Yoga for Beginners: A Simple Guide

Yoga for Beginners: A Simple Guide

Embarking on a yoga journey can be a transformative experience that offers a wealth of benefits for your body and mind. If you’re new to yoga, the practice can seem intimidating, but there’s no need to worry. Regardless of your fitness level, flexibility, or age, yoga is an inclusive activity that encourages personal growth and wellness. Yoga for beginners lays the foundation for understanding basic postures and breathwork, which are essential for building a sustainable practice.

When you start practicing yoga, you’re joining a global community that values balance, health, and inner calm. Yoga is not just about complex poses; it’s also about connecting with yourself and fostering a sense of harmony. With consistent practice, you’ll notice improvements in your flexibility, strength, and stress levels.

To ensure a safe and enjoyable start, it’s important to learn proper alignment and the basics of each pose. Remember, yoga is a personal practice, and it is more about the journey than the destination. As you become more familiar with yoga, you’ll be able to delve deeper into its many layers and discover how it can positively impact all areas of your life.

Discovering Yoga

Embarking on your yoga journey opens up a new world blending physical postures, breath control, and mental discipline. Your path to understanding yoga will be enriched by exploring its vast history and the various styles it offers.

RELATED READING: What is PhysioYoga?

History and Philosophy

Yoga’s origins trace back over 5,000 years in ancient India. It was developed as a way to achieve harmony between the mind, body, and inner knowing. The philosophy of yoga is deeply connected with the practice of asanas (postures) and pranayama (breath control), aiming to unite your body, mind, and spirit.

The term “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” which means to join or to yoke. This practice encourages a greater depth of awareness of the self. Cultivating a deeper relationship and sensation of the internal and external environments. In doing so, we may develop more compassion for the self and others. As a beginner, understanding this philosophy can deepen the meaning behind each asana and breath you take during your yoga practice.

Different Styles and Paths

As you dive into yoga, you’ll discover there’s a vast array of styles to explore:

  • Hatha: This is an umbrella term for the physical practices of yoga and often a gentle introduction to the basic yoga postures.
  • Vinyasa: A dynamic style that links movement and breath together in a dance-like sequence.
  • Yin: A slow-paced style where postures are held for longer periods, targeting deep connective tissues.
  • Ashtanga: A rigorous style of yoga that follows a specific sequence of postures and is similar to vinyasa yoga, in that it links every movement to a breath.
  • Power: A faster, higher-intensity practice that builds muscle strength and stamina.

Here’s a brief look at how they differ:

StylePaceIntensity LevelFocus
HathaSlowLowPostures and breathing
VinyasaModerate to FastVariableFlow and breath synchronization
YinVery SlowLowDeep tissue and relaxation
AshtangaFastHighStrength and endurance
PowerFastHighMuscle strength and stamina

Choosing a style depends on your personal preferences and fitness goals. Each style offers distinct benefits and challenges, and experimenting with different types can enhance your overall yoga experience. As a beginner, try starting with Hatha or Vinyasa to build your foundation before exploring other paths.

Getting Started with Yoga

Diving into yoga can be an enriching experience that nurtures your body and mind. The right class, essential equipment, and a clear intention will set the foundation for your practice.

Benefits of PhysioYoga

Choosing the right type or intensity of yoga can be difficult for beginners. One of the benefits of PhysioYoga is that it’s tailored to your individual needs and is guided by a physiotherapist, which makes it a safer way to learn about yoga. 

Choosing the Right Class

When looking for yoga classes for beginners, prioritize those that focus on foundational poses, alignment, and breathwork. Smaller classes can offer more personalized guidance, ensuring you build a strong and safe yoga foundation.

Essential Equipment

A yoga mat is fundamental, serving as your personal space and providing the grip needed for poses. Consider investing in quality, non-slip mats for safety and comfort. Optional items include blocks, straps, and a blanket, which can aid in achieving correct postures and deeper relaxation.

Setting Intentions and Discipline

Setting a personal intention grounds your practice and steers it towards growth. Committing to a steady, yet flexible schedule—ideally 3 to 4 sessions per week—can significantly improve your strength, flexibility, and inner peace. Remember, consistency is key to deepening your discipline in yoga.

