10 Most Common Questions and Concerns for Yoga Beginners

top questions yoga beginners

Starting a yoga practice can quite often be intimidating for many first-timers.  Most people seem to believe that they should be able to bend like Gumby before they even take their first class.  Others have absolutely no idea what to expect.  In an effort to help dispel some of these myths, and shed some light on the intricacies of yoga, we’ve compiled a list of the ten most common questions and concerns for yoga beginners.

1. I’m not flexible enough to do yoga.

This is probably one of the most common concerns for beginner yogis, however, it is important to reiterate that you don’t need to be a flexi-straw in order to begin a yoga practice!  In fact, the desire for increased flexibility is one of the main reasons many people decide to start yoga in the first place.  A lot of people do come by their flexibility naturally, but for many yogis, it takes much time and dedication to get to that point.  We all have to start somewhere and by maintaining a regular practice, you may soon notice some results in the elasticity department!

If a lack of flexibility is one of your main concerns, it might be better to start with a designated beginner’s class, rather than an open-level class which can contain beginners as well as students who are extremely advanced.  Being amongst these elite yogis can be discouraging, but try not to let it deter you.  Even if you do wind up in an open level class, remember every body is different; try not to compare yourself to others during class and you’ll be bending like an old pro in no time.

2. Why should I practice yoga?

Something the ancient yogis had all figured out is that a regular yoga practice is pretty much beneficial for everything and everybody.  Whether you are dealing with stiff and tight muscles, recovering from an injury, suffering from depression or other mental disorders, extremely stressed and/or anxious, or just looking for another form of exercise to add to your repertoire, yoga can help.  It’s just a wonderful way to move the body while also quieting the mind, which can bring on a sense of calm and relaxation that is otherwise unattainable throughout the busy workday.  There is no wrong way to practice, either; today, there are many variations of yoga offered that can really cater to your own specific needs and goals and a little experimentation with each one can put you on the right path.  Most importantly, yoga just makes you feel good.  You’ll leave class with more energy, which will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

3. What equipment do I need to practice yoga?

If you are going to a studio, all you need to bring is your mat; you should be dressed comfortably with a tighter-fitting top (due to being upside down in many poses) and regular workout pants.  Usually, the studios will have blankets, bolsters, blocks, straps, and any other tool you might possibly need to easily move through your practice.  If you are practicing at home and plan on staying at home, it would be worth it to invest in the equipment mentioned above.

4. Do I need to be vegan or vegetarian to practice yoga?

No, this is not a requirement, especially if you are just starting out.  Many serious yogis on the spiritual path choose to be vegan due to a principle called ahimsa, or non-violence.  This principle states that we must treat all living beings with respect, gratitude, and most importantly, kindness.  Therefore, it is important to avoid products made from the harmful treatment of living things because it only perpetuates the cycle of suffering.  Yogis follow this principle whilst on the path to Enlightenment (attaining enough spiritual knowledge to be freed from the cycle of rebirth).

That being said, there are certain benefits to following a vegan diet for serious practitioners; maintaining a vegan diet creates a feeling of lightness in the body, which makes certain postures, especially inversions and arm balances slightly easier to perform.  It also makes the mind “lighter,” which brings us closer to the creator (according to Yogic philosophy).  However, if you’re just starting out, nobody is going to tell you how or what to eat.  It is most important to eat for your body and in a way that makes you feel your best.  Just remember, if you encounter a teacher who pushes any agenda that you are not comfortable with, it is absolutely okay to try another class with someone new!

5. Is yoga a religion?

Yoga is not a religion, rather, it is a set of guidelines and principles meant to guide the practitioner towards Enlightenment or a higher spiritual plane.  All aspects of yoga are meant to help the student remove the veil over his/her eyes and to see the world as it really is: a place of non-judgment, non-duality, and peaceful existences.  That being said, each class and each type of yoga may vary with their levels of spirituality.  Some teachers enjoy incorporating chanting and meditation into class while others are all business, focusing solely on the exercise component of yoga.  The physical movements of yoga circulate the energy around our bodies; chanting is meant to do the same thing, and both are meant to bring us closer to our true selves.  Of course, you are not obligated to participate in any chanting or other yogic rituals should they not align with your beliefs.

6. Will the teacher single me out and/or touch me?

You will never be singled out in a yoga class, however, the yoga teacher may adjust you in certain postures, especially if you are posed in such a way that may cause injury.  If that is not something you want, you can always introduce yourself to the teacher before class, and specify that you would appreciate a hands-off approach.

7. What if I need to take a break during class?

This is absolutely fine!  You dictate and decide your own practice.  If at any point anything becomes too strenuous or uncomfortable, by all means, lay down in savasana (corpse pose) until you come back to yourself.  The teacher may come over and ask if you are alright, but other than that, you are free to take all the time you may need.

8. What type of yoga should I do?

The answer to this question really depends on what your goals are.  If you’re looking for a workout, Vinyasa yoga might be right for you.  If you have stiff and tense muscles or are just starting out, perhaps gentle yoga may be more your speed.  It may take some time before you find a yoga style and a yoga teacher that you enjoy, so try not to become discouraged if it does not work out immediately.

9. What if the people in class are better at yoga than me?

This is another major concern for many people.  It cannot be stressed enough that in yoga there is no comparison; no better than or worse than.  We are all in our own place and everybody’s bodies are different and will work in different ways.  There are people with a more advanced practice who may have been practicing for years and years, so as a beginner, it is really unfair to compare yourself to them because you are setting yourself up for disappointment.  It is easier said than done, but yoga is a time to go within and reflect.  Use your practice to see what’s going on in your own body and try to address those concerns instead of feeling jealous of the lady who is balancing on one finger, because even that lady was a beginner at one point.  We can all get there eventually with regular practice and dedication to yoga.

