Taking Up Yoga
January 7, 2005 4:36 AM   Subscribe

So my New Year's resolution is to take up yoga. What do I need to do? [More inside]

So I'm attracted to yoga for two main reasons: one, as an office monkey whose default position is the slouch, I figure I'm storing up a lot of back trouble for the future. I'm also acutely aware that at 27 I lack the flexibility I had in my teens. Secondly, the whole relaxation/calmness thang is definitely something I could do with buying into at the moment as well.

Unfortunately, beyond a general, hazy grasp of the concept, I know nothing about it. Living in a biggish city, five minutes research on the internet has thrown up a bewildering number of variants, schools and classes. So, does anybody have any advice, tips or warnings? And, should I get a "teach yourself yoga in n easy lessons" book, either instead of classes or as a warm up to them?
posted by Hartster to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Good for you, Hartster! Yoga is a lovely thing to learn!
No matter what new tapes or books or styles of yoga come around, I will always recommend "Ali Macgraw: Yoga mind & Body" as a great introduction to yoga. They cover not just the moves, but also the breathing (which most "fitness yoga" tapes forget) and a bit of the mind set.
If you decide to take classes, your local yoga studio should offer an introductory deal (first class is cheaper) so ask about that, and start out with a beginner's hatha yoga class. Here is a good list of yoga styles. I do think that hatha is the best one to start out with, as it is generally considered the "basic" yoga style.
Have fun!
posted by nprigoda at 4:53 AM on January 7, 2005

My wife took up yoga and loves it. She takes classes at a local gym and has been for the past 3 years. Now she does it on her own as well.

She said the one thing she had wished she'd gotten at first was a yoga mat (apparently you slip and slide a bunch when you are pushing and twisting yourself around).
posted by Hands of Manos at 5:52 AM on January 7, 2005

So my New Year's resolution is to take up yoga. What do I need to do?

First, get a new New Year's resolution...

(Just kidding. Yoga's great. Knock yourself out.)
posted by sour cream at 6:21 AM on January 7, 2005

I recommend getting into a class. Live demonstration is very valuable, both for poses and for breathing techniques. After you’ve got the basics down, you can use books or video for doing it at home if you like. Rather than searching further on line, it’s probably more practical to start calling local yoga centers and inquiring about classes. “Hatha” is indeed generally used to describe the gentler forms of yoga, although some starter classes might just be called “Beginner” or “Introductory” without specifying a style. If you can speak with an instructor, not just the reservations-taker, you’ll be able to describe what you’re looking for (strength and flexibility), and find the best class for your needs.

Definitely get a mat. Some classes supply them but they're not very expensive, and it's much nicer to have your own. Enjoy!
posted by boomchicka at 6:22 AM on January 7, 2005

Totally, I recommend just going to class as well. What helped me the most when I started was going to classes with a yoga buddy -- twice the willpower to actually make it to yoga was very helpful.

The best thing about yoga is that you can do as much or as little as you want in class, so just show up with some shorts (and, honestly? manly yet supportive but definitely not binding underwear (no boxers!), or, depending on gender, a sports bra) and what your people in the UK call a "vest" and go for it. No one will make fun of you -- and if they do, don't go back to that class. And if you poop out, just sit there and relax, seriously.

(At my first yoga class, I started off wearing socks. The instructor came over and peeled them off for me while I was trying to get into my first downward dog. Heh. So you can't do anything wrong -- just haul your butt to a studio or a gym.)

(And I recommend not starting off with bikram (super-heated, makes me wanna die) or ashtanga series yoga (strenuous, often self-led), and I personally don't like kundalini because it's all a little "energy-moving" hoeey for me, though I say right-on to those who love it. Find some mellow hatha and branch out from there.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:36 AM on January 7, 2005

Your local center probably has a 10-class intro pack. boomchicka is right- start with the class, not the video. Nothing beats a good yogi. Your teacher will adjust your poses so that you're doing them correctly and stressing the right areas. There are too many subtleties to learn to make a video worth anything but guiding you through a routine you already know (which is good).

You will need to mentally brace yourself for looking like a goof the first couple of classes, because you will. Yoga, however, emphasizes an open, welcoming community, so people will generally go out of their way to help you.
posted by mkultra at 6:39 AM on January 7, 2005

Yoga is great! My resolution is to re-take it up, as I let it drop in the end of year wedding and holiday drama. I loved the classes. Just remember, if you get into one with a yogi you don't jive with, it's okay, and they're not all loud/weird and new agey/anything else that might annoy you. Keep looking until you find somone whose teaching style you like, and can learn from. :)
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:16 AM on January 7, 2005

Do you get Oxygen? Steve Ross does a great hour-long Hatha show called Inhale every morning at 6AM. Tivo it and just watch so you can get a feel for the poses and rhythm.

