Yoga for beginners, your guide to yoga to strengthen your body, calm your mind and create a stress-free life!
When you are completely beginners to yoga, it can feel intimidating and it is difficult to know where and how to begin. Our basic guide is created specifically for you – you will need all the tips, guidelines and recommendations you need to start a successful yoga practice. To ensure your success, we recommend you read this entire page before attempting any yoga.
It is time to roll up your yoga mat and discover a combination of physical and mental exercises that have hooked yoga practitioners around the world for thousands of years. The beauty of yoga is that you do not have to be a yogi or a yogini to get benefits.
Whether you are young or old, overweight or fit, yoga has the power to calm the mind and strengthen your body. Do not be intimidated by yoga terminology, fancy yoga studio and complicated situation. Yoga is for everyone.
There are many aspects of yoga, and all of them may not like you. However, it helps to understand them to find the style of yoga that you like best.
For me, it started as a purely physical practice. Soon, it became a lifestyle. For you, it can be completely different. But this is the beauty of yoga: you decide how it should be in your life. So let’s get started to the basics.
Definitive Guide to Yoga
- What is yoga?
- What is the Eight Limbs (Ashtanga) of Yoga?
- How to Practice?
- Breathing, Relaxation and Meditation
What is yoga?
Yoga is a mind and body practice with a history of 5,000 years in ancient Indian philosophy. The word yoga originates from the Sanskrit root yuj which implies to bind, join, attach and yoke, to direct and concentrate, use and apply one’s attention. It also means union or communion. It is reality union of our will with the will of God.
In simple terms, Yoga is all about connecting your body and mind through breathing and movements that relax the mind and increase the extent of flexibility and fitness in your body.
It is one of the the six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy. It was collated, coordinated and systematised by Pataiiji in his classical work, the Yoga Sutras, which consists of 185 terse aphorisms.
In Indian thought, everything is permeated by the Supreme Universal Spirit (Paramatma or God) of which the individual human spirit (jivatma) may be a part. The system of yoga is so called because it teaches the means by which the jivatma are often united to, or be in communion with the Paramatma, and so secure liberation (moksha). One who follows the trail of Yoga may be a yogi or yogin.
What is the Eight Limbs (Ashtanga) of Yoga?
The Yoga Sutras, also referred to as The Eight Limbs (Ashtanga) of Raja (King) Yoga, was the primary fully developed and recorded system of yoga. Created by Patanjali around 400 CE, this technique influences much of the yoga that’s practiced today.
Although most of the sutras were originally focused on mindfulness, the yoga practiced in the West today seems to focus more on the body. Somewhere along the way, it like, we began to practice the movement of yoga in isolation from its original philosophies.
For those interested in truly integrating the mindfulness of yoga with its movement, I recommend that you read The Eight Limbs of Yoga in its entirety and digest it very slowly.
Take time to reflect on it piece by piece so you can implement it into both your practice and your daily life. Wisdom is in the doing. The following, however, could be a useful summary of The Eight Limbs of Yoga, which is able to introduce you to the fundamental concepts of the philosophy.
A deep understanding of yoga philosophy and history will greatly enhance the advantages of your practice and put you on the trail to mindfulness and self-realization.
Patanjali enumerates these means because the eight limbs or stages of Yoga for the quest of the soul. They are:
- YAMA (self-control)
- NIYAMA (methods of discipline)
- ASANA (physical postures)
- PRANAYAMA (breath work)
- PRATYAHARA (assistance with withdrawing from the senses)
- DHARANA (concentration)
- DHYANA (meditation)
- SAMADHI (absorption or liberation from the mind and the body)
Yama describes the ways by which we can control our actions and our reactions. The five yams are as follows:
Ahimsa literally means “do not hurt.” The easiest way to think about it is like the Doctor’s Hippocratic oath, which says, “First, no harm.” This is the guiding principle that physicians use in making any major medical decision. According to Ahimsa, it should also guide yoga practice.
This principle can be as simple as lessons taught to children, such as not to hit and fight, or it can be more complex as exercising restraint. Examples of this are trying not to get sick of others or hate those who do wrong. But non-violence does not apply only to the way we treat others. This applies to how you treat your body as well. In a sense, it asks you to be your own doctor.
Ahimsa encourages you to consider the following issues:
- Injury or disease prevention
- Learn to relax when you’re done
- Finding ways to cope with stress at work or home
Some yogis also translate non-violence to be vegetarian and not to harm animals. It works great for a few , but not for all. Deciding what it means to do no harm to your body can be a personal matter.