10. Do I have to “om” with the rest of the class?

Again, this is yoga.  Nobody is going to force you to do anything you don’t feel comfortable with.  Om is a beautiful sound, a cosmic vibration, and it has wonderful effects when you feel that vibration throughout the body.  So, even if you choose not to chant, just being in the room while the rest of the class unites in “om” is still extremely beneficial and wonderful.

Five Steps to Choosing the Right Yoga Class

how to choose a yoga class

 1. Understand your own personal goals and motives for wanting to try yoga.

While most practitioners come to yoga with the goal of de-stressing and relaxing, that is not the case for everyone.  Today, yoga is being recognized for its amazing and powerful healing benefits.  It seems as though there is not one condition that the practice of yoga cannot at least alleviate in some way.  But because of this, before you choose a yoga class, you should sit down and really think about what it is you would like to achieve with yoga.  Are you recovering from an injury or fighting a disease?  Are you interested in meditation, spirituality, or Yogic philosophy?  Or are you just interested in adding another type of workout to your fitness regimen?  Maybe it’s a combination of all three. Whatever your reasoning, keep it in mind because it will be important when determining what type of yoga may be best for you.

2. Choose your preferred yoga style.

With so many yoga class options out there today, one could go insane trying to decide which ones to try!  Though the postures in each style are all essentially the same, the sequence, speed, and temperature of each style varies.

Here is a basic rundown of the different styles of yoga:

Hatha Yoga: Hatha yoga is a slower, more meditative type of yoga that focuses on moving the breath and building heat and prana (life force energy) in the body by holding the poses for several beats before moving.  This class is best for someone who is looking to quiet the mind and get more meditative in their practice.

Vinyasa Yoga: Vinyasa yoga focuses on dynamic movement and flow sequences.  The poses are not held for very long at all; in fact, the classes usually move pretty quickly and you will definitely feel an increase in your heart rate.  Vinyasa yoga is best for people who are really looking to get a workout in their yoga class.  Typically, runners, HIIT trainers, and other high intensity exercisers can be found in a vinyasa class.

Ashtanga Yoga: Ashtanga yoga consists of six series of yoga poses that are performed in the same order in every class.  Each pose is specifically sequenced to build heat in the body.

Bikram Yoga: Bikram yoga is a type of yoga which focuses on the same 26 postures in every class, similar to Ashtanga yoga.  The postures are practiced in a room that is heated to about 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40% humidity in an effort to clear toxins from the body.  This type of yoga can get pretty intense and it’s pretty common for first time practitioners to become dizzy during the class, so remember to stay hydrated and to take breaks when you feel like you need to.  It’s best to practice this type of yoga if you don’t mind extreme temperatures, and if you are new to yoga because the classes are open level and easy to follow given that it is the same sequence every time.

Yin Yoga: Yin yoga is an extremely slow, extremely gentle type of yoga.  Each pose is held for a few minutes and uses props to fully support the body so that you can release into the pose without tension.  Yin yoga promotes lengthening, elasticity and stretching of the muscles.  This class is best for people who may be stiff and need to stretch out all the muscles.

Restorative Yoga: This type of yoga is essentially like taking a nap, but its benefits are so wonderful.  In each pose, the body is fully supported by blocks, blankets, and bolsters to encourage complete relaxation of the physical and mental aspects of your being.  You’ll hold each pose for a long while as the nervous system relaxes completely.  This type of yoga is best for everyone!

Iyengar Yoga: In this type of yoga, alignment, precision, and detail are the focus.  You’ll use a lot of props and hold the poses for a longer period of time.  This class is best for people who are very detail-oriented and who may be fascinated with human anatomy and movement.  It is also very beneficial for people who may be recovering from injuries (though, as always, it is important to check with a physician before beginning any type of exercise regiment).

Kundalini Yoga: The goal of Kundalini yoga is to release the Kundalini energy, which is the energy coiled at the base of our spines.  Once that energy is released, it is said that the practitioner can reach a higher level of self-consciousness, perhaps bringing him/her in closer contact with the divine.  In a Kundalini class, there is more chanting, kriyas (a series of postures, breath, and sound), and meditation.  This type of yoga is best for those who are looking to learn more about or increase their own spiritual practice.

Chair Yoga: Chair yoga is a system which adapts the postures to a chair for people who have mobility issues, are wheelchair bound, or simply have a hard time getting down on the floor.

3. Determine Your Ability Level

Beginner: Being a beginner at yoga simply means that you have never practiced, or are very new to practicing.  You might not know the postures by name and will still probably need help with alignment in class.  If you are a beginner, you may want to stick with beginner (or level 1) classes.

Intermediate: As an intermediate student, you have a working knowledge of yoga.  You recognize some of the postures by name and are familiar with alignment and modifications.  You may be working on nailing your inversions and arm balances at this stage.  If you are intermediate, you may still find comfort in going back to a level 1 class every now and again, but for the most part, you may be practicing in a level 2 class.

Advanced: As an advanced yogi, you are very familiar with yoga and have a solid foundational practice.  You can flow through a class easily just by listening to the instructor and you feel secure when going up into your headstand or forearm stand.  Advanced practitioners would do best in a level 3 class.

Of course, all types of practitioners may also attend an open level class.

4. Find a local studio that aligns with your goals/ideas & budget

Most towns have at least one place to practice yoga now-a-days, but in the big city or places where there are many options, how do you determine which studio is the right studio?  Well, as a fair warning, you may need to start by trying a few different classes in different locations and at different times before you find the right one for you; you can try a spiritual yoga studio, a gym, or a community center.  Each place has a different vibe and different benefits, so it’s important to keep your goals in mind as you search for the place that you can best achieve them.

