I don’t know about you, but I could gawk at gorgeously complicated yoga poses all day! There is something so beautiful about seeing an experienced yogi do their thang (thank you Instagram!) But man oh man can it ever be intimidating too! Which kind of kept me from considering yoga for way too long.
But, surprise surprise, yoga isn’t all about the poses. In fact, many yoga experts tell us that they are the least important part of the practice! I don’t know about you, but hearing that truth bomb blew my mind.
So if you’re anything like I was, intrigued by yoga but intimidated at the same time, fear not! I’ve invited Anavi, a yoga teacher, healthy lifestyle advocate, the creator of yogavi.com and one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet, to talk to us about the true fundamentals of yoga. And to help us shake off any negative feels that may be holding us back.
Whether you’re a yoga expert or can barely touch your toes, Anavi’s 9 powerful tips about yoga for beginners (or experienced yogis, we are all eternally students after all) are invaluable. Check it out:
Why It Took Me So Long to Try Yoga
Before Anavi shares her powerful tips about yoga for beginners like us, I wanted to talk a bit more about why yoga and I didn’t become friends sooner.
I had so many preconceived notions about yoga before I started. I thought that it was mainly a form of gentle exercise. One that wouldn’t really help me with my fitness goals. I definitely had no interest in the meditation side of things (goodness, how that has changed!) And I figured that my inability to turn myself into a pretzel pretty well guaranteed that I would suck at it. So why even bother with that yoga for beginners class, ya know?
Boy I was wrong!
And the saddest thing is that I missed out on something incredibly awesome for so long because I decided (before really trying) that I wouldn’t be any good. Isn’t that too bad? It’s funny how sometimes we’re what’s standing in our way.
Yoga has been a beautiful part of my self care routine from the moment I got the go ahead to exercise again after my Graves Disease treatment finally kicked in. I’m still not good at imitating a pretzel. But, contrary to popular belief, that’s not a skill you need at all to be good at yoga!
I think a lot of us are intimidated by photos of incredibly complex poses and seemingly complicated ideals. I know I was! And yet there’s something so intriguing about yoga that it almost beckons you in.
Which is why I excitedly invited my wonderful friend Anavi, a yoga teacher and healthy lifestyle advocate who loves to share that yoga is for everyone (and way more than a form of exercise), to stop by and share some tips about yoga for beginners (or anyone who needs a yoga pep talk.)
Her advice may surprise you!
For one thing, Anavi doesn’t even touch on poses (unlike most ‘yoga for beginners’ articles). Because, surprisingly, that’s such a small part of this beautiful practice. And knowing that removes a lot of the unnecessary pressure many of us (I assume it’s not just me) experience when we’re on the outside of yoga looking in.
But enough from little old me! Let’s hear what lovely Anavi has to share. Ready to feel super confident about your yoga practice?
How Anavi Became a Yogi
(Psst… that’s the gorgeous Anavi practicing yoga and showing off her beautiful baby belly <3)
I started practicing yoga nine years ago. I had been curious about the practice for a long time. It was my mother who first showed me what a sun salutation was, back when I was in university. I was amazed at the agility of my mother, moving from one posture to another.
At that time (as it had been since my teenage years), I was suffering from back pain due to my scoliosis and that strange and alluring dance seemed like a feat far from anything I would ever be able to do. “Touching the floor with my fingertips? Not with my back!” I thought.
I want you to really let these words sink. You see that negative self-talk made me feel like a failure in physical terms, for not being able to do at 20 years of age what my forty-something-year-old mum was so gracefully doing.
But I was also depriving myself of the experience of discovering a whole new world of possibilities.
When I think of that day now, I understand what the problem was: misunderstanding and a wrong attitude, not the fact that I indeed couldn’t touch the floor with my fingertips.
After all these years, I have learnt a lot. I have gone from being pretty limited in my movement range, to feeling free in my body. I have gone from exercising rarely, to establishing a consistent physical practice.
