Yoga has become increasingly more popular over the years as people become more desperate to find ways to destress and decompress from the realities of everyday life. There is often a lot of fear that can hold you back from starting something new, especially when you know it will be good for you. It can feel intimidating putting yourself out there and often we tend to retreat back when we feel unequipped.
It’s our hope that by providing you with this resource you will feel more confident and empowered when you step on your yoga mat or attend your first yoga class.
Browse our comprehensive index below to discover all you need to know as you embark on your journey on the path to yoga enlightenment.
What Is Yoga?
Yoga is a mind and body practise.
For many, yoga is just a physical practise, while for others it’s so much more than that. It can be a spiritual practise, a journey of finding your highest self, through movement and breath.
Whether you’re wanting to learn about yoga for just the physical benefits, or for the spiritual benefits, this practise is for everybody and every body.
Yoga means “union” in Sanskrit, the unifying of mind, body and spirit. It's about connecting with yourself again and finding out who you truly are at your core. This practise is about looking after these three things so that you can have exceptional health and vitality as you live your life.
Yoga for beginners can sometimes be scary and starting is usually the biggest hurdle, but once you’ve experienced it, you won’t turn back.
How to know if yoga is right for you? If you’re a human with a body, then, YES, it is!
The History of Yoga
The history of yoga dates back almost 5000 or more years ago in India, and some researchers even suggest it extends as far back as 10 000 years. To avoid going down too long a rabbit hole on its history (there’s so much on this, it could have its own blog post) we’re going to talk about the summarised version.
Yoga’s very long, dense history can be divided into four main periods of transformation, practise and evolution.
- Pre-Classical Yoga
In the Rigveda, an ancient Indian spiritual text, yogic teachings were first mentioned. The Vedas are a collection of ancient texts composed in Vedic Sanskrit containing songs, mantras and rituals to be used by Brahmans, the Vedic priests. This stage of yoga was a mixed bag of many ideologies and techniques that were seen to be conflicting and contradictory.
- Classical Yoga
The classical yoga period can be defined by Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, which was the first synthesized and organized texts of knowledge about yoga. Sutra from Sanskrit translates to threads, and it’s within these that you’re offered guidelines for living a meaningful and purposeful life.
Patanjali compiled the practise of yoga into an "eight limbed path", which outlines the steps or stages towards acquiring Samadhi or enlightenment.
The physical side of yoga was just one step within the “eight limbed path”. The purpose of even doing the yoga poses was so that one could sit for long periods in meditation and eventually reach enlightenment - this was seen as the true purpose of yoga.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras still heavily influence most styles of modern yoga today.
- Post-Classical Yoga
As time went on and centuries passed, the focus of yoga became more about the physical practise as a means to achieve enlightenment. These body-focused practises with spiritual connections were greatly explored, resulting in the creation of what we generally think of yoga in the West as - Hatha Yoga.
- Modern Period
Yoga began to make its way to the west at the start of the 1900s, and although there were various types of yoga, it was predominantly Hatha yoga that was most influential. Hatha can be seen as the foundation of what most other types of yoga are based on, such as Ashtanga, Iyengar or Vinyasa. Dive deeper into these yoga types below.
Types of Yoga
In today’s world there are a number of different types of yoga and classes available wherever you go, be it yoga studios, gyms, yoga retreats or online. Whether you’re looking for a more intense physical practise or a more slow and restorative practise, there will most definitely be a style to fulfil your every need and intention.
We suggest trying out a few different styles to see which one resonates with you.
The main types of yoga have been summarised below (as there are so many, we had to narrow them down). The only way to really know if you’ll enjoy it is to practise it and see.
As mentioned earlier, Hatha yoga is what most other styles of yoga are based on. A Hatha class usually involves a set of physical postures and breathing methods which are practiced more slowly and controlled, and with more static posture holds than perhaps a Vinyasa flow or Ashtanga class.
Vinyasa yoga is like Hatha, but here the main focus is moving from one pose to the next with a continuous fluid motion, synchronising each movement with breath. This style of yoga is a lot more dynamic and fast paced, so be prepared to get sweaty!
Ashtanga yoga is a set sequence series of postures where you flow from one pose to the next, using your breath. In traditional Ashtanga, you have to master the first series before proceeding to the second etc. It can be an extremely challenging style, so beginners may want to start with Vinyasa or Hatha first before going to one of these classes.
Iyengar yoga is a combination of standing and seated postures, that uses props for specifically focusing on correct alignment and posture, in order to gain increased muscular power and range of motion.This style of yoga is one of the easiest types of yoga for beginners, as it will provide you with a great foundation for correct alignment in postures.
Jivamukti yoga is a physical, ethical, and spiritual practise, combining a robust physical practise (vinyasa-based style), with adherence to five central principles: Shastra (scripture), bhakti (devotion), ahimsā (nonviolence, non-harming), nāda (music), and dhyana (meditation).
Bikram yoga is a set sequence of 26 postures and two breathing exercises repeated in the same order for 90 minutes. It typically takes place in a heated room of up to 40 degrees celsius, which helps your body to stretch a bit further and detoxify.
Kundalini yoga is unique in how it focuses on repeated movements (referred to as a “kriya”), dynamic breathing, mantras, chanting, and meditation. It’s believed that through this practise you will awaken energy at the base of the spine, and draw it upward through the chakras, activating their energy centres and elevating consciousness.
Yin yoga originated from Chinese culture, and its primary focus is releasing tension through softening and relaxing your muscles, in order to target deeper connective tissue and fascia. It requires you to do fewer postures, but hold them for several minutes at a time, also done with the use of props. Some find that because you’re not working up a sweat it’s easier to do, but the challenge comes in for your mind when holding these postures for what can be an uncomfortable amount of time. This is an extremely beneficial practise, that when done in conjunction with a more dynamic style of yoga can give you the ultimate balance. It’s also helpful for people who have tight muscles, stress, or chronic pain.
Restorative yoga is based around very gentle “restorative” poses that are held for 10 minutes or more. It includes plenty of props for support to aid in relaxation, such as blankets, bolsters, and straps. Similar to Yin yoga, this is a helpful practise for people living with chronic pain or anyone feeling stressed.
Yoga Nidra, also known as yogic sleep is an extremely powerful meditation technique, and one of the easiest yoga practises to develop and maintain. This “sleep” is induced by lying in one pose, savasana, and listening to guided verbal instructions, similar to meditation, which will take you to a very relaxed state. This practise is incredible for relieving stress and to decompress and is easy enough for anyone to do.
As much as these practises may differ, there is one common thread that they all have, and that is self-healing. No matter which style you choose to practise, be it one or all, they each give you the opportunity to turn inward and learn more about yourself, so that you can be a better version of you, in turn allowing you to be of greater service to the people and the world around you.
What Are The Benefits of Yoga?
Yoga has a myriad of different benefits that affect both the body and the mind. Below are a few high-level benefits of what a regular yoga practise can help with.
The physical benefits of yoga are:
- Strengthens muscles and tones body
- Increases range of motion and flexibility
- Boosts circulation
- Reduces inflammation
- Alleviates chronic pain
- Improves balance and stability
- Helps to aid in weight loss
- Helps to improve digestion
- Strengthens core muscles
- Helps to detoxify the body
- Improves posture
- Improves lung function and capacity
The mental and spiritual benefits of yoga are:
- Reduces stress and boosts mood
- Improves focus and concentration
- Helps with better sleep
- Can provide relief for panic attacks
- Anchors you into the present moment
- Helps to balance your chakras (energy centres within the body)
- Helps to build self-confidence and self-esteem
- Can connect you to others and make you feel more compassionate
- Helps you cultivate a gratitude attitude
- Helps you work through tough emotions
- Helps with cultivating more awareness and connection to self and spirit.
Every individual will approach their yoga practise in their own way, thus benefiting according to what they are looking to get out of it. Most of the time though, you’ll get so much more than what you initially expected, and that’s the beauty of yoga.
How to begin a Yoga Practise
Beginning a yoga practise could not be easier as we’ve outlined below all you need to know and what to expect as a beginner.
Find a Yoga Class
First things first, find a yoga class.
Yoga can be done at home, but as a beginner, it’s important to go to a few classes taught by a certified yoga teacher, either in a private or group class setting. This will help you to better understand what’s expected and how to practise safely. Find a space to practise that’s easy to get to and offers classes that will fit into your schedule.
If you have any specific medical concerns, check in with your doctor before starting your yoga practise to see what types of yoga might be best for you.
Common settings include:
- Yoga studios in your suburb/city
- Yoga retreats
- Workplace and corporate yoga
- Online yoga programs, websites & apps
- Private yoga instructors who come to your home
- Seasonal, donation-based outdoor yoga events
- Integrative health practises, like physical therapy offices, chiropractic offices, etc.
What To Expect From a Yoga Class
The typical length of a group or private class is 60, 75, or 90 minutes.
Most yoga classes will make reference to Sanskrit yoga pose names and terminology. Sanskrit is an ancient Indian language that the first yogis spoke and the language in which many historic yoga texts were written. It may be very confusing at first, but once you start practicing regularly you will pick up the terminology in no time.
A class will usually begin with the teacher guiding you through breathing or meditation and then moving into the yoga poses. Many teachers tend to demonstrate very little and rely on verbal cues, but this really depends on the type of yoga class you are attending and the teacher.
A yoga class will end with a few minutes of lying down on your back in a pose called savasana with your eyes closed. The yoga teacher will either close the class while you’re lying in savasana, so you can leave when you’re ready, or they will bring you back up to seated and close the class by saying the Sanskrit word “namaste”, after which the students repeat it back.
Make an effort to talk to your teacher after class, especially if you have specific questions about certain poses or modifications.
Tips For Your First Yoga Class
- Avoid jumping straight into a hot yoga class on the first go, as it can be incredibly intense - start with non-heated classes.
- Let the teacher know you’re a beginner — don’t be shy about this, it will only benefit you!
- All your personal belongings like your mobile phone etc. should be left in a safe place outside the studio.
- Let the instructor know if you would prefer to not have a hands on adjustment.
- Don’t walk out during savasana (unless it’s an emergency).
- Avoid practicing with a full stomach, a small healthy snack before is fine.
- If ever you are feeling tired or out of breath come into child’s pose — don’t feel like you can’t take a rest because other people are going strong. Yoga is an individual practise, so take care of yourself!
Find a Teacher You Like
Find a yoga teacher you like and resonate with. You’re not going to like every class you go to and that’s ok, instructors teach in different ways. The best way to discover whose classes you enjoy is to begin by trying many different classes, different styles and different teachers and then begin to narrow it down so that your practise can become more focussed and fun!
Practise as much as possible
A beginner should do yoga as often as possible, even if it’s only for 15 minutes a day or once a week.
Don’t feel you can’t practise because you don’t have enough time…Yoga is flexible to fit into your schedule and even 5 minutes a day will be beneficial. The more you practise the better you will feel, and when you begin to experience how incredible yoga can make you feel, you’ll want to do it all the time.
A good starting point would be to aim for 2-3 classes a week, but you can also do shorter sessions at home (even 10 minutes in the morning) once you have a better idea of what to do.
Creating a habit and practicing regularly will help you see improvements and results faster, and who doesn't want to feel good all the time?
You really don’t need much when it comes to beginning a yoga practise. See these few items as an investment in your health and well-being.
- Comfortable clothing that you can move in, but not too loose that it can get in the way.
- A yoga mat with good grip — there’s nothing worse than slipping when you’re trying to hold a pose.
- Yoga block — this is a handy prop to have for providing support in your practise.
- Yoga strap — an ideal prop for beginners, as it helps give you that extra length when you need it.
Yoga mats and props are usually always available at a yoga studio, and although props are fine to use, having your own mat is much nicer and more hygienic.
Yoga breathing is a big part of what you need to learn when starting your yoga practise. Learning to control your breath is integral to yoga and its benefits.
Pranayama is the formal name for this practise of breath control — “Prana” is a Sanskrit word that means life force, while “ayama” means extending or stretching. Therefore, the word “pranayama” translates to the control of life force or the extension of breath.
Here are a few types of basic yoga breathing techniques that will get you started:
Abdominal breathing is also known as diaphragmatic or belly breathing and it’s one of the most common basic breathing techniques you’ll find in yoga. It’s a great beginners yoga breathing exercise as it’s not complicated and helps you bring awareness to your breath.
It helps to reduce stress and calm the mind.
In a seated position or lying down, place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Notice where you’re breathing into more and then inhale to breathe directly into your belly and as you exhale, try to empty your belly of as much air as you can. Use your hands as a guide to see where the breath is going and adjust accordingly if you feel your chest is raising more than your belly.
Ujjayi Pranayama Or “Victorious Breath”
Ujjayi Pranayama is most commonly used in Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga.
This breathing technique is done by breathing through your nostrils and creating an ocean-like sound by constricting the back of the throat — like trying to fog up a mirror with your mouth closed. This type of breathing aims to anchor the mind during your practise and can be both energizing/heating and relaxing.
Try this in a yoga pose or simply be seated. Breathe in and out through your nose. Breathe in for 4 counts and breathe out for 4 counts. Complete 4 rounds of this. On your fifth breath, slowly breathe in through your mouth, and as you breathe out, see if you can slowly exhale as if you were steaming up a mirror, but with your mouth closed. Continue this breathing all the way through your yoga practise.
Meditation and Yoga
Meditation and yoga can be seen as synonymous with one another. Practicing yoga can be a form of meditation (moving meditation) while meditating can be a form of yoga.
For thousands of years, yoga was mainly a meditation practise before it became a popular physical practise.
Meditation is a higher state of awareness or focused attention upon something, such as your breath. When meditating, you are also cultivating mindfulness as you anchor yourself in the present and quieten your mind, allowing space to observe thoughts and feelings that may come up.
Yoga is all about being mindful — about how you breathe and how you move. Everything is done with intention, and as you begin to practise regularly, you’ll find yourself becoming more and more mindful.
Yoga for Beginners Poses
By familiarising yourself with certain beginners poses in yoga you will have a basic foundation when starting your practise.
Having this basic knowledge will better equip you to go to your first yoga class feeling like you actually know what to do when the teacher says “downward dog”, rather than looking around for an upside down dog — you’ll find that most of the translations of the poses are named rather descriptively of the actual position you move into.
There are hundreds of yoga poses out there, so we’ve narrowed it down to 11 poses to start you off.
Remember that yoga is not a one pose fits all approach, everyone’s body is unique with varying capabilities. Be mindful of your body and don’