A few things to keep in mind when looking for a new studio are: 1- the class times.  Don’t let a packed out class deter you from practicing.  Most studios/yoga facilities get packed in the hours after work (6:00PM-7:30PM).  If that’s not appealing to you, you can try a morning or mid-afternoon class; 2- equipment.  If you don’t own any yoga equipment, you may want to find a facility that does.  Most yoga studios and gyms have yoga mats available to rent for $2 or $3; they will usually also supply blocks, bolsters, and any other props you may need.  However, some of them do not offer equipment, and as  a practitioner, you must decide if you are willing to invest in it.

5. Find an instructor

Next, and perhaps the most important part of choosing a yoga class is finding the right instructor for you.  You may want to be aware of their teaching style: are they mostly verbal or do they do a lot of hands-on adjusting?  Which one do you feel more comfortable with?  If you’re going to a studio, keep trying all of the different instructors.  If your budget allows, try private and group glasses; private classes have a much different dynamic than group.  An instructor you  might not enjoy as a group teacher may have much more to offer you as a private client.

Though each instructor is amazing in their own right, there are a few things they should never do.  For instance, a teacher should never be too pushy.  You are aware of your own body and its limits, and it is not another person’s right to push you past that.  If you find an instructor is being too pushy, stand your ground.  If you feel very uncomfortable, you may totally leave early.  They should, however, make you feel safe and supported.  They should offer different variations and/or modifications for each pose to make it accessible for all students in the class, and they should make you feel welcome by encouraging you to do your best and follow along.

Remember, when choosing a class, the most important thing is that you learn a lot, and that you start working towards the goals you had originally set for yourself.  The beautiful thing about group teaching is that in a class of 30 people, there can be 30 different outcomes. Everyone is different, and yoga really is an individualized practice, so it’s important to put your needs ahead of anyone else’s.

How to Begin a Home Yoga Meditation Practice

home yoga meditation guide

Meditation seems to be an elusive topic: often researched, seldom understood. However, it is one of the most important parts of a yoga practice. Many people are drawn to yoga for a whole litany of reasons, but they stay because they feel calmer, happier, more open, and less stressed; developing a meditation practice can increase those feelings tenfold! While yoga helps us achieve those feelings through movement of the physical body, meditation helps us care for the mind. It helps us to live presently by showing us how to separate from our thoughts, not by stopping our thoughts. It is impossible to stop the thoughts, but through meditation we can come to understand that we are not in control of them. They arise and disappear just like the ebb and flow of the ocean; for example, when you first get in the car to drive somewhere, you may start thinking of your plans for the weekend, which gets you thinking about your friends, then that one time your friend told a joke about her grandma, then about how your friend’s grandma moved to Florida, then about how you should call YOUR grandma who lives in Florida, then about grandma’s famous apple pie, then about how you should go apple picking this October, and before you know it, you’ve arrived at your destination without even knowing how you got there. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does cause us to miss out on a lot, which in turn creates feelings of stress and anxiety, and the cycle continues.

Meditation is for everybody and is one of the best natural remedies for a lot of life’s problems. If you’re thinking of starting a home meditation practice, here’s five tips to help you get started.

1. Start small and keep at it!

If you set out to meditate for 30 minutes on your first time, you most likely will not reach that goal, and that’s perfectly okay. It takes much time, effort, and practice to be able to sit for long periods of time. Reaching a state of meditation is something you must build up to, and even then, it’s more important to look at quality, not quantity. Even if you only sit down for 2 minutes a day, it’s a wonderful start. If in those two minutes, you were in a state of quiet, peaceful bliss, you’re already a meditating pro!

As you meditate more and more frequently, you’ll soon see your sessions increase in length, and you’ll see the effects of your practice in your daily life. This is why it is so important to continue your practice, no matter what!

2. Accept what is

Don’t fight yourself! The whole point of meditating is to stop that resistance between our conscious selves and our thoughts, so if you’re forcing yourself to stay seated with your eyes closed for 30 minutes OR ELSE, you are probably not going to reach a state of meditation. Instead focus on the positives! Be proud that you made the choice and followed through with your meditation practice on any particular day, even if it was not a particularly effective session. It is important to remember that meditation is not a game; there are no rules and nobody is keeping score. You are doing it for yourself to bring peace into your life, so it would be counterproductive to beat yourself up for not sticking to your own regulations.

3. Find a quiet, comfortable place

Once you feel ready to begin, find your meditation sanctuary; this can literally be anywhere that you feel safe and happy. Whether it be a specific room or area in your house, your parked car in the garage, a garden or park, or at your favorite yoga studio, your meditation sanctuary should have minimal distractions. If you like, you may sit on the floor on a pillow or folded up blanket; you can also lay down or sit in a chair if you have back pain and need the support. Make yourself feel as cozy and serene as possible because in a relaxed state, you can leave the physical body by itself and enter into meditation more easily. While not necessary, a meditation mat or zabuton can be helpful as well.

4. Choose a focal point

As mentioned above, the whole purpose of meditation is to separate yourself from your thoughts. Having a focal point serves as sort of a distraction for the brain so that you can watch your thoughts pass by but not get carried away with them. Most meditation teachers use the breath as a point of focus. The way the abdomen rises and falls with the ebb and flow of the breath, or feeling of the air moving in and out through the nostrils allows most people to anchor themselves in the present moment. Other people listen to the natural sounds of their surroundings, or they may pop on a guided meditation or some relaxing music.

Mantras are another wonderful focal point. A mantra is a word, sound, or phrase that is repeated over and over to aid in meditation. Some common mantras in yoga include “Om,” which is the sound of the cosmic vibration, or “Om Namah Sivaya,”a mantra dedicated to the Hindu deity Lord Siva. In English, its translation is “I offer to Siva a respectful invocation of His Name.” These are typically used because they are associated with the creator of the universe, and it is believed that one can be closer to the creator by aligning him/herself with them. However, mantras do not work if they do not mean something to you personally, so if you choose a mantra as your focal point, make sure it is something that has some personal significance. Mantras are recited mentally, while focusing on either the third eye (or the point between the eyebrows), or the spiritual heart (the right side of the heart).