Fundamentals of Yoga Practice

Starting your yoga journey requires understanding the core elements that contribute to a fulfilling practice. Focus on flexibility and strength, paying attention to how your breath coordinates with movements, and properly aligning your body to reduce the risk of injury and enhance the benefits of each pose.

Basic Yoga Poses and Asanas

  • Mountain Pose (Tadasana): This foundational pose teaches you to stand with stability and awareness, engaging your thighs and aligning your spine.
  • Downward-Facing Dog: A staple asana that strengthens your arms and legs, while stretching the shoulders, hamstrings, and hands.
  • Warrior Pose: Builds lower body strength, opens your hips, and can help improve balance and concentration.
  • Bridge Pose: A gentle backbend that can strengthen the back muscles and reduce back pain, while opening the front of the body.
  • Corpse Pose (Savasana): Typically the final pose in a yoga session, promoting relaxation as your body assimilates the benefits of the practice.

Each yoga pose is an opportunity to explore the limits of your flexibility and strength. Remember, it’s not about how deep you go into a pose but how you maintain form and posture.

Understanding Form and Alignment

Form refers to the specific way each asana is executed, ensuring you’re receiving maximum benefit while minimizing injury. Key components of good form include:

  • Shoulders: Keep them relaxed and away from the ears to prevent tension.
  • Neck: Align your neck with the spine, avoiding unnecessary strain.
  • Spine: Seek a neutral position to protect and strengthen the spinal column.
  • Hips: Be aware of your hips’ positioning to maintain balance and joint health.
  • Head and Chest: A lifted chest and a neutral head position can help maintain a smooth flow of breath.

Alignment is crucial in connecting breath to movement, positioning your body to align joints and bones for optimal efficiency and safety during yoga poses. Proper alignment can be the difference between strengthening your body and potentially causing back pain or other discomfort. Utilize a mirror or ask an instructor to ensure your posture is correct, especially when practicing poses like Plank, Triangle, or Tree Pose. Remember, yoga is a personal practice, and honoring your body’s limits is key.

Enhancing Your Yoga Practice

To elevate your yoga experience and maximize benefits, focus on using props for support, advancing poses to deepen your practice, and establishing a personal ritual to enhance consistency and mindfulness.

Incorporating Yoga Props

Yoga props like blocks, straps, and bolsters can greatly enhance your range of motion and alignment. Use a block under your hand in a triangle pose to maintain balance, or a strap to extend your reach and safely hold a pose longer, allowing your muscles to gently stretch and gain flexibility.

Advancing Your Poses

Gradually increase the complexity of asanas to challenge your strength and balance. Begin with a stable base in poses like tree pose to cultivate your body awareness, then experiment with closing your eyes to amplify the challenge. The incremental changes in movement and pace can significantly improve your mobility and muscle strength.

Developing a Personal Ritual

Creating a personal ritual around your yoga practice fosters consistency and deepens your connection to the experience. Whether it’s setting intentions before each session or dedicating time for yoga therapy exercises, your ritual should cater to your individual needs, helping you to stay focused and grounded. This regular practice builds a strong foundation for both your body and mind.

Yoga for Beginners in Saskatoon

At Vangool Wellness, we offer PhysioYoga Classes for everyone including beginners. If you’re looking for a safe and effective way to learn about yoga, rehabilitate injuries, and prevent future issues, come visit our team. 

Self-Care is the New Healthcare 

Self-Care is the New Healthcare 

self-care

Self-Care is a loaded term and often is seen as less than or a “soft skill.” It’s not just a bubble bath, or checking out from responsibilities to sooth our burntout selves. It’s checking back in to the responsibility we have to ourselves and our well being.

The hard truth is, we have to be the ones to listen to what we need. We have to be the ones to plan our appointments and care plan. At Vangool Wellness we want to be a key support and advocate for you too, but at the end of the day, we want to empower YOU to know how to regulate and respect what you need. To empower you to take back your power and voice in systems that make us feel like “we don’t know our own body.”

Self-care is a process of reclaiming and remembering our inherent worthiness. You are worth taking the time for, you are worth fighting for, you are worthy. Self-Care is proactive instead of reactive.
Self-Care is saying YES to yourself and listening to the wisdom of your body, the whispers before they’re shouts. It’s being in loving communication with your body and self and it involves learning the tools to regulate our nervous system.