Satya is the practice of honesty – not only with others, but also with oneself. Being true is the biggest lesson you can translate on a yoga mat.
Once you start learning to pose, how can you be honest with yourself? How can you listen and understand your body when you have pushed it too far or not too far? By practicing Satya you can feel better about yourself.
It is a practice not to steal. It can also mean things that belong to others, whether physical or intangible. Asteya is the practice to give up and shut down feelings of jealousy in order to compare oneself with others.
Brahmacharya is perhaps the most interesting Yama. It has been translated to mean restraint, and Patanjali believed in celibacy. However, this cannot be possible in today’s modern world, so we translate it in the sense that “do not spend your time on things that waste your energy.” There are many examples of this. Maybe you are always saying yes to every invitee and you are tired. You may be following relationships that no longer serve you or the other person. Brahmacharya urges you to rid your life of things that dry you out.
Aparigraha means “non-greed”. This yama encourages you to stop living in excess. Like for example, you thought that, “If I have extra money, or a very big house, or better clothes, I will be happy or it will be great”?
Aparigraha encourages you to let go of those thoughts and be satisfied with what you have. To live by the doctrine of apostasy, instead of acquiring love for yourself and around you, rather than liking the things you can buy or get.
The second limb helps refine your spiritual path. Discipline and self-restraint lead to a more orderly and productive life. From the perspective of ancient yoga texts, life is extremely short and we need to make the most of this time. This part guides us.
Niyama includes the following:
- Isvara Pranidhana
Saucha (purity of body and mind)
When you develop shaucha (cleanliness), unwanted thoughts that speak foully and a sick body are cleared. Holiness starts with your mind. Speech and action follow.
So, the second organ instructs you to make a habit of consuming both food and mental stimulation that supports well-being for yourself and the environment (humanity and the planet). This will allow destructive habits (hatred, greed and confusion) to dissolve.
Santosha (satisfaction with what is there)
When you achieve santosha (contentment), the bonds of the material world break and authentic peace and happiness are established. Lack of satisfaction is often based on a distorted perception of what one has and what others have. You move on the path of self-interviewing when you can be satisfied with your lot, whether you sit on the throne of filth or gold.
Self-discipline, sometimes associated with austerity, and through mental control is able to conquer body and mind.
Tapas literally means “heat” or “radiance.” This reflects a burning desire to accomplish one’s goal despite those obstacles. Commitment to achieving the goal, however challenging it may be, builds character.
However, note that accomplishing a person’s goal without selfishness is the highest level of tapas. When asceticism is attained, laziness goes away and willpower develops for future use.
Self-study that results in introspection and a greater awakening of the soul and therefore the source of creation; Traditionally studied through Vedic scriptures.
Svadhyaya brings greater awareness of your true potential, the origin of a place in this world and how it can be aligned with the Earth and all its inhabitants.
Isvara Pranidhana (devotion to God)
When you accept that all things come from a higher power, pride and egoistic behavior turn into humility and devotion. This strengthens your practice of all the organs leading up to Samadhi (the eighth limb).
Asana is a physical practice of yoga. The practice of asanas is as much to train the mind as it is the body:
- How you think about your asana practice, you are often a reflection of how you adopt life.
- Do you have a sense of peace and tranquility when a challenge presents itself?
- Do you break the impossible into small
- Is work possible through commitment and reflection on each part?
- Do you cross self-perceived boundaries on your own or do you accept support from others?
Your practice of yoga pose should be characterized by two components:
- steadiness (sthira)
- ease (sukha)
Paying attention to the sounds of your breath (the most commonly practiced technique in yoga is ujjayi), can provide stability. If you lose your breath, it is most likely because you are pushing too hard; Close the posture and allow the posture to complete the breath.
There is no such thing as a perfect pose; Let the pose come in like dance steps. Like in dance, when we focus too much on mechanics, we give up the ability to enjoy music. While the mechanics of alignment are important to prevent injury, the ultimate goal should never be forgotten. Feel that the music of life flows through you as you do each pose and your body will naturally learn tricks.
There are more than enough asanas to keep you busy throughout your life, so give yourself up to ambition and enjoy the journey. Bending forward in your yoga session, incorporating a combination of backbends, twists, and inversions, is optimal for health.
Remember, too, that asanas help prepare the mind and body for meditation, relieve stress and cleanse the nervous system and protect the body from disturbances.
Pranayama is the breath work. There are many types of yogic breathing out there, but one of the simplest is learning to breathe slowly and deeply.