5. Find the practice that best works for you

Being human is so wonderful because we are all so vastly different. Meditation in its traditional sense might not be working for you, but guess what? There are many other ways to meditate. When you’re in yoga class focused on yourself, your breath, and your movement, that is meditation. When you’re driving listening to your favorite music without a care in the world, that is meditation. When you’re washing the dishes and the rest of the world seems to disappear, that’s meditation. Any activity that helps you stay PRESENT and grounded in the right now is a form of meditation. And if it’s something you enjoy doing, that’s even better!

An introduction to aerial yoga for beginners

aerial yoga for beginners

The increasingly popular Aerial Yoga is also called Anti-gravity yoga. It sounds space age, but it’s really about taking your yoga practice into the air to achieve better balance. In practice, it involves fighting against gravity with your body to achieve traditional poses without the floor to push against.

It is encouraged that you start your aerial yoga journey with a class. However, once you get the hang of the basics, setting up your own space in your home to keep up practice can only improve your mastery. Plus, there are plenty of online resources for continuing to learn. These include videos and blogs.

Benefits of Aerial Yoga

Just like many other forms of working out, the bending and repetitive motions of aerial yoga makes it a great activity for strengthening the body. An added benefit of the hanging element of the practice is that it decompresses your spine to help alleviate back pain.

On top of this, it is an excellent centering exercise. There is nothing quite like concentrating on holding your form while hanging above the ground.

While on that note, perhaps the most important benefit is that it is fun! This is not always discussed as a benefit of yoga, but twisting around in the air is about as much fun as you can have while still getting fit.

Base Equipment

Aerial yoga does require some specialized equipment. Mats for other yoga practice can be used for multiple work out activities, but aerial yoga requires its own tools. Keep this in mind if you are planning a practice space at home. Just like weight lifting, this exercise will require space to be put aside especially for its practice.

The basic equipment you will need for Aerial Yoga are a trapeze, a bar to suspend it off of, or hooks to hold it in place. The trapeze is the harness used to suspend yourself. These are pieces of cloth slung like a hammock and in ladder like arrangements for you to work into poses off of. The bar is for stabilizing this contraption in an easy to access horizontal hang, parallel to the floor. The hooks are another hanging option. These are often mounted to the ceiling so the trapeze can hang directly down.

While it can be attractive to imagine hanging free, tens of feet from the floor, aerial yoga is often practiced fairly close to the ground so that reaching it does not become difficult. The lucky thing about this is that when installing gear in the home, it may not be necessary to put aside a huge amount of space for practice. Instead, a corner, or even a doorway, will do.

See our review of the best aerial yoga trapeze home setup if you want to find out more.

Beginning Aerial Yoga

Aerial yoga is very new, and instructors and innovators are working constantly to find new poses that will benefit those practicing it in wholesome ways. The purpose is, after all, improving the body and mind, and not just creating a dazzling display. This does not mean aerial yoga is not beautiful.

These basic poses can take many practices to perfect, but the body will always benefit from repeating them. Below you will find an introduction to the basic concepts needed to begin aerial yoga.

In aerial yoga, there are several types of poses. Two important ones are poses that you hold for strengthening your body, and transitional poses.

The Star Inversion is a transitional one that is used as a base for upside down poses. To get there, sit on the sling of the trapeze so that it sits near your tailbone. Holding onto the sides of the sling, lie back slowly and widen your legs to leverage yourself and stop from slipping. Once you have dropped as far as you can, let your hands free and bring them toward the floor. Hold until stable.

From here you can transition to several more advanced poses.

A good pose to practice holding, the cross position improves balance and decompresses the spine. This one is simple, though takes some practice to master the balance required. To perform the cross position, balance yourself on the sling just above your waist, then lean back while straightening your legs.

Aerial yoga can be a fun a rewarding version of yoga. With its rise in popularity, there are now an increasing number of products that make home practice accessible for more people. With these basics, you are ready to move forward into the word of aerial yoga!

A beginner’s guide to the yoga wheel

how to use a yoga wheel

In recent years, a new toy has been appearing more and more frequently in yoga studios across America. It is something has gained widespread recognition among yogis, and even some celebrities have jumped in on the trend, with good reason. This new prop is extremely versatile and allows even the newest yogis to expand their practice, loosen their muscles, and create length where it did not exist before. If you haven’t guessed it yet, I am talking about the yoga wheel.

What is the Yoga Wheel?

The yoga wheel is the relatively “new kid on the block” when it comes to yoga props. At first glance, this circular gadget can seem quite intimidating. It is made of rigid plastic and typically has a layer of cushioning around the outside to make it more comfortable to use. The original and most popular brand is the Dharma Yoga Wheel, which was created by Sri Dharma Mittra and his son Yogi Varuna. It comes in various sizes: “mini” for those practitioners who are under 5 feet tall, “basic” for average sized yogis and “plus” for those who are over 6 feet tall. It is also a wonderful tool created to help stretch the front body including the abdomen, chest, shoulders, and hips. The wheel is designed to match the contour of the spine. It is a very therapeutic tool that can be used to create space and lengthen the muscles of the body.

Is the Yoga Wheel Right for You?

Yes! This is one prop that is truly right for everyone. No matter where you are in your practice, you can most definitely benefit from using the wheel. Not only does it properly align your spine, but it can also assist you in certain poses and even enhance your flexibility. So it is important to remember that even though the wheel may seem like it is only for advanced practitioners, it can be extremely helpful for beginners who may just want to release tension and start to open the body. It is a wonderful supporting prop and great alternative to a yoga block in those postures where the hands might not meet the floor or the full weight of the body needs to be supported.