I am on a mission to reclaim and reframe the word self-care. As a recovering workaholic, high achiever, and serial burn-outer. I became keenly curious about how to sustain doing the things I loved at a high level without being in the cycle of burnout. I would cringe at the word self-care because it felt like weakness. Until the science began to reflect what the inner knowing and emotional part of me knew to be true. Self-care is simply tools that help us give ourselves more of what we need, in the moments, weeks, and hours that we can. It’s being aware of our body throughout the day and being more connected to body intelligence, not just mind intelligence. In this way, we regulate our nervous system and are in the stress response less often, and therefore, living in a sustainable way for our mind, body, and spirit.

Self-Care Challenge

  • Say YES to self, listen to the whispers of your body.
  • Create SLOW in your life and settle into trusting what you know to be true.
  • Take more time BEING and less time DOING.
  • Counter the hustle of this season and be radical in your choices to lean into ease. Value doing less, more than you value doing more.
  • Plan ahead, schedule in your self-care time and let it stay in your schedule as a priority, not an ‘extra’ or ‘if I have time’.

As we head into our clinic busy season, we encourage you to plan ahead for your self-care so we can give you the care you need in the time that you need because you’re worth it.

“This step of saying yes to self is saying, I am worth fighting for. I am worth healing for. I am worthy.”- Adrianne Vangool from “The Journey of Self-Care to We-Care”

Want to learn more about self-care and nervous system regulation tools? Copies of The Journey of Self-Care to We-Care are availble at the clinic, McNally Robinson, Turning the Tide, or Amazon.

Plan ahead and book your self-care appointment

As 2023 is coming to an end, think ahead to book the self-care that you need. Physiotherapy, PhysioYoga, Yoga Classes and Massage Therapy available.

Burnout & Living a Life on Purpose, with Purpose

Burnout & Living a Life on Purpose, with Purpose

Burnout is more than just a lack of self-care. It is the cumulative effects of all the times that we say “Yes”, when we mean “No”; and the collection of unprocessed stressors that live within our being. It is the neurophysiological expression of exhaustion. It is the physical manifestation of compromised beliefs and choices big or small made from outside of our centre.

Instead of reacting to situations; what if we prophylactically practiced discernment? And as such made decisions that align with our purpose and felt right within our own body.

What does a “Yes” feel like in your body? What does a “No” feel like in your body?

Start by tuning into what your body feels like during the day and when you have to make decisions.

How do we cut through the noise of obligation; the guilt of letting people down; and the fear of missed opportunities?

To find these answers, we need to come back to the “Why”. Why we do what we do? What is the ‘Why’ behind the doing?

We dilute our impact; we water down our effectiveness (visions, dreams, & purpose) every time we make a decision far from our centre. Decisions made from the periphery out of fear, obligation, or wanting to be liked, do not result in fulfillment, growth, or success. They result in burnout and every little compromise adds up. We need to remember that we do not need to be for everybody; wee need to be for somebody. In knowing this, we can then reach those we are designed to reach. The more specific and clear we are on what is true for us, the easier the decision making processes becomes. It’s no longer energy sucking and draining, but affirming and purpose fulfilling. It feeds us, rather than feeding on us.

Overtime the creative well stays full and making decisions big and small become easier. When we practice living from our centre, we become clear on who we ARE and what matters to us. Choosing what aligns with us in our work or personal lives becomes a natural process rather than a collection of difficult choices.

Of course burnout occurs, we all are or have been in a state of burnout in one form or another this past year. The demands on women specifically have been extremely intense. 

In the book Burnout: The Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle by Amelia Nagoski and Emily Nagoski, the twin sisters write about what we can do when burnout happens and how we can navigate the stress cycle. The contents of this book are very affirming, especially in the context of what I do as a Physiotherapist and Yoga therapist (Physio-Yoga Therapist) where the focus is on treating the whole person, not just a part of the person. Working with the complex interplay of physical, psychological, emotional and social factors inherent to the human experience. I’ll summarize some of the concepts discussed in the book, what I have witnessed working with clients, and some of the things we can do to navigate the stress cycle as we work through burnout.

First we cannot separate our body parts or systems from each other. What do I mean by that? 

When someone experiences stress or pain, the body systems coordinate and communicate with each other. Our nerve endings send messages to our hormonal system (endocrine system) which result in stress hormones moving through the body. Our stress response is designed to be effective short term. Some examples include helping our blood to clot so we don’t keep bleeding; blocking pain through shock; elevating our immune system response so we don’t get an infection immediately from an injury. You can thank your stress response for delaying that cold or flu until you’re on holidays. Our stress response was meant to be short term; fight, flight, or freeze. However, as we have experienced, we are often in a constant state of stress and in many cases pain: mental, emotional, and physical pain. The physical manifestations of emotional pain and stress are real. Chronic stress amplifies our pain response. In chronic states of stress, we start to see the physical manifestation of burnout including: immune system suppression, fatigue, physical pain, and even multi-system effects (these may include elevated blood pressure, altered insulin responses in the form of acquired diabetes, heart disease, digestive issues, reproductive issues, and more).

So why do we get stuck in the stress response? We may have moved beyond the stressor; but our body may still be stuck in the hormonal and neurophysiological experience of the stressor. In this case, the physical body and the emotional body need to process the experience of the stressor to be free of it. How do we do that?

This can be done with any injury or stressor big or small, acute or chronic.

Move your body: The release of endorphins with activity help to interrupt the messages of the nervous system, hormonal system (endocrine system), and immune system responses that are stuck in a state of chronic stress. Switch the channel through movement that is safe and healthy for you. Take the controls and turn off the auto pilot.

Breath deeply from your pelvic floor: The pelvic floor is the first muscle to tighten in the stress response. Deep belly and pelvic floor breathing stimulate the relaxation response or your parasympathetic response (a.k.a rest, digest and nurture response). I like to use the cues: breath easy, deep, and soft to nourish your nervous system. It is no wonder that many people can experience physical responses to chronic stress in the form of pelvic floor dysfunction, lowered sex drive, and digestive issues. However it just as amazing to see these symptoms improve through something as simple as breath work. The breath is the window into the nervous system and hormonal systems, but sometimes we need support to access the breath in this way.

Connect: Yes with self, but also with safe and nourishing social interactions with loved ones, friends, and those you can talk to without needing them to solve your problems. Those people you can be vulnerable with and have the deeper heart/soul conversations. This person may even be your counsellor.  

Create and Collaborate: I love to create through collaboration, but you don’t have to be creative to find an outlet of expression. You may express yourself through daydreaming, journalling, or writing. This is why so many have taken to baking and cooking during the pandemic! A very delicious form of creative expression :). 

Fresh air!: We’ve all been doing more of this and as it gets colder, let’s keep connecting outside and taking those mindful moments in nature to simply witness the beauty around us.

The goal is to interrupt the pain and stress pathway and allow the space for our mind and body to process through the experience of the stressor; whatever that stressor may be.

Activities or therapies that combine breath, movement, connection, and creative expression can help us move through the neurophysiological expressions of stress and pain.

If we can stay ahead of the stressors we can hopefully avoid burnout. If we cannot, then the reservoir runs dry. This is where the hard work of discernment comes in. We may need to quit somethings that aren’t serving us to create space for more of the things that do. We may need to let go of some relationships and add in others. We may need to do the brave work of looking inside, so we can do the things that feel right, but may not be easy. The result will be worth it. Having the energy to live a life on purpose and with purpose.

Moving through the stress cycle can be done independently, but sometimes we need help to move through stuck and ingrained patterns. At Vangool Wellness we offer a variety of wellness service to support you on this journey of healing and nourishing your nervous system through TCM Acupuncture, Physiotherapy, Physio-Yoga, Pelvic Health Physiotherapy, Yoga classes & Videos, Massage Therapy, & Reiki.

Accessibility is important to us. Visit Vangool Wellness Youtube Channel with Free tools to help you cope with COVID. See below for ways to connect with us and how to access our resources to help you navigate burnout and cope with the daily stressors of COVID. Let’s move away from burnout and into purpose and healing. 

-Authored by Adrianne Vangool Physiotherapist & Yoga Therapist