One could say that I have gone from being a beginner, to being on the other side of the spectrum, after completing several yoga teacher trainings (although that’s another matter I’ll talk about later).
In this yoga for beginners article, I would like to share with you some of those things that I have learnt along the way, in hopes that this ignites a love in you, to start this life-changing journey with a little understanding and a positive attitude.
9 Surprisingly Powerful Tips About Yoga For Beginners
1. Start Where You Are
People start doing yoga at different ages, in different life situations, for different reasons. Every yoga journey is unique. That’s the beautiful thing. You don’t need to be or have anything to start a yoga practice. There are no prerequisites.
In my yoga journey, the thing that finally pushed me into it, was what had initially kept me from it. The irony! Years after that first day that I saw my mother sun saluting, my back pain was getting even worse. It really was becoming a burden.
After some physical therapy, I decided I had to take matters into my own hands and made a commitment to visit a yoga class once a week so that I could slowly strengthen my back.
For me, my early days meant visiting yoga for beginner classes… where I asked myself if I had got it wrong and was in fact in a medium or advance class. Everything. Was. Hard. But that didn’t keep me from going. I simply took one pose at a time and tried my best. I learnt to accept that this was my physical state at the moment.
The early yoga days of other people may look very different to yours, and so they should!
Think that the path you are in now is unique, just as you are. Being the only person granted the honor to live your personal experience, you should try and enjoy it as it comes. And remember, yoga is not about touching the floor with your fingertips, but about what you learn on the way there.
2. Learn to Love the Practice
This is essential. For no one would get too far doing something they don’t enjoy. Motivation is very important and loving the practice will make it easier to come back to it, again and again.
I think something that lots of people love about yoga is how the practice makes them feel. It is a good idea to observe the changes in your body and mind during the practice. This focus is a great thing to take with you as you enter your first yoga for beginners class.
I used to focus on how my back felt at the beginning and end of each class. As we always started and ended sitting in meditation, it was easy to feel the difference. Any time I would feel my back hurt, I remembered the sensation at the end of a session and knew what I could do to feel better.
3. Find a Teacher You Resonate With
This next point is crucial. In the early stages of your practice, having a good teacher to guide you will have a huge impact, not only in your learning, but also in terms of motivation and inspiration.
I remember finding a teacher I absolutely loved a few months into the practice, and I just couldn’t wait for Fridays at 17:00 to go to her yoga for beginners class. I even remember riding back home happily humming my way sometimes, and I can still feel that sensation of wholeness and connection that she inspired in me.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll have to attend the same classes for the rest of your life. Your practice will evolve together with you and your circumstances. Such figures will help you keep going and thus, learn to love the practice.
In time, a self-practice at home will be of enormous value and a sign of your dedication and (again) love for the practice (seems like the previous point must be the most important one!)
But think of yourself as a baby, who is learning everything about life. Just like you wouldn’t leave a baby alone and ignore their needs, you need to give yourself the chance to get the help and guidance that will make you be a better yogi and in time, allow you to open your wings and take flight.
4. Try Different Styles of Yoga
Finally, while you search for your favourite teacher (or even after you have), don’t hesitate to try different styles of yoga. This will give you a bigger scope to experiment and a better understanding of what practicing yoga means to you personally.
5. Create Your Support Network
Finding people that share your interests and inspire you and creating a lifestyle that supports your practice together will just make things a lot easier.
If you have a friend who practices yoga, go to classes together! Having someone to share the practice with will provide you with motivation and endless profound conversations. But if you don’t happen to have a yogi among your friends, I can assure you that you’ll make some new buddies and acquaintances in your regular yoga class.
It seems like starting this journey has a snowball effect on other sides of life.
Practicing yoga strengthens your ability to look inside of you and listen to your heart’s desires. You’ll see more clearly what makes you happy and what doesn’t. You may realize that some habits or people in your life are not in tune with your pursuit of happiness and it’ll be an easier decision to let go of what’s not working for you in your life anymore.