Where Can You Purchase a Yoga Wheel?

Most major yoga wheel brands are available at Amazon.com (see this link). You can also read our review of the best yoga wheels.

Five Ways to Properly Use the Yoga Wheel

1. Spine Massage

The yoga wheel is amazing for realigning the spine and easing tension around the vertebrae. As mentioned above, its design matches the contour of the spine, so you can use this along the entire length of the spine, from the sacrum (or lower back bone) all the way to the crown of the head. This is probably one of the most basic yet effective ways to use the wheel. As a culture, many of us are usually sedentary, which causes our shoulders to hunch forward, but using the wheel to massage the spine encourages the opposite to occur. It helps to open the chest and allow the shoulders to reset to their natural position.

In order to use the wheel as a spinal massager, sit on the floor and bring the wheel directly behind you so that it connects to your lower back, or sacrum. Bringing the soles of the feet to the ground, inhale and lift your arms overhead. As you exhale, press evenly through the feet and lean back onto the wheel. You may lift your hips and rock yourself back and forth while the wheel rolls along the spine.

2. Enhancing Your Backbends

If you’re looking to move deeper into backbends and increase the strength and flexibility of the lower back, the wheel is the perfect tool. Even just lying on the wheel in a supported shoulder stand (with the wheel placed directly under the sacrum) is the perfect way to release tension in the low back. Remember in order to continue to move deeper, you will have to focus on breath work, allowing each exhalation to release any stiffness as you relax into a deeper variation. Backbend poses that can be done with the wheel include a camel pose variation, bow pose, forearm stands, and the pigeon pose variation.

3. Improving Your Balance

For those of us who need exercises in balancing, the wheel can give you a hand. First, make sure you are practicing on a soft surface, such as carpet or grass, or even a padded yoga mat. If you’re still feeling unstable, you can also hold onto a wall to prevent injury.

To practice balancing, bring both feet to the top of the wheel in a squatting position. Lean forward and hold the ground for support, especially when you first start this practice. Eventually, once you feel more comfortable on top of the wheel, you can begin to move into more advanced standing poses and even inversions (one day!). Practicing balance on top of the wheel is a wonderful way to work the core and to enhance coordination, build strength, and increase agility.

4. Increasing Your Flexibility

By using the wheel to roll out your muscles, you are physically creating length. The muscles become less rigid and tense, and as a result, they can bend further. You may notice differences in your backbends, hip openers, and shoulder mobility exercises as you use the wheel on a more regular basis.

5. Providing a Stable Anchor For Inversions

If you are working on a forearm stand, the wheel is an amazing base. It gives you something to grip so that you may begin to apply equal pressure in your forearms. This even pressure between both forearms and the ground allows you to lift through the shoulders, the solar plexus, and the pelvic floor. All of these parts should be actively engaged so that the legs float up seamlessly. Here, the wheel simply allows us to have proper alignment and ensures that all of the correct muscles are being used.

How to Wash Your Yoga Mat in the Washing Machine

how to wash your yoga mat in the washing machine

After you’ve spent weeks or months using your yoga mat, it’s only natural that it has collected quite a bit of sweat and grime over time and you may not want to spend the extra money on a wash for your yoga mat. But what if you found out that there’s another way? Below, you can find out exactly how you can wash your yoga mat in your washing machine.

Using the washing machine

When you wash your yoga mat in the washing machine, you must be sure to wash it separately from your colored clothing. While many people are cautious about washing their yoga mats in the washer, it is a completely reasonable solution for those of you who don’t want to spend the time scrubbing at it on your hands and knees.

To wash your yoga mat, it is best to use a mild detergent. You can either do so by buying a pre-made detergent, or by creating your own solution with vinegar. The most important thing to do when you’re washing it in the machine is to remove it before the spin-cycle starts. Even if you put the cycle on low, you’ll have to remove it to air dry it, because you can damage your mat otherwise.

You should be cautious, however, because there are several yoga mats which should not be put in the washing machine. To know if yours is suitable, you can check your yoga mat’s manufacturing website. The majority of eco-friendly yoga mats are not meant to be put in the washing machine, though, because the materials and manufacturing process used to make cco-friendly mats can cause them to deteriorate with the rinsing and washing cycle of the washing machine.

Homemade cleaner recipe

If you want to make your own homemade cleaner for your yoga mat, you can follow the following machine-washable recipe:

Ingredients:

  1. 3/4 cup water
  2. 1.4 cup of white vinegar
  3. 4 drops Lavendar oil
  4. 3 drops Tea Tree oil

Directions:

Combine the above for ingredients in a bowl and mix well. You should adjust the amount of white vinegar you use, depending on how strong you want your mixture to be; however, remember to keep it rather mild for the washing machine.

Once these ingredients have been combined, you can put the cleaner in a spray bottle for every day use and when you want to clean your mat in the washing machine, you can pour it from the bottle. You should only clean your mat with the washing machine once a month or once every two months, because excessive cleaning will cause your mat to deteriorate.

Conclusion

It’s only natural that your yoga mat soaks up dirt and bacteria over time, which is why you need to clean it enough to prevent it from deteriorating. That being said, you must also be sure on how often and in which manner you should be cleaning your mat, because this irresponsible cleaning can also damage your mat. Above, you can read about how to properly wash your yoga mat in the washing machine. You might also want to check out our longer article on how to clean a yoga mat.

Best Yoga Youtube Videos for Beginners

best yoga youtube videos for beginners

Are you trying to begin practicing yoga? Have you been waiting around for someone to teach you because you don’t know where to start? If that’s your situation then you’re in luck! Below, you can find four of the very best yoga videos for beginners on Youtube.

