I was talking to a friend of mine, Katy, who I had not spoken to in a while.  She told me she had moved to a new city in January and when she couldn’t kick her winter lethargy, a friend suggested she joined her for a trial at her yoga class.  She relayed the story as follows; ‘I was skeptical. I am inflexible as a board, I can’t even reach my toes and didn’t like the idea of putting on tight clothes and exhibiting this lack of athletic ability in front of a group of strangers.  When she finally showed up at my door with her extra mat and asked wouldn’t I please join her, I finally gave in.  After a one hour class, all I could say to her was “Wow, I wish I had said yes a month ago.”’

Starting a new routine or a new type of exercise isn’t always easy. Sometimes we get too overwhelmed thinking about the time it will take, how difficult it might be. I’d like to share some tips on getting started with yoga, and have the chance to help like Katy’s friend did.

First things first: yoga is not only about getting fit, it’s about feeling good. It’s about living better.

Motivation can be tricky. It’s different for everyone. Some people want to lose weight, be more sporty, improve their mood or outlook on life. Luckily, yoga helps with all these things. Going with a friend makes you both more likely to attend classes and stick with it, especially if you make plans to meet up beforehand or do something together afterward. When all else fails, just think of the benefits to your health and well-being, which have been documented and proven for decades.  (I found this article in the Huffington Post particularly compelling: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kripalu/yoga-benefits_b_1975025.html)

Don’t be embarrassed or nervous. For the first few months I recall my early yoga classes I went in old leggings instead of proper yoga pants.  One man in my class could barely bend his back when he started. I thought everyone was going to be doing perfect downward-facing dog and using jargon I wouldn’t understand, but that’s the point of a beginner’s or general class: we’re all beginning and learning something new.

Try some basic breathing exercises at home. Nothing beats a real class with a knowledgeable instructor present, especially when it comes to poses, which are easy to do wrong if you don’t have some who knows their stuff showing you how. Breathing exercises will increase your feeling of well-being and relax you on their own as well as while you pose. I started with Ujjayi or ocean breath. Inhale and exhale through your mouth, constricting the back of your throat. After you are comfortable with this, close your mouth and breathe through your nose. The sound you make will be like ocean wind, hence the name. Katy said she tried it before she left for her first class, and after thirty seconds she already felt more peaceful and calm.

There are options, so pick what’s best for you. Whatever your motivation is, there’s no need to compromise it.  Want to increase your flexibility and learn to relax?  Want to really start slow?  Want to develop muscle? Thinking about your general goals (I find writing them down is even more helpful) will guide you to picking the right class, which in turn will increase your motivation and results.

Next time I’ll cover some basic poses that I found helpful to developing my yoga habit!