Yoga for Relaxation and Flexibility

Starting a Yoga Practice at Home

For Beginners:

Over the years, I have led hundreds of beginning yoga classes. Students took the class for a variety of reasons. Some took it for stress reduction, others for improved physical fitness. Whatever the reason for coming, these men and woman all have one thing in common: they are searching for something to improve their lives and to feel better. Their first challenge in class is to shape themselves, both physically and mentally, into unfamiliar and sometimes challenging yoga postures. Their second challenge, once they head home is to apply their newfound knowledge to their everyday lives.

Yoga emphasizes the importance of experience gained through regular practice -- and regular practice depends on commitment.

The following tips will help you maintain a regular daily commitment to practice:

  • No matter how fit you may be, you have to ease into a new training program.
  • If you are unfit, you can't make up for years of inactivity by rushing and trying to cram all that lost time into one workout. Nor can you try to pick up where you left off years age.
  • Keep your commitment simple and manageable at first. It is easier to dedicate 15-20 minutes rather than zealously commit to an hour or more. Start modestly, 15-20 minutes a day is more amiable to repeat daily, than longer periods of time. You are more apt to stick with it, rather than stopping your practice after a few days because you can't find the time to practice for hours. Start modestly, resolving to practice for 15-20 minutes daily or whatever is realistic --- for a month or so. At the end of the period, reevaluate you commitment.
  • Set aside a specific time and place for your daily practice, well away from distractions (telephones, television, and all non-yogis). There is no right time to practice. Some people prefer to perform their Yoga postures in the morning; they start their day nurturing themselves. Others prefer to ease the tensions of the day by practicing in the early evening. You may find time in your schedule to do both! What ever schedule you commit to, it is important for you to be consistent. Soon, your body and mind will eagerly anticipate yoga at your accustomed time (just like your stomach reminds you that it is meal-time).
  • Try practicing with a partner or a close circle of friends who can offer encouragement and support on those days when you are challenged by resisting your commitment. However, keep your chitchat to a minimum -- you're together to encourage each other in your commitment rather than to socialize.
  • Find a book that is enjoyable to read and has lots of pictures or video on yoga . It can serve as a reference on those days when you can't remember how certain postures are performed. Many books also have suggested practice routines for beginners. Look for Video rental. I recommend the series by Yoga Journal (six tapes of varying difficulty.
  • Go into each practice session with a particular focus or structure. Establish a routine for what postures you include and in which order. The structure will provide a familiarity, and allow you to ease the uncertainty of what you should do. Remember to consult your yoga book!
  • Just like you experience each week in class, no yoga practice is complete without a relaxation period at the end. This relaxation is done laying down in the Corpse Pose. In the relaxation session, we give ourselves time to fully integrate what body and mind, and spirit have experienced in our practice. Spend at least 5 minutes in the Corpse Pose for every 30 minutes of practice.
  • When practicing, yoga treat your body with reverence and respect. Do not exert! When you can hold a pose with ease, comfort and stability, you are doing yoga!

In your practice, try to harmonize exertion, or doing (performing the postures) with acceptance and being (experiencing what arises from performing the postures) --- and then strive to integrate both these qualities in your life once you step off the yoga mat.

Keith Engelhardt (EYT)

Updated Oct 2018