A Beginner's Guide to Starting A Yoga Practice


Starting a new yoga practice is exciting, but we get it - it can be just as nerve-racking. Starting anything can be a bit overwhelming at first, but while there is a lot to discover and explore in the tradition of yoga, it is best to trust your journey and start simple.

So, what is yoga after all? The word yoga is from the Sanskrit word yuj meaning to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as “union”. In this case, we can relate this union to connecting mind, body and spirit.

If you're a first timer or new to the practice, here are some of the most asked questions to help you get on your way so you can feel confident, prepared, and inspired to explore yoga on and off the mat.

1) I am not flexible...Can I still do yoga?

Yes! You are actually a perfect candidate. When you think yoga probably a few words come to mind - flexibility, stretching, and breath. For those of you who might not be able to touch your toes, this can be very discouraging. Many people think that they need to first be flexible to begin practicing yoga, but that’s like thinking that you need to be able to play the piano in order to take piano lessons. Yoga asks us to come as we are. Over time, flexibility comes! You will find there is much more to the practice than this.

2) What are the benefits of practicing yoga?

This is a loaded question. The benefits of yoga are together mental, physical, and can even be spiritual.

From the physical aspect, it creates a flexible, toned and strong body. It improves breathing -more importantly teaches us to breathe properly- and increases overall energy and metabolism. Yoga also improves circulatory and cardiac health. It boosts fitness levels, relieves pain and improves posture. 

From the mental aspect, yoga ultimately makes you happier, more balanced and emotionally calmer. It helps you relax so you can handle the stresses of life better. It teaches you to be aware—aware of what is going on inside and outside of you. The practice breaks up inner dialogue and opens you up to be present in your surroundings.

3) I have a medical problem. Can I still do yoga?

Many people actually practice yoga as a way to manage their health conditions. There are lots of different classes that fit different health needs and can also be modified for injuries. Above all, if you have any medical condition or injury, you should consult your doctor before starting any exercise including yoga. Yoga teachers are not doctors and cannot offer any type of medical advise. An experienced yoga teacher can check your alignment in poses and to give you advice about any poses or movements you need to avoid.

4) Can beginners attend classes at SUMMUS?

Absolutely! We offer a 4 week Foundations class every other month. The Foundations series is for beginner students who want a solid foundation of the breath, alignment, and basic philosophy of yoga. If you prefer to dabble at your own pace, please talk to us so we can help you select the right class to begin.

5) What if I can’t do a pose?

One of the reasons we suggest beginners start in our Foundations series is to help you learn the basic poses and modifications to suit your level. If you move from there into an Open Level class and are presented with something challenging, ask the instructor for a modification if one is not offered. We stress the non-competitive nature of yoga and invite you to make the practice your own — honoring your body and doing what is best for you—not forcing yourself into a shape that you aren’t ready for.

6) What is OM?

The sound of “om” is actually a-u-m—three separate tones/vibrations. It is considered to be the original sound from which all other sounds come from. It is the sound of creation all around you—the wind in the trees, the hum of a car engine, the rumble of a train. In chanting om before or after practice, we are looking to create unity of vibration, reminding us we are connected to each other, and the unifying power of the universe.

7) What is Namaste?

You will here this word frequently when closing a class. Translated directly, Namaste means “to bow” and is considered a greeting from the heart that is reciprocated in kind. Expanding that definition, Namaste recognizes light and goodness of the self and others, and honors the sacredness in all.

8) What should I wear?

We keep the yoga room at about 85 degrees. We suggest comfortable, stretchy clothing that is not too loose or it will get in your way. It can also make it difficult to check your alignment. Most women wear a tank or tee with leggings and men wear a tee with shorts. Do plan to practice in bare feet, remove jewelry, and absolutely no watches in the studio. We also ask you refrain from wearing scented lotions and perfumes in respect for those who have sensitivities to fragrances.

9) Do I need to bring anything?

We have yoga mats for rent, but you should have your own mat if you are going to practice yoga regularly. Having your own mat is more hygienic and there are also different kinds that suit different preferences (thin, thick, grippy, eco-friendly to name a few). Your own mat will help you develop your own practice. The mats we sell in the studio are Manduka. They are a little more expensive than the "average” mat, but they last longer, are free of toxins, and are completely biodegradable. If you are attending a class at SUMMUS, you may want to bring a hand towel and water. 

10) Can I eat before I take a class?

Plan to practice on an empty stomach. If you need a snack, eat a piece of fruit or something light before class. If you eat a meal, plan to do that at least two hours before practicing yoga.

One of the benefits of yoga is its detoxification of the body. Drinking lots of water will help flush the toxins out of your system, so hydrate well both before and after class. 

11) Can I leave during class?

In order to keep disruptions to a minimum, please plan to arrive on time and stay for the entire class. If for some reason you need to leave early, let the instructor know in advance. You are, of course, always welcome to enter and exit the studio (quietly, please) during class to use the restroom.

12) How often should I do yoga?

The more yoga you do, the more positive changes you'll notice. Some students practice almost every day. Ideally, we recommend you try for an average of two classes a week to get the most from your practice.

So, there you have it! Hopefully all of this information answers most questions you might have as you start your journey. If we didn't cover it all, let us know! We are always available to give you as much info as you need. Simply get in touch with us here.

Ready to get started? Join us for the next Foundations Series! Click below to learn more and get signed up!