It is said that most people use only a small part of their lung capacity to breathe. Creating a conscious to fill your lungs with air can produce a stress-reducing calming effect.
The breath and mind are interlinked. Deep, rhythmic and fluid breathing will calm the mind and body. Rapid, irregular and stressful breathing produces a chaotic and disturbed mind.
A calm mind will give you a mental space to make better decisions and a life in which you take control rather than feeling like a victim of circumstances.
Breathing properly is fundamental to our existence. Your brain feeds on oxygenated blood, which is supplied with every breath. If you are unable to draw oxygen to your body, you will be brain dead after a few minutes.
On the other hand, proper exhaling helps to flush out carbon dioxide. If your ability to exhale is impaired, you will most likely die due to toxic buildup of carbon dioxide and poison.
Stress negatively affects breathing patterns, contributing to the range of effects that cause wear and tear on both your body’s nervous and immune systems. In fact, 90 percent of illness is related to stress and for this reason, focusing on breathing properly is, in fact, a matter of life and death.
Pratyahara is the practice of retreating from the senses to focus on your inner thoughts, from being able to look inward. It likes to work at your desk and turn off your phone and internet so that you don’t get distracted.
Our perception of reality is primarily influenced by our sensory experience – what we see, feel, hear, touch, and taste.
Pratyahara refers to the withdrawal of the senses from external objects and our modern times are needed for continuous satisfaction with sensory stimuli. Our mind is constantly being drawn outward to evaluate all the information that brings the senses inside.
The assessment includes what has been considered; Often, we recognize that what we believe is desirable, what we believe is undesirable, and ignore what we believe.
Pratyahara gives our minds a moment to rest and teaches us to be free from what we enjoy and avoid undesirability.
When you throw a pebble into a pond, your reflection is distorted by the resulting waves. Your brain works in the same way:
- Each thought creates a wave that distorts your ability to see your true self clearly.
- Constantly interrupted by these waves, you begin to believe that the distorted reflection is who you really are.
The practice of pratyahara calms the mind, allowing you to see yourself clearly.
Dharana is the ability to focus on one thing and let everything else go away. Think of a professional athlete, the golfer who made that winning put or the football player who scored the last touchdown. He is so focused on the work ahead that everything else disappears. This ability to concentrate leads to taking the next step – meditation.
When the mind moves from experiencing random scattered thoughts to a single-pointed concentration, it can find complete absorption in the present moment. By practicing one-pointed concentration, we all clear our mind of distracting thoughts.
This can be achieved by focusing on your breath, counting, reciting mantras, or looking at a candle flame or an image. Because we are constantly trying to relive memories of the past or anticipate the time to come, it is very rarely that we live in the present. Being mindful of the present moment with a calm and focused mind is even less. However, it is important when trying to achieve self-realization. Right now in power!
Dhyana is the practice of meditation. Just as there are many types of yogasanas, similarly there are many ways to meditate. Meditation is a form of internal contemplation that allows you to reach a state of mind that has transcended the ego.
It is a state of pure awareness of the present moment that is free from judgment. All attention leads to a state of complete awareness that does not discriminate or classify things in a dualistic way, that is to say what is good, what is bad, beautiful vs. ugly, pleasant vs. unpleasant, etc.
When we examine the reasons behind such decisions, we find that many of these beliefs are based on learned behavior, can vary from one culture to another, and have no definite or concrete reality is.
With consistent reflection and an open mind, we can fix our biased perceptions. You will develop that part of the name called “Observer”. Once grounded in a regular sitting mediation, it is important to take it into a moving mediation in your daily life.
Samadhi is the highest point of yoga. It is the perfect balance where the mind is calm and the body is in a state of internal stability. All other principles of yoga are designed to help us achieve this. It is the ultimate “now”.
Samadhi occurs when the analytical mind becomes further absent with the object of meditation. The object of meditation can be what you are focusing on in your meditation that is used to achieve one-pointed concentration. The word Om, a deity, or a candle flame are all examples of meditative objects.
Total absorption involves a sense of unity with all creation, the dissolution of all lines between the act of meditation and the object to which meditation is performed.
It is absorption in the present moment (Amanaska) where dualistic thinking is transcended. Many believe that samadhi is the ultimate goal of yoga. But it is a temporary state of mind that we enter based on the conditions we have nurtured to support.
It is useful to remember that every moment in your life you get an opportunity to practice the eight limbs. Know at your own pace, but stay focused, be consistent and enjoy the journey!
How to Practice?
There is a saying that it has become fully developed in the world of yoga recently: “Practice, not perfection.”