Rachel Brathen’s 10 Minute Yoga Flow

First, Rachel Brathen is the goddess of yoga. If you’re looking for a yogi to follow, then subscribe to her channel because it truly is the best yoga YouTube channel. She has different videos for different purposes; for example, “Yoga Before Bed”, “Yoga to Wake up Your Body”, and even “Slow Flow”.

That being said, this yoga video is ideal for any beginner. It only lasts for about ten minutes, which is ideal for those who aren’t accustomed to doing yoga every single day. It also carries you through classic sun salutations, with a few variations thrown in there. Not only this, but the yoga flow will force you to build muscle so that you can practice easier next time. It carries you through more difficult asanas (otherwise called poses) before allowing to finish your practice onto your back in savasana.

Yoga For Complete Beginners

The name of this yoga video should tell you everything: it’s a video for those of you who are true beginners in the world of yoga. It’s about twenty minutes long and will carry you through all of the basic asanas that you will encounter in your future yoga routines.

The instructor, Adriene, provides excellent hints and tips so that you can get the very best out of your yoga practise, regardless of what your level of experience is.

Easy Yoga for Beginners

Everything about this video just screams peace and love, which is really what yoga is all about. If you’re looking to get started in yoga, then this is definitely a yoga video that you need to look into. Every position full of instruction and in the top right corner of the video, you’ll see the name for every position you do.

It is completely possible for any beginner to complete this yoga video with ease, considering that it is mostly based on improving your flexibility with the state in which your body is currently in. Since it is only twenty minutes long, you can easily complete this yoga routine at any point during your day.

Yoga for Beginners – 40 Minute Home Yoga Video

This yoga video definitely makes it in the top four as being one of the best yoga videos on YouTube. That being said, it will be a bit more difficult than the others on this list because you’ll be practicing for more than half the time that you would be with the other videos. That being said, the instructor gives beautiful instruction and has chosen a yoga routine that will ease your entire body.

There’s nothing quite like yoga. The above four videos are some of the very best on YouTube and will allow you to begin your journey of both physical and spiritual amelioration.

Benefits of Yoga for Athletes

benefits of yoga for athletes

Male or Female, regardless of the sport or discipline, all athletes can benefit from adding yoga into their training regimen. Aside from the obvious physical benefits such as increased strength, endurance, and flexibility, yoga has tremendous positive side effects on our mental health and overall well being. Many athletes credit their yoga practice for the mental confidence and peace of mind that helps them win games, races, competitions, etc.

In recent years, yoga has become a very popular off season practice for many well known American football players. Take Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots, a five time Super Bowl champion, MVP, and one of the greatest football players of all time. Tom is a long time yoga lover and says that the practice has not only helped with his flexibility but also his attitude, both on and off the field. Russel Wilson and Victor Cruz are just a couple of the famous male athletes who share Tom’s affinity for the Eastern practice. In fact, top athletes in football, baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis, and golf, have all attributed their mental clarity to the practice of yoga.

Physical Benefits of Yoga for Athletes

The physical benefits of a consistent yoga practice seem to be never ending: strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, weight loss, increased muscle tone, better digestion, chronic pain relief, injury prevention, the list goes on. For athletes, this can (and does) translate into better performance.

Men especially can benefit from a consistent yoga practice as they typically are not as flexible as women. The flexibility that results from yoga will directly result in an increased range of motion. For athletes, especially men, that added flexibility will translate into a stronger golf or tennis swing, ease of throwing and catching a football, more strength when swinging a baseball bat, greater swimming stroke, and more advanced wrestling moves. It also means the likelihood of pulling a muscle is much lower.

Balance is a key component to yoga. Better balance means less risk of falling and less injury. It can also help in contact sports like football, basketball, and hockey where an opponent is trying to knock you down. Better balance also means better control over the body and all movements. Having better control of your movements means that you can refine your technique even further, becoming a better athlete.

Yoga promotes endurance as well. Doing countless sun salutations, holding an inversion such as handstand, or balancing in warrior three, your muscles will learn to engage for long periods of time allowing you to hold poses extensively. Eventually, the effects of yoga will seep into your mind and holding these poses will become more of a meditation. This can especially be beneficial for long distance running, triathlons, and Iron Man competitions. After a while, you will begin to reach a meditative state and will find that you can continue running with ease. Runners call it “runner’s high” but it can be achieved in any sport. It is essentially reaching a point of complete synchronicity between mind and body and is much easier to achieve with some training in yoga and meditation.

Another huge physical benefit of practicing yoga is increased strength. Although weight training and other physical activities build strength, they typically focus on the larger and more widely utilized muscles. Using only body weight, yoga postures call on those larger muscle groups as well as the smaller stabilizing muscles that surround the large muscle groups. This in turn can prevent over use injuries as the body does not need to rely solely on the strength of the core muscle group. By strengthening the surrounding muscles, the distribution of strength becomes more equal and overall functional strength is increased.

Mental Benefits of Yoga for Athletes

Although yoga has numerous health benefits for the physical body, it is the mental benefits that keep dedicated yogis returning to their mats time and time again. The physical aspect of yoga is only one of eight limbs that make up the ancient practice and belief system. Originally, the yoga asanas (poses) were created as a way to warm up and prepare the body to sit for prolonged periods of time in meditation. Physical yoga practice can be thought of as a moving meditation. With time and consistent practice, this meditative state can be carried over into other practices ie. sports. Remember the runner’s high? The benefits of meditation are profound and seem to directly impact athletic performance.

If you think about it, its pretty simple. When your mind is cluttered, it translates into your outside world. If you are constantly over thinking and placing pressure on yourself to succeed, at some point or another, you will end up failing. Concentration is the key. If you are stressed out and can’t think clearly, your performance will be negatively impacted. But, if you have a clear and calm mind and are able to see the bigger picture, you will enjoy yourself regardless of the outcome. And when you start to relieve yourself of the pressure to succeed, success starts to flow effortlessly.

