How To Do Yoga: A Comprehensive Guide
Yoga is a great way to start exercising and practicing mindful, intentional movement. Some of the many benefits of yoga include improved mobility, flexibility, and balance as well as increased strength, reduced stress, and better sleep.
Starting yoga isn’t just about movement and exercise, the combination of yoga and meditation is what brings the most impactful changes, and the adoption of a yoga philosophy can help you to build a stronger, kinder, and more resilient attitude along with the physical improvements gained from the practice.
But the idea of picking the closest studio and jumping into a class for the first time on your own can be daunting. To help you feel more confident going into your first or even 500th yoga class, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide with a breakdown of some of the most popular types of yoga you’re most likely to encounter in a studio or online class, a list of equipment you will need, and a brief overview of some general yoga studio etiquette.
But first, there are a few key terms you should be familiar with. The term asana is one you will likely hear in any yoga class as it refers to the poses that you will take. Another key term is pranayama, which is the practice of breathwork and includes the different breathing techniques used during your practice. Lastly is savasana, literally, this is the last thing you will do in a yoga class providing a cleansing moment of meditation that allows you to reflect on your practice, check in with your body, and ground yourself in your breath.
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to figure out which type of yoga practice or classes are right for you and your goals.
Types of Yoga
There are many types of yoga, each focused on different aspects of the practice or geared at facilitating certain results. The type of yoga a program or class uses will give you some insights into what kinds of movements you can expect and at what pace.
Hatha yoga focuses on the physical side with an emphasis on flexibility, strength, and breath achieved by long holds on relaxing strength poses. This is a good practice for beginners to build body awareness and the basics of breath work. Hatha can help to reduce stress and improve sleep while improving your overall mindfulness.
Often referred to as flow or power yoga, Vinyasa is a common form of yoga taught in studios and gyms. It involves moving through poses one to the next in a continuous flow with shorter pose holds. Vinyasa yoga is dynamic and active and will test your cardiovascular endurance.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Vinyasa is restorative yoga. This is a great type of yoga to practice before bed as it helps to deeply relax both body and mind through passive poses and deep intentional breathing. Restorative yoga is also beneficial if you are ill, injured, or just stressed.
Another type of yoga you’ve likely heard of before is hot yoga, which is pretty much what it sounds like: yoga done in a hot space. The actual practice can be done in any style though most often hot yoga classes use some aspect of Vinyasa as the heat is believed to create a greater range of movement. However, the heat will also make you sweat more and you should be hydrating properly before, during, and after your practice.
Ashtanga yoga uses a standard sequence that combines synchronized postures, breathing, and gaze points called Drishti to build internal heat that purifies the nervous system as you sweat and focus.
Yin yoga is all about long, deep stretches to improve mobility in the joints and increase your overall flexibility. While yoga poses in Hatha are held for around 10 breaths, in Yin yoga you could be holding a pose for up to 10 whole minutes. This style is a good match if you have chronically tight muscles and tendons or have trouble sleeping and relaxing.
If you want to really focus on perfecting your form, Iyengar yoga is a good option for you. Iyengar uses props like chairs and yoga blocks to help you build strength enough to eventually hold the positions without assistance. This type of yoga is great for learning the subtleties of each pose so that you can perform them safely and correctly.
Another common but situation-specific type of yoga is prenatal yoga. While this type of yoga is intended specifically for pregnant people, partners, friends, and other members of a pregnancy support team can join in and gain the benefits of relaxing poses and highly focused breathwork. The benefits that a pregnant person can gain from prenatal yoga include relief from nausea, headaches, and shortness of breath as well as a reduction in lower back pain, stress, and anxiety.
More specialized forms of yoga that are a bit more advanced include acro and aerial yoga. Acro yoga often involves at least one other partner with whom you will take turns holding each other up into the acro poses. Aerial yoga involves suspension equipment such as hammocks, slings, rings, and other items that can be used to hold suspended poses.
Equipment to Bring
Yoga doesn’t require a lot of equipment, however, there are a few items that you may want to have on hand to set up accessible variations and keep yourself stable as you work on increasing strength, flexibility, and stability through your yoga practice.
The most basic piece of equipment that you will definitely want is a good yoga mat. There is a wide range of options including mats that are extra long for taller bodies, ones that are designed to be slip resistant, and eco-friendly options like cork mats, though they tend to be on the expensive end and might not be best for a beginner.
Other items that are good to have around during your practice are yoga blocks, a pillow for your knees and head, and a towel to roll up and place under your knee, hip, or neck to increase a stretch or maintain proper form.
As with any exercise, you’ll also want to make sure you have a good-sized water bottle with you as well as any pre-workout supplements and post-workout protein powder to fuel your workout and give your muscles the building blocks they need to repair and grow.
Yoga Studio Etiquette
Dress for the activity: wear stretchy fabrics that won’t restrict your movement or get in your way. Baggy pants and shirts will hinder your mobility more than tight-fitting items made with elasticized fabric. It’s also a good idea to avoid wearing strong fragrances, even fragrant lotions or hairsprays, as yoga studios are generally enclosed spaces where a strong smell could cause someone to have a reaction.
Before you enter the yoga studio, you will likely encounter a rack outside where you will remove and store your shoes. Since yoga involves so much contact with the floor, it’s important that it stays clean, and removing your shoes before entering helps to keep the exercise space clear of outside debris and bacteria. If you’re not a fan of going barefoot, you can get special yoga socks or yoga shoes to wear in the studio.
You should also avoid bringing your phone unless you absolutely must, and then it should be on silent and off to the side so as not to disturb others in the class. Some studios don’t allow them at all so be sure to ask before bringing your phone onto the floor with you.
A natural extension of no phones is no photos. Taking photos or videos in the studio is generally frowned upon and is for sure a big no-no when the class is actively taking place unless you have express permission from the yoga instructor and the members of the class to take photos or videos.
If you are attending a scheduled class, be sure to arrive sufficiently early to have enough time to introduce yourself to the instructor if it’s your first time, take care of any paperwork or payments, and get yourself set up and ready for the class.
Similarly, it’s considered rude to leave a class early without informing the instructor beforehand. If you know you will have to leave a class early, it’s best to find a spot close to the exit so that you will not disturb others when you need to head out.
When you’re in the studio it’s important to respect not only the others in your class but also the instructor and the space as a whole. Do your part to help clean up after class so that the next group can have the same positive experience.
If the idea of going to a yoga studio is too overwhelming, there are plenty of apps, classes, programs, and coaches that you can access from the comfort and privacy of your own home.
Fuel Your Yoga Workouts with Allo
No matter what type of yoga you decide to do, whether you take a class at a studio or just make a start with a home yoga practice by watching yoga videos or using an app, make sure you are fueling your body for movement with Allo protein powder for hot coffee.
The specially formulated protein powders and protein creamers dissolve seamlessly into any 8 oz cup of your favorite hot coffee, hot tea, hot match, espresso, or hot chocolate. Each packet is pre-portioned and delivers 10 grams of high-quality hydrolyzed whey protein.
Both the protein powders and protein creamers are available in vanilla, hazelnut, and caramel flavors as well as a natural protein powder that preserves the original flavor of your favorite hot beverage.