To reap the benefits of practicing yoga, you have to put in work, but your misfortune should not be complete. You just need to commit to practicing yoga regularly. But how do you do that? And what do you want? Here you are going to find answers to these very good questions.
- The Bandhas
- The Drishtis
- How to approach poses?
The best way to practice yoga is regular and frequent. However, this does not mean that you have to pose for one hour and half an hour of your day. In fact, if you have just one free minute a day, you can do yoga.
Remember those eight principles of yoga?
- Self-control (yama)
- Methods of discipline (niyama)
- Physical postures (asanas)
- Breath work (pranayama)
- Withdrawing from the senses (pratyahara)
- Concentration (dharana)
- Meditation (dhyana)
- Meditative absorption or liberation from the mind and the body (samadhi)
Here are some simple tips that can help you practice regularly:
Set a specific time everyday:
Practice some form of yoga, whether it is meditation, breath work, some poses, or complete sequence of poses. Choose a time that you can do every day and stick to it.
Reward yourself for committing to yoga:
Set up a system that makes sense to you and reward yourself for your practice every week.
Find yoga challenge on social media:
Check out the hashtag #yoga or #yogeverydamnday to find teachers from all over the world, then join a challenge that suits your experience. These challenges will not only teach you new poses, but they will also make you accountable for teaching some methods of yoga every day.
Focus on one of Yama or Niyama:
Let it be your guide for the day or week that you do it. For example, if you choose Satya, every time you decide to do something, you wonder if I am being truthful? Am I honest with myself and others?
Get a friend to join you:
Maybe you can practice together every day. Perhaps you check in with each other to make sure you are with your practice. Whatever it is, find someone to hold you accountable.
Be kind to yourself:
If you miss a day or you fail to meet one of your goals, don’t beat yourself. Accept what you have and move on. Practice non-violence (no harm) and remember “practice, not perfection.”
2. The Bandhas
Bandha means “lock.” Bandha was traditionally believed to regulate the flow of life energy (prana) throughout the body. In contemporary yoga practice, the bandha serves a more practical purpose.
They are contractions, or “body locks” that you can apply to help correct your posture or support. You are in proper alignment.
There are three major bandhas:
- Mula bandha
- Uddiyana bandha
- Jalandhara bandha
The combination of all Mula, Uddiyana and Jalandhara bandhas is called Maha Bandha or “great lock”.
The mula bandha perineum refers to the muscle trigger that lies between the genitals and the anus. Mula means “root”, hence mula bandha translates as “root lock”.
When it is caged, you will feel a slight stretch in the inside of the thighs, similar to what you feel when trying to stop the flow of urine.
Uddiana Bandha means “to fly/grow.” To include this closure, place three fingers under the belly button and pull your lower abdominal muscles slightly in and up. This will give your pelvis a slight forward tilt with an upward action, protect the lower back and strengthen the lower abdominals.
Mula and Uddiyana bandha should be applied throughout the yoga practice. Together they help correct postures and create proper alignment, which will reduce the chance of injury.
Jalandhara Bandha is a chin lock. To practice this lock, bring the chin towards the claw while keeping your spine straight and moving your shoulder backwards. This bandh is rarely used, but dandasana can be found when engaged in staff poses.
3. The Drishtis
Drishtis are the points to focus on while posing. They are designed to assist with proper alignment, as well as strengthening the focus on the present moment.
While practicing we look around, compare others in the room, or look at the clock. This takes away from the focus on the internal aspects of the practice. With the help of Drishtis you help see inward.
They are as follows:
- Nasagrai or Nasagre (nose)
- Ajna Chakra or Bhrumadhye (third eye, between the eyebrows)
- Nabhi, Nabhicakre, or Nabi Chakra (belly button)
- Hastagrai or Hastagre (hands)
- Padayoragrai or Padayoragre (toes/feet)
- Parshva Drishti (to the right)
- Parshva Drishti (to the left)
- Angushtamadhye or Angushta Ma Dyai (thumbs)
- Antara Drishti or Urdhva (up to the sky)
Drishtis can be complicated to understand at first. However, there are general guidelines for gaze. It comes down to making your eyes follow the direction of stretch. For example, in the backbend we look at our third eye to move the head back and deepen the backbend. Similarly, sitting
Leaning forward, as in the pasakimottanasana (Western Intense Stretch Pose), we gaze at the toes to lengthen the spine.
The purpose of Drishtis is not for you to become cross-eyed; They are a way to focus slowly without panic.