6. Do Not Compare Your Practice or Progress
So, you get to yoga for beginners class, you place your mat (probably at the back), you begin the practice and inevitably you start checking what your neighbour is doing. We all do that, not only beginners!
Dismissing the negative voices of your ego is a hard task. The good news is that yoga will teach you once and again, that you don’t need to identify yourself with the ego this way. We are more than a body and thoughts.
7. Set An Intention, Rather Than a Goal
One thing I love about yoga is that it doesn’t make any sense to be competitive, at least not to me. This practice is a very intimate and personal experience, where there is absolutely no need for showing great feats to others, or ourselves.
In fact, the funny thing is that yoga has more to do with being than doing. Therefore, measuring progress becomes personal too, as we are the only ones who can assess how we are feeling.
I am not opposed to having particular goals in the practice, for example, mastering a specific pose. But I believe that it is more enriching to work in the being, more than the doing.
That’s why I find intentions more interesting than goals.
An intention is a positive statement that we repeat to ourselves, where we express something we long for. This statement is normally done at the beginning and end of the practice, but it could be revisited at any point of the practice really.
Intentions are expressed in positive language, in the present tense, and have (of course) to do with being, more than doing. Here are some examples: “I am calm”, “I am focused”, “I am strong”, “I follow my intuition”, etc. Of course, you can (and should) come up with your personal intention.
At first it might take time to find what your intention is. But in time, you’ll be able to pinpoint what it is you are aiming for. Moreover, your intention may change in time. Maybe even every day!
This is an especially normal aspect of yoga for beginners and it is not a bad thing. As I say, you are training yourself in listening to your heart. Just give yourself time and you’ll hear clearer and clearer.
8. Be Curious About All Aspects of Yoga
In the early stages of practice, most people consider yoga as a physical activity. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. I actually don’t like calling yoga “exercise”, because I don’t think it is about just moving the body. There are many more components to it, and this can be seen in the deep impact yoga can have, not only in our body, but in our mind too.
Asana (postures) is the starting point for the majority of us, but interestingly enough, as I came to learn during my training in India, it is the least important practice there.
Yoga can be practiced in many different forms: by breathing, chanting, relaxing, meditating, walking, helping others… To sum it up, the practice of yoga is really the practice of life. It’s all about bringing awareness to every aspect of your life.
9. Know That You Are An Eternal Student
Finally, the most important point of all: we are all here learning. From the yogi who has been practicing for 20+ years to the brand new student who goes to their first yoga for beginners class wondering what they are getting themselves into.
In fact, if you are able to stay curious and eager to learn, even after you have been at it for a long time, you have then learnt one of the biggest lessons. Because the moment you think you know it all and you have mastered the whole thing, you have let the ego take the wheel and you’ll miss on continuing the journey into the Self.
My message for you then is: stay fascinated and open-minded, don’t take anything for granted or make assumptions about the practice. And listen, always listen inside yourself. Everything you need is already there inside you.
(This is Sara taking back the wheel!) Thank you so much for teaching us such wonderful yoga fundamentals Ana! Wasn’t this awesome guys?! I know I’m ready to get on my yoga mat stat! How about you?
Do you do yoga? Are you excited to give it a go? Which tip about yoga for beginners from Ana resonated with you the most? Share your feels with us in the comments below.
Health and love,
Thought of the day: I will take the time to look within myself and see how truly amazing and capable I am.
About the Guest Blogger: Anavi Hernández, Founder of yogavi.com
Anavi is a mom, an animal lover, a yoga and meditation enthusiast and a freelance language teacher. She comes from Spain and is currently living in Germany with her little family.
Anavi has completed different teacher trainings since her yoga journey started: 250h Hatha Yoga in Kerala, India, 200h Yoga Works and 100h Yin Yoga, both in Munich, Germany.
She loves the transformative power of yoga and is always curious to discover new ways of self-expression through movement and creativity. You can find her in social media in Facebook, Instagram or in her website (links below).
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A HUGE thank you to Anavi for stopping by and sharing her marvelous tips about yoga for beginners.