Is your New Year’s resolution to start a yoga practice? Amazing! This one action can set you up for a year of increased exercise, relaxation, and flexibility. You’ve chosen an exceptionally effective resolution to liven up your 2019. So how do you make sure it sticks?
We know how daunting a resolution is, and how fulfilling it would be to flash forward 12 months and see a happier, transformed yogi version of your current self. That’s why we chatted with
Julianne Aiello, founder of Outdoor Yoga SF, to get her expert advice on how to get started.
Kick off your New Year’s resolution with a yoga class
“The energy of being around people that also are there to feel good and to feel supported is really important,” says Julie. A heady combo of community and positive energy is the perfect way to start your practice, and committing to a class can help sharpen your focus.
“At home, we might do 20 minutes a day or 10 minutes. And that’s great; doing any amount is seriously awesome,” says Julie. “But it can be hard to do an hour practice at home by yourself.”
In-person yoga classes are typically between an hour and 90 minutes in length, and offer the added benefit of instruction from a pro. Certified yoga teachers can guide you through new poses, help you with your form, and offer modifications that work for your body.
5 tips to start your yoga practice
Start with sun salutations: This is an easy way to add a yoga ritual to your day-to-day life.
“Sun salutations A and B can help to build your general breath awareness and flexibility, and can also help you drop into the mental flow of doing a little bit of yoga,” says Julie. And you get to choose the length of time you want to commit to the practice. You can do sun salutations for 10 minutes, one hour, or even just one minute if that’s all you have time for. It’s also an easy way to start learning a handful of basic yoga poses.
“These are the foundation of so many different kinds of yoga, so it’s a good place to start,” says Julie.
Breathe: “Given that we’re in a city and the pace of life is pretty busy and loud, doing things that help us to self-regulate and relax the stress response are really important,” says Julie. She recommends breathing for a count of five: Count to five as you breathe in, and count to five again as you breathe out.
“A lot of times, we’re breathing up into the higher part of our chest and that can result in shallow breath and not feeling grounded,” says Julie. “Putting one hand on our belly and one hand on the heart can really help us feel like we’re breathing with our whole body.”
Deep breathing is part of yoga, and it can also help improve the physical side of your yoga practice. “The body registers when we’re breathing and lets our muscles stretch more,” says Julie. Breathwork won’t just relax your mind; it can also relax your body into a state that makes your poses more pleasant.
Build a relationship with a teacher: Find a teacher whose energy you enjoy and who explains poses and flows to you in a way that makes sense. This doesn’t have to be a best friend or even someone you get coffee with, but they should be someone you’re excited to include in your yoga practice.
Be compassionate with yourself: “That’s really what the practice is about: The very first principle is compassion,” says Julie. “Yoga is a lifelong practice. There’s no medal in the end. The medal is just feeling good and feeling like you have a better sense of stability and inner peace, and you’re free to be who you are.”
Schedules get busy, events pop up, and sometimes our yoga practice can get left behind for a few days. That’s OK! Just do your best and find reasonable ways to add it back into your life.
Stressed? Try grounding poses: “If people are really physically or mentally active, doing poses on the ground where you’re sitting or lying down can be really soothing for the whole mind/body connection,” says Julie. She recommends relaxing with child’s pose to quiet your mind, or trying out a pose where your legs are against the wall if you’ve been spending a lot of time on your feet.
Say goodbye to these common misconceptions about yoga
You’re not a “good enough” yogi: “Yoga comes from the philosophy that we are not broken and we don’t need to go to yoga to fix ourselves,” says Julie. “You’re not ‘bad’ because you don’t do enough yoga, or ‘good’ because you’re doing yoga. It’s really a practice of illuminating what’s on the inside of who we are and what makes us feel good.”
You need to be flexible to get started: “So many people that I meet tell me they want to start yoga, but they’re not flexible — but you don’t have to be flexible! That’s what the practice is for!” says Julie. “The only thing you need is a little bit of willingness and a curiosity to learn.”
Q&A: Expert advice for your first yoga class
Do you have any advice for someone about finding the class that’s right for them?
Set an intention and know what you’re looking for: Is relaxation your number one priority? Do you want a high-intensity class, or to focus more on flexibility?
“Ask people that you know who like yoga for a recommendation,” says Julie. “And go with your gut! If it sounds like something that might be fun or interesting to you, just try it. Go with an open mind and don’t overthink it.”
How often should you take in-person classes when you’re starting your yoga practice?
“Whatever you can commit to that is realistic, that’s the perfect amount,” says Julie. If possible, she recommends attending a minimum of one yoga class a week.
“The reason why a lot of people are hesitant about New Year’s resolutions is that they’re so intimidating. But ask yourself — when it comes to going to a class once a week, can you fit that into your schedule? Are you going to make it a priority at that time? Start with the simplest possible setup.”
Is there anything you should share with your instructor if it’s your first yoga class?
“If you have an injury that you’re not sure how to accommodate for, especially if you haven’t done yoga before, you should share that with the instructor,” says Julie. Otherwise, just make sure you make the most out of having access to a yoga expert.
“Teachers love to answer questions. Write down your questions in a little notebook and bring them. It’s a free way to get a private lesson on the spot,” says Julie. And don’t forget to introduce yourself at the beginning or end of class! A quick interaction can help you start to connect to teachers you may potentially want to work with again.
Why you should try outdoor yoga
Space: “Outdoor yoga classes are really great for everybody, particularly for people who are getting into yoga, because they’re all-levels classes and we do have a lot of beginners come,” says Julie. Unlike a potentially cramped studio, outdoor yoga offers tons of space for you to stretch out and not have to knock into your neighbor.
Healing: “Practicing in nature is so healing. Obviously, you’re doing yoga and your body feels good, but watching the waves and the sun, you walk away feeling like a new person,” says Julie. Adding new outdoor settings to your yoga practice can also make it more fun and exciting, and give you a dose of fresh air to pair with your next sun salutation.
Ready to upgrade your yoga practice?
Outdoor Yoga SF has beach yoga classes every weekend. Check out their upcoming events to find one that’s right for you. Interested in signing up? Use the code EBLOVE to receive $10 off your ticket anytime through the end of February 2019.
Not in San Francisco and want to find a yoga practice near you? Check Eventbrite for the best classes in your city.