What is it that sets champions apart from other athletes? Physical talent and ability are only part of the equation. Often times, it is a winning attitude that sets apart the champion from the other contenders. The champion truly believes that he or she will win. Adopting a yoga practice and reaping the benefits of a clear mind allows an athlete to rid him or herself from limiting beliefs. With no fear of failure, no negative thoughts, and a focused mind, success is within reach. One of the effects of yoga and meditation is a sharper mind; a mind that is able to think more clearly. When the mind is free of outside distractions, it is able to focus intensely on a single process or idea. Athletes who practice yoga are able to clearly and realistically visualize success and have higher odds of achieving it. They are able to manifest the outcome.

Yoga also helps you tune into your spiritual body. You will develop a deeper connection with yourself and learn to tune into your body’s wants and needs. As an athlete, this can help to determine when it is time to push your body further and when it is time to back off. You’ll develop a respect for your practice and you will begin to feel that respect and compassion for others. This promotes community and in sports translates into being a team player. Whatever the reasoning for beginning a yoga practice, the benefits are endless and can help to bring your athletic potential to the next level.

Want to get started? See our recommendations for yoga mats for men.

Benefits of Yoga for Athletes

benefits of yoga for athletes

Male or Female, regardless of the sport or discipline, all athletes can benefit from adding yoga into their training regimen. Aside from the obvious physical benefits such as increased strength, endurance, and flexibility, yoga has tremendous positive side effects on our mental health and overall well being. Many athletes credit their yoga practice for the mental confidence and peace of mind that helps them win games, races, competitions, etc.

In recent years, yoga has become a very popular off season practice for many well known American football players. Take Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots, a five time Super Bowl champion, MVP, and one of the greatest football players of all time. Tom is a long time yoga lover and says that the practice has not only helped with his flexibility but also his attitude, both on and off the field. Russel Wilson and Victor Cruz are just a couple of the famous male athletes who share Tom’s affinity for the Eastern practice. In fact, top athletes in football, baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis, and golf, have all attributed their mental clarity to the practice of yoga.

Physical Benefits of Yoga for Athletes

The physical benefits of a consistent yoga practice seem to be never ending: strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, weight loss, increased muscle tone, better digestion, chronic pain relief, injury prevention, the list goes on. For athletes, this can (and does) translate into better performance.

Men especially can benefit from a consistent yoga practice as they typically are not as flexible as women. The flexibility that results from yoga will directly result in an increased range of motion. For athletes, especially men, that added flexibility will translate into a stronger golf or tennis swing, ease of throwing and catching a football, more strength when swinging a baseball bat, greater swimming stroke, and more advanced wrestling moves. It also means the likelihood of pulling a muscle is much lower.

Balance is a key component to yoga. Better balance means less risk of falling and less injury. It can also help in contact sports like football, basketball, and hockey where an opponent is trying to knock you down. Better balance also means better control over the body and all movements. Having better control of your movements means that you can refine your technique even further, becoming a better athlete.

Yoga promotes endurance as well. Doing countless sun salutations, holding an inversion such as handstand, or balancing in warrior three, your muscles will learn to engage for long periods of time allowing you to hold poses extensively. Eventually, the effects of yoga will seep into your mind and holding these poses will become more of a meditation. This can especially be beneficial for long distance running, triathlons, and Iron Man competitions. After a while, you will begin to reach a meditative state and will find that you can continue running with ease. Runners call it “runner’s high” but it can be achieved in any sport. It is essentially reaching a point of complete synchronicity between mind and body and is much easier to achieve with some training in yoga and meditation.

Another huge physical benefit of practicing yoga is increased strength. Although weight training and other physical activities build strength, they typically focus on the larger and more widely utilized muscles. Using only body weight, yoga postures call on those larger muscle groups as well as the smaller stabilizing muscles that surround the large muscle groups. This in turn can prevent over use injuries as the body does not need to rely solely on the strength of the core muscle group. By strengthening the surrounding muscles, the distribution of strength becomes more equal and overall functional strength is increased.

Mental Benefits of Yoga for Athletes

Although yoga has numerous health benefits for the physical body, it is the mental benefits that keep dedicated yogis returning to their mats time and time again. The physical aspect of yoga is only one of eight limbs that make up the ancient practice and belief system. Originally, the yoga asanas (poses) were created as a way to warm up and prepare the body to sit for prolonged periods of time in meditation. Physical yoga practice can be thought of as a moving meditation. With time and consistent practice, this meditative state can be carried over into other practices ie. sports. Remember the runner’s high? The benefits of meditation are profound and seem to directly impact athletic performance.

If you think about it, its pretty simple. When your mind is cluttered, it translates into your outside world. If you are constantly over thinking and placing pressure on yourself to succeed, at some point or another, you will end up failing. Concentration is the key. If you are stressed out and can’t think clearly, your performance will be negatively impacted. But, if you have a clear and calm mind and are able to see the bigger picture, you will enjoy yourself regardless of the outcome. And when you start to relieve yourself of the pressure to succeed, success starts to flow effortlessly.

What is it that sets champions apart from other athletes? Physical talent and ability are only part of the equation. Often times, it is a winning attitude that sets apart the champion from the other contenders. The champion truly believes that he or she will win. Adopting a yoga practice and reaping the benefits of a clear mind allows an athlete to rid him or herself from limiting beliefs. With no fear of failure, no negative thoughts, and a focused mind, success is within reach. One of the effects of yoga and meditation is a sharper mind; a mind that is able to think more clearly. When the mind is free of outside distractions, it is able to focus intensely on a single process or idea. Athletes who practice yoga are able to clearly and realistically visualize success and have higher odds of achieving it. They are able to manifest the outcome.