4. How to approach poses?
Yoga asanas provide much more than a physical workout. His performance builds character. Facing your fears and challenges that expand your sense of peace, tranquility, and psychological equality beyond your comfort zone will help you to overcome your self-perceived limitations.
Being in this place of grace with your mind and body helps you transcend the ego, which helps bring you closer to the ultimate goal of yoga, which is enlightenment.
1. Universal alignment signal:
- Ang moola and Udyan Bandha.
- Engage Ujjayi Breath and maintain deep conscious breathing throughout the yoga session. If you are having trouble with your breath, back off a little.
- Keep the chest open and the shoulders tilted backwards.
- Enlarge body and limbs on breathing, deepen posture on exhalation.
- Avoid jerky and uncontrolled movements during poses based on flexibility.
- Make your hips square.
- Do not let your knee go to the back of your ankle while doing any type of lounging.
- The shoulders should be just above the fingers for the most part of the planck and arm balance.
- Even if you are intermediate or advanced, start with beginning modifications to ensure proper form and get blood to the target muscle as a warm-up.
2. Signs of universal flexibility:
- Keep flexibility for at least 30 to 90 seconds.
- Relax without tension and stretch at the edge of excitement.
- Do not overdo the point of pain; Your muscles will tighten to protect themselves and your flexibility will decrease.
Breathing is an essential part of every yoga practice. By focusing on the breath, a yogi is able to live in the present moment. Since the breath is neutral, a yogi neither tries to avoid it, nor is he eager to pursue it.
Proper and continuous breathing helps to distract thoughts and stay in the present moment with one-point concentration.
Deep, conscious breathing also slows down the heartbeat and activates the parasympathetic nervous response, which calms the nervous system, and relaxes the muscles in the stretch and has become strength-based yoga. Maintaining deep, fluid breathing will help transform your yoga practice into a meditation.
You breathe in and out through your nose in yoga. This is a specific method known as Ujjayi Pranayama. This is not necessary, but it certainly adds to the practice. It’s easy to learn – in fact, you can try it now.
- Place your lips together softly.
- Breathe in through your nose.
- Take out your nose.
how was it? Perhaps the breath you took was too shallow. Maybe you feel like you need a little more air. try it again.
- Meditate while breathing through your nose.
- Extend your ribs by filling your lungs with air.
- Exhale slowly.
Did it feel a little better? I’m guessing it’s a step ahead.
- Inhale slowly through your nose.
- Extend your ribs.
- Keep breathing in and expand your stomach.
- Hold it there at the top.
- Exhale slowly.
It should be felt completely different than the first breath you took. Keep breathing in this slow, deep way. As you become more comfortable with this breathing, add a bit of constriction to the back of your throat, as if you were trying to fog a mirror. This will produce a soft sound, such as an ocean wave that must be barely audible.
This breath is Ujjayi Pranayama. You hear that the teacher talks a lot about it as you walk in the pose.
Relaxation is a major component of yoga. In fact, Patanjali says that it is best:
Practicing yoga in a relaxed manner with strength creates harmony within the body1.SUTRA 2.46, STHIRA SUKHAM ASANAM
Sthira means “strong and steady.” Sukham means “comfortable and relaxed.” Combine these two and you get an asana, or pose that works to create a happy body.
Here is a simple way to demonstrate the important balance between strength and relaxation:
- Sit upright in a comfortable position.
- Note which of your muscles are working and which are not. Your core is fixed to keep you upright, but your shoulders are relaxed.
- Tension your shoulders and bring them towards your ears. Suddenly it becomes a very uncomfortable pose. You have no way of holding it for any extended period of time.
- Relax your shoulders. Now it doesn’t feel so hard to sit there, is it?
It is Sukham Asanam in action, a balance of strength and relaxation that creates a healthy yoga practice. Another essential element is breathing.
Was this article helpful?
Written by Anjali Kumari. She is a certified yoga instructor, Diploma in Make up, Nails and Beauty, Diploma in Nutrition, Food, Science and Menu Planning. Anjali is the destination of choice for the latest updates, tips and resources in beauty, health and wellness, and all topics that mean the most to today’s woman. Whether it’s advice from a trusted expert or a DIY tutorial, she has it all. She is passionate and obsessive about science and how it can be applied in daily lifestyle. According to her, food is the best medicine and proper nutrition is the key to achieving good health and beauty. When she is not working, she likes to spend quality time with family and friends. She loves creating innovative, healthy recipes and healthy choices for foods to promote good health.
- Practicing yoga in a relaxed manner with strength creates harmony within the body – SUTRA 2.46, STHIRA SUKHAM ASANAM