Hiking and trekking is much more enjoyable when you are in good shape physically.
Developing your strength and core-stability plays and important part in ensuring that you can challenge yourself and also make it down the mountain safely.
You may have heard that yoga is beneficial to health and well-being, but understanding what yoga is and how it affects the body and mind can be challenging for a beginner.
With different schools teaching various techniques, and confusing yoga jargon, it can be hard to know where to start.
This beginner’s guide to yoga is for those who want to know more about this ancient form of exercise and meditation, and to use it to bring benefits and positivity to everyday life.
Let’s dive in!
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a physical and spiritual discipline that originated in India, and has been practiced for thousands of years.
In the Western world, yoga is mostly viewed as a form of exercise that places emphasis on strength, flexibility and breathing in order to improve health, and physical and mental well-being.
To do this, a person holds different yoga poses, known as asanas, while focusing on their breathing and balance.
The more skilled you become in yoga, the difficult poses become easier as your strength and flexibility improves.
Because yoga is an ancient practice, there are many different schools or branches of yoga.
Each has an underlying theme of connecting with the spiritual self through breathing and yoga poses.
Yoga is very popular, and there are many classes and clubs to join. It can also be self-taught or there are teachers to follow online, so you can benefit from yoga in the comfort of your own home.
Health Benefits of Yoga
Yoga is a gentle exercise that works the muscles and increases strength, improves balance, flexibility and coordination.
The meditative action of yoga, and being in tune with one’s body and mind, has also shown to be beneficial in improving mental health, such as reducing stress, depression and helping manage anxiety.
For people with conditions such as arthritis, or other mobility issues, yoga can help improve the range of motion in the joints.
Had a tough workout?
Spend a tough day on the trails?
Got a serious case of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)?
Yoga can be just the stretch you need to help soothe overworked muscles and joints.
Yoga is for everyone. People of all ages and abilities can make use of yoga to benefit their quality of life.
Types of Yoga
The underlying premise of all yoga is the connection between mind, body and spirit.
However, as yoga has developed over the years, different styles have emerged.
The word ‘hatha’ is Sanskrit, and refers to the moon and the sun.
This branch of yoga is to do with balancing opposite forces.
It uses many aspects of other forms of yoga to create a balanced mix of physical poses, breathing and meditation.
In Ashtanga yoga, six poses must be mastered before the student can move on to a new set of poses.
This is a more physical style of yoga, with flow between poses and breathing is important.
This yoga discipline is all about the flow of energy in the body, also known as Chi or Prana.
The poses are designed to release and unblock energy at different points in the body. As well as poses, singing, chanting and meditation is also a key part of Kundalini yoga.
A popular style of yoga where breathing and movement is in sync with one another.
This is where a series of poses are performs in a hot and humid environment.
It is thought that sweating helps get rid of toxins from the body and the warm temperature increases flexibility.
With its roots in martial arts, poses in Yin yoga are helps for five minutes or more. Objects such as pillows, blankets and blocks may also be used.
This is a relaxing form of yoga that improves flexibility, and stillness of the mind and body.
How to Begin Practicing Yoga
If you are new to yoga, begin with simple poses and breathing techniques. An internet search should bring some beginner options that are easy to follow.
Examples of beginner yoga poses are: Warrior, Corpse, Mountain, Downward Facing Dog, Cat, Tree and Triangle.
While online learning has benefits, a better way to learn the basics of yoga is to join a local class.
This makes sure you really understand how to get the most from the poses, and there is a teacher ready to help you perfect your moves.
It might be worthwhile trying a few different types of yoga, as you may prefer one over another.
There are no limits to how often you should do yoga, but if you are just beginning it may be beneficial to try twice per week initially.
This is so your body can get used to the bending and stretching. Feel free to practice the meditative side as much as you like!
Once you are getting used to holding the poses, you might like to increase the frequency, and also the length of time of your sessions.
Tips for your First Yoga Class
Going to a yoga class for the first time may feel intimidating, especially if you are new to the discipline.
Remember though, you probably won’t be the only new person there and it is a good way to make new friends who share your interests.
You won’t be expected to be able to perfect all the poses, and you can take things at your own pace.
Eat lightly before your class as you are likely to be putting pressure on your digestive system as you go through different poses.
Take a bottle of water with you to rehydrate and refresh.
Make sure you wear something loose and comfortable to allow you to stretch and balance, as well as fabric that feel soft on the skin.
It is also a good idea to take your own yoga mat, but it is likely there will be spares if you are not yet committed enough to buy your own.
No matter where you are with your yoga skills, you are likely to find supportive members in a class that will be willing to share their tips.
If you don’t feel like a yoga class is for you, online teaching is also beneficial.
Take care to work on your posture in each easy pose before upping the challenge.
Yoga brings so many benefits to your health and well-being.
Anyone, no matter what age or physical ability, can gain from starting yoga.
As well as being something for all, yoga is an activity you can do anywhere. A class, at home, outside on the beach, park or garden.
It is also convenient in that if you just have a few minutes to spare, a couple of quick yoga poses is enough to make you feel refreshed and centred, ready for the next challenge.
Try some simple poses now to get started, and make a mental note of how you feel afterwards.
Yoga might just be your next healthy habit that you come to love, which will add a lot to all areas of your life.
Based near the South Coast, Matt can often be founds hiking around the South Downs with his wife Amy and dog Jake.
Bucket list routes: