From Zero to Yoga. One yoga beginner shares what you can expect after picking up the practice.
Like many people, on the 23rd March 2020 my life completely changed. After being furloughed shortly after the lockdown began, my purposeful morning routine was transformed from a two-hour commute to the office involving a bike, a train and a quick shower, to a meander from the bed to the sofa.
At that point it was pretty tempting to start binge-watching Netflix shows in the mid-afternoon, but that was a slippery slope. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the last year, it’s that routine is a good thing. Sure, it sounds dull, but it’s also an easy way of tricking your mind into believing that you’ve achieved something. Whether it’s reading the newspaper for half an hour with a coffee before starting the day, or making sure you go out for a walk at 2pm sharp, those small elements of a routine help you to stay happy and positive when life in many other ways seemed to lack purpose.
I had previously done a few beginners yoga classes, but just sporadically. The thought of having something gentle, something that could warm me into each day, like a nice hug from a friend (and who isn’t missing one of those?!), was tempting. It didn’t require existing fitness levels. It necessitated only the bare minimum of equipment. I had hardly any knowledge of the lingo or the different yoga poses, but it seemed doable. Yoga was the one!
But what’s the best yoga for beginners?
Look, the world of beginners yoga can be pretty confusing. Vinyasa, Hatha, Yin or Restorative? What’s the difference?! Like most people, I dived into YouTube and did a 30 Days of Yoga program which helped me figure some stuff out. What poses I liked. What I’d like to do more of. What I found challenging. I spent the following three months trying to find the sweet spot of a yoga class that would give me everything that I was looking for. I practised yoga on apps. I trawled the depths of YouTube yoga videos and tried free classes on Instagram live. When I didn’t have a lot of time, I found images of sun salutation variations that I could do myself, particularly valuable when I was called back to work and started getting up earlier to fit in a practice.
I remember the day, last August, when I didn’t have chance to squeeze in a yoga session. I felt weird that day – like something was just off. I couldn’t put my finger on it. The next day when I hit the mat, I realised; it was the first day in four months that I hadn’t practised yoga. I still felt like an utter beginner, but without realising it, my morning yoga class had become part of this new life.
Since then, I’ve found the Frog Project – the perfect online yoga classes for beginners, with teachers who are there to gently guide you through each practice. While I still do the apps and the occasional YouTube video, I love having a live yoga teacher to make sure that I’m hitting each posture safely and correctly, and not judging me when I get things a bit wrong!
As the 23rd March 2021 comes closer, I’m thinking back to the things that I’ve somehow managed to achieve over the last year, and going four months without skipping a yoga session is a major highlight. By forcing myself into a routine, my mindset changed permanently. I’m by no means an expert, but I’d like to share what I’ve learned about going from Zero to Yoga over the last year. It’s definitely shown me that you don’t have to be the bendiest person in the room to succeed!
You don’t need anything. Not even a mat.
The worst thing about new hobbies is investing in kit for something that you’re not even sure is going to last. This isn’t the case with yoga.
When I first started out last year, I didn’t even have a mat – I was using a big beach towel laid out over our floor rug. If you’re just starting to dive into a regular practice, or if you’re a big fan of a restorative practice with lots of stretches but minimal energetic or strong positions, a towel is a perfect solution for you.
I bought a mat after a month, once I realised that a firmer surface would help me to hold certain poses more confidently. But feel it out first, and find out what works for you. I still haven’t purchased any new clothes for yoga and regularly keep my pyjama bottoms on for a practice if I’ve just got up. The beauty of doing live online yoga is that you can turn your camera off if you’re feeling self-conscious, which is definitely not a luxury that an in-person class gives you!
Every practice is different.
At the same time as starting yoga, I also started running. And boy, is it boring! Once you’ve exhausted all of the routes in your local area, everything starts feeling very samey. You can predict on which exact road you’re going to start hitting your stride, and at what point on the way home you’ll be aching to stop and shove a doughnut in your face.
Not so with yoga! This can be wonderful, but also frustrating. Sometimes you can perfectly hold tree pose or Warrier III with poise, grace and elegance (at least, that’s what I tell myself!), and then the next day you can barely get your foot off the ground without holding onto the wall for support.
I generally practice in the morning and love a good stretch and breathing session at the start of the practice to help me warm into it. When I switch to an afternoon practice, I notice that I’m moving with a lot more energy right from the start and am looking for deeper stretches or more challenging postures. That’s the beauty of yoga; there’s a practice for every mood. So you’re feeling lethargic, anxious, happy, hopeful, or even constipated? You can find a practice that will enhance your positive emotions, or calm you on your bad days. That’s worth sticking around for.
There’s no substitute for an online yoga class
YouTube yoga was the beginning for me, and there’s definitely something to be said for leaping into a 15 minute practice any time of day. But as a beginner, I was constantly questioning myself. Do I have the posture right? Am I dumping all my weight into my back/hands/shoulders or trying to force myself too much in this twist pose? Yoga is slow and steady, but you can easily go too far with a stretch and hurt yourself. I still question myself when I’m doing Triangle pose (Trikonasana). Something about that posture always feels weird to me!
The beauty of a live class is that your teacher can subtly correct your position, or give you alternatives so that you don’t have to go for the most challenging pose straight away. Getting set up as a beginner in yoga is essential – I’m now learning through the Frog Project that a couple of the habits I’ve taken on over the last year need to be got rid of!
In the past, live yoga classes have been off-putting because I had a crazy long commute to the office, and the timings for a class just didn’t work. Now that I work from home, it’s so easy for me to find a class that suits my lifestyle, and more importantly, stick to it. Then I get all the other lovely benefits of seeing the same people every week and building a rapport with them!
As the 23rd March approaches, it’s not an exaggeration to say that yoga has been hugely important for me over the last year. I used to have major back pain which has pretty much disappeared, I’ve got a routine that I enjoy and that keeps me sane, and I feel generally more toned, healthier and stronger.
Ready to create a little bit of space for you? Why not try our Live Online Yoga classes, bringing you accessible yoga for all, from our living room to yours? Sign up now for 15 days of free unlimited classes.
Carmel is a travel professional and lover of literature and Latin America. In her day job at a tour operator she whisks people away to far off destinations, while in her spare time she moonlights as a freelance copywriter. You can find her portfolio here https://carmelhendry.journoportfolio.com. While not writing, or dreaming about travel, she can be found playing the piano, cycling or practising yoga. She’s spent the last year learning how to do a headstand, but mostly can be found relaxing in child’s pose! Join her and the Frog Project Community with 15 days of free unlimited classes. It’s just yoga.