What you need to know about beginner yoga

By Jess Spat on February 21, 2011

I’m a fit, active person but I also spend all my working life huddled in front a computer. Like a lot of geeks my posture isn’t great and a couple of years ago I started getting back and neck pain that just wouldn’t go away. Rather than resorting to medication a friend suggested I come along to a weekly yoga class. Straight after the first session I noticed a difference- I was standing up straighter and my shoulders were more relaxed than they’d been for months.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked through the door. The popular perception of yoga is that it’s the exclusive domain of incredibly stretchy, super fit and super serene women but the reality is far more inclusive. There were teenage students in the class, pregnant women, grandmothers, yachtsmen and rugby players. Although women make up most of each class there are always a few men in the mix.

As a runner, swimmer, and rock climber, I consider myself pretty strong, so I was surprised how tough a yoga session can be. I expected gentle stretching and sure, that’s what I could have had if I’d wanted, but I like a good workout and after the class my muscles were definitely feeling like they’d had one. My legs were like jelly.

The great beauty of an introductory yoga class is that people with different levels of fitness do what they’re comfortable with, nothing more and nothing less. The grandmothers may not bend like they’re made of rubber (although honestly, one or two of them actually do) but they get the same benefit from stretching just outside their comfort zone as a gymnast does. The postures are adaptable from easy to extreme. Everyone holds a posture that stretches their muscles, for no longer than their strength allows. You can stay relaxed or push yourself hard, it’s up to you.

You don’t have to be fit or flexible to start yoga and you don’t need any special equipment. Almost all beginner classes provide mats and yoga blocks, so all you need is loose clothing you can stretch in. Do be careful where the seams in your clothes are though- make sure that if you like on your back or on your side, no belt loop or buckle is going to dig into you. You’ll also warm up quite quickly so much sure you can strip off thick layers and long-sleeved tops once the class gets going.

These days you don’t necessarily have to find a dedicated yoga studio. If there isn’t one of those near you, try your local gym or leisure centre.

Many host a weekly yoga class with an external instructor and these classes are usually cheap and aim to cater for complete beginners.

Whether you need to increase strength and lose a little weight or you’re having back and neck problems, I’d wholeheartedly recommend yoga. It’s suitable for all fitness levels and all ages, and as alternative to expensive medical treatment it has worked incredibly well for me. I still spend every day in front of a computer but my posture is much better and I’m a lot more comfortable. Try yoga and your hunched up computer neck will thank you!

Jess Spate is editor of Outdoor Equipment Online, a UK price comparison website were you can find all kinds of outdoor clothing and camping equipment. She also works as a sustainable business consultant for Fountain Spirit, a garden fountain retailer.

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