feels so good it can be addictive, and many students go through a phase of obsession before finding balance. If you find yourself cancelling commitments, spending less time with loved ones or feeling guilty for resting, you need to reassess effort vs reward.
Is yoga easy for beginners?
Whether yoga is easy for beginners is an impossible question because we all have different movement backgrounds, bodies and tolerance levels. However, you can modify every posture to suit your anatomy, and there are plenty of props to support your practice.
I think all yoga is appropriate for beginners, provided you have an experienced teacher capable of giving personalised instruction.
Remember, yoga is an umbrella term like athletics, covering a wealth of disciplines. Some classes are faster and sweatier, whereas others focus on relaxation. However, don’t be fooled into thinking slower practices are necessarily easier. For example, yin only includes a few postures, but you hold them for anywhere between three to eight minutes (ouch).
It boils down to research. Find out about each style and choose one that best suits your preferences and motivations.
Five ways yoga is beginner-friendly
If you need a little more convincing about whether yoga is right for you, here are five ways it accommodates beginners, including:
- Adaptable postures
- Balances challenge and familiarity
- Movements are low-impact
- No need for fancy equipment
1. Adaptable postures
If you struggle with straight-legged forward folds, bend your knees. If you can’t grab your toes, take hold of your shin. There are plenty of props to make postures more accessible, including blocks, straps and walls.
There are hundreds of variations and modifications for a single posture. Rather than striving for uniformity, focus on how a posture feels.
For example, in a forward fold, we aim to release the hamstrings, calves and lower back. It doesn’t matter whether you’re standing, seated, straight-legged or bent-kneed as long as you pick up that sensation.
2. Balances challenge and familiarity
Stepping into a yoga class can feel daunting, especially if you’re unfamiliar with posture names and sequences. However, you’ll pick it up quickly. After a few months, you’ll be well-versed in sun salutations, downward dogs and warriors.
Yoga blends challenge and familiarity. Dynamic classes change every week, so there’s always something new and exciting to try. Yet, sequences draw from the same bank of postures, meaning you’ll never feel completely lost.
Certain styles like Ashtanga focus on repetition, providing a solid framework for beginners. The sequences never change but get progressively harder, giving students time to get used to movements before exploring more advanced variations.
3. Low impact
Yoga is a low-impact way to build strength and stamina thanks to its emphasis on bodyweight movement.
Bodyweight exercises engage multiple muscles simultaneously and restore the body’s natural range of mobility. Best of all, they don’t place additional stress on delicate joints like traditional weight-lifting or running – ideal if you’re sedentary or hypermobile.
I remember the first time I went for a run. My breathing was short and shallow, stuck in my chest like bad heartburn. I tired quickly, and it took me far longer to recover than anticipated.
We forget about the breath in other types of movement. It’s just something that happens unconsciously, outside our control. However, rapid breathing leads to anxiety and fatigue, whereas longer breaths slow the heart rate and decrease blood pressure.
Ultimately, yoga is a breathing exercise, and you’ll notice teachers forever reminding you to take drawn-out, deliberate inhales and exhales. No matter how difficult the movement, the breath serves as an anchor, decreasing cortisol levels (the stress hormone) so you feel calmer and more in control.
5. No need for fancy equipment
Airport lounges, hotel rooms, gardens – you can practise yoga anywhere, anytime. All you need is a mat (it doesn’t have to be expensive), and you’re ready to go.
As for props, maybe a strap (although a dressing gown cord does the trick) and a few blocks (again, you can replace these with household items like books).
Are you ready to try a yoga class?
If you’re ready to build physical and emotional strength through yoga, book a class today. The first step is often the hardest, but my classes include plenty of modifications and variations to suit all abilities and body types.