I love Inhale--I've done Yoga on and off for years, but I've found that in NYC it can get really scene-y and almost competitive. I'd shy away from classes at a gym for that reason and head to a real Yoga center like others have suggested. Maybe it's just me, but doing it at home with my own mat (the only prop you really need, available at Target for under $20 bucks) helps me to focus on myself and not on whether my butt is hanging out of my pants, do I smell bad, etc. It's also easier to attempt the more difficult poses without worrying about falling or looking stupid.

Another Inhale plus--Steve plugs in his iPod and plays a random shuffle of Stevie Wonder, De La Soul, Aretha, reggae, etc. throughout the class. He definitely keeps a sense of humor about everything.
posted by leslita at 8:26 AM on January 7, 2005

go to a class or 10. yoga done right takes mental discipline that I find hard to keep going at home. Also, you can hurt yourself if you don't do it right. My local center costs about $40/ mo for unlimited classes, and is well worth the cost (over going to the gym. I hate gyms).

You might also think about what type of yoga you like. Try a few different styles. I prefer astanga due to my short attention span.
posted by sauril at 12:08 PM on January 7, 2005

congratulations, yoga is fun. I'd also recommend going to a class. The one I went to was at the local Y and quite cheap [you pay for the membership and the yoga classes are free] I did iyengar yoga which I liked a lot, not too strenuous, not too hot, not too new-agey. Everyone here has given really good advice, here's some of mine, considering that you're starting out

- yoga is as fruity or grounded as you make it. I had a class that was a lot like special ed, we had a warm pleasant teacher who thought we were all winners no matter what we could and couldn't do, and we all loved her. sometimes she was replaced by a "feel the burn" lady who had special eyepads and little chimes that she used and who I didn't like as much, if you don't like the class first off, assume it might be the teacher, not yoga in general.
- gear: you don't need much gear, comfy clothing is neccessary [no socks, supportive underwear if you're a guy, otherwise gym clothes are fine, anything you can move around in]. Iyengar uses props like straps and blocks. if your type of yoga needs these things, they willl either be provided or your teacher will tell you to get them. If you like yoga, I'd invest in your own mat, unless you're really squeamish, borrowing one for a while is fine
- make sure you take a class that isn't right after you eat. I think most people tell you this, but if no one does: do not do yoga on a full stomach

I found that after a few months of yoga all the cricks in my neck were gone and I was sleeping better at night, so I recommend it to other people.
posted by jessamyn at 5:12 PM on January 7, 2005

To sum up some of the good advice here, 1) take a yoga class, instead of watching a video, and avoid classes taught in traditional gyms; 2) try hatha yoga first, which will allow you to learn the basic asanas (poses), before trying other forms of yoga; 3) buy a mat (and, if you need them, perhaps some blocks and a strap, depending upon what sort of props are available at your class) and some comfortable, light weight cotton clothes; and 4) once you've checked out a class or two, look for a teacher you jive with more so than a particular class or style, with the foreknowledge that everyone who teaches yoga will teach it in a different way.

To which I would add: 1) Decide why it is you want to take yoga. Genuine yoga is an ancient philosophic way of life, which has meditation as its center, not physical activity, but a lot of the so-called yoga taught in gyms, videos, and on tv is merely a watered-down fitness routine. Not that you have to embrace "genuine" yoga or nothing, but if your goals are simply fitness goals, then consider just joining a gym and doing pilates, or taking up some other form of exercise--you'll get what you're looking for much more quickly. But if your goals are body/mind/spirit goals, and you are mentally open to eastern philosophy, then give yoga a try, knowing that it may take several months before you find the yoga that's right for you. 2) Do not take a yoga class from anyone who isn't a certified instructor and who doesn't take the time during class to explain each pose, observe your poses and make suggestions, and/or answer your questions. It is very easy for beginners to hurt themselves (which is one main reason not to do a video) and become discouraged if the instructor does not pay adequate attention to the students in the class. Also, make sure your instructor knows you are a beginner and knows of any physical injuries/limitations you might have.
posted by stinkeye at 1:56 AM on January 8, 2005

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