Yoga also helps you tune into your spiritual body. You will develop a deeper connection with yourself and learn to tune into your body’s wants and needs. As an athlete, this can help to determine when it is time to push your body further and when it is time to back off. You’ll develop a respect for your practice and you will begin to feel that respect and compassion for others. This promotes community and in sports translates into being a team player. Whatever the reasoning for beginning a yoga practice, the benefits are endless and can help to bring your athletic potential to the next level.

Want to get started? See our recommendations for yoga mats for men.

Guide to chair yoga for seniors

chair yoga for seniors

While most people think of yogis as having extreme flexibility, standing on their heads, or balancing on one finger, the truth is, ANYONE can do yoga.  In modern times, yoga has been adapted for many different types of people because of its wide-ranging benefits.  For instance, did you know that yoga is actually extremely beneficial for people who may be suffering from chronic pain or mobility issues, such as the elderly and people with disabilities?  Then chair yoga might be for you. 

What is Chair Yoga?

Chair yoga is a type of gentle yoga in which all of the poses, or asanas, are practiced either seated in a chair or standing using the chair for balance and support.  It is a relatively new branch of yoga that is geared towards people with mobility issues, weight problems, or for people who simply cannot get down onto the floor.  It has also become extremely popular amongst seniors and elderly groups who are looking to stay fit and flexible.  More importantly, it can be practiced in the comfort of your own home.

Is Chair Yoga Safe for the Elderly?

Yes! Yoga in general helps us become more aware of the body, how it moves, and what it is capable of.  That is why there are modifications and many different variations of each pose.  The aim of chair yoga is to create space in the body through gentle stretching and movement, so you can really individualize your own yoga practice.  You should never feel pain while doing yoga, so if you do, you know to back out of that pose.  Remember, it is important to challenge yourself, but do not go beyond your comfort zone, especially if you’re just starting out.

The Benefits of Chair Yoga for Seniors

There are many benefits of chair yoga for seniors, including:

  • Increased Strength
  • Increased Flexibility
  • Reduced Stress
  • Increased Mental Capacity
  • Increased Pain Management

What You Need to Begin a Chair Yoga Practice

To begin a chair yoga practice, you must first check with your doctor to make sure it is right for you.  Once you’ve been cleared to practice, the first essential piece of equipment you will need is a backless, armless chair; if you do not have access to that, a folding chair would suffice.  The backless chair simply provides the space for extra movement and deeper stretching (see our review of the best yoga chair).

Next, you will need some comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, sneakers, and water.  If you’re up for the challenge, there are also classes that incorporate very light weights or resistance bands to increase muscle tone and build some strength.

If you don’t want to invest in the equipment at home, you can always find a chair yoga for seniors class at the YMCA, your local yoga studio, gym, or any other facility that might offer group fitness classes.

The Best Beginner Chair Yoga Poses for Seniors

  1. Seated Spinal Twist

Sit towards the front of the chair with the knees bent, pressing evenly through the feet.  Make sure the body is properly aligned: the ankles should be directly under the knees, and the hips, shoulders, and head should all be stacked in one line.  As you inhale, elongate the spine and raise the arms up overhead.  On the exhale, twist to the left side, bringing your right hand to the left knee, and your left hand to grab the seat of the chair behind you.  Continue using the breath to lengthen the spine and deepen the twist to your own comfort level.  After about 15-20 seconds, inhale and lift the arms up, then exhale and twist to the other side.

Benefits: This pose helps to relieve lower back pain, especially from sciatica.  It also massages the internal organs and especially helps to stimulate the digestive system.  Twists also help to reduce stress and anxiety, and detoxify the body.

  1. Wide-Legged Camel Forward Fold

Sit towards the front edge of the chair with the knees bent, and the feet opened a little wider than hip-distance.  Point the toes out slightly, if that is accessible to you.  With an inhale, reach the arms back; let the shoulder blades melt down the spine as you reach back and grab the seat of the chair behind you.  With the chest open and lifted, take a deep breath.  As you exhale, fold forward over the legs and interlace your fingers behind you.  If you can, lift the hands away from the seat.

Benefits: This pose opens the shoulders and the chest.  It helps to improve posture, and build stability in the legs and core. 

  1. Chair Pigeon

Sitting on the edge of the chair with the knees bent and the ankles directly under the knees, inhale and lift your left ankle over the right knee so that your legs look like the number 4.  Inhaling, grab both sides of the chair and lengthen through the spine.  As you exhale, fold over the legs, leading with the chest.  Hold for about 15-20 seconds, and inhale the spine up with a flat back.  Switch legs when you are ready and fold again.

Benefits: Pigeon pose is a wonderful hip opener that provides a deep stretch in the gluteus muscles.  It also stretches the groin and pelvic muscles and relieves sciatic pain.

  1. Seated Cat-Cow Stretch

Sitting up tall and straight at the edge of the chair, inhale and begin to lift your chest, allowing the shoulder blades to melt down the back and into the spine.  Lift your head up if you can.  As you exhale, round through the back and shoulders allowing the head to drop and lifting the navel up and into the spine.  Continue this motion for as many breaths as possible.

Benefits: This pose improves posture and balance, provides a beautiful stretch for the entire spine and abdomen, moves the hips, and massages and stimulates the internal organs.

  1. Seated Savasana (Final Relaxation)

Sitting up tall with your back against the chair, place your hands on your knees and let the eyes close gently.  Pay attention to the breath, but make sure it stays natural and not labored.  Once you have found a comfortable position, you may stay in this pose for as long as you like.

Benefits: Savasana is one of the most important poses in yoga because it calms the nervous system and provides an ample amount of rest and relaxation: it is said that 10-20 minutes of savasana is equal to about 4-8 hours of deep sleep.

Chair Yoga for Seniors: Conclusions

Chair yoga is a great modification of traditional yoga that lets more people safely enjoy the benefits of yoga. Try out the poses here and if you want to keep learning, chair yoga coaches and classes are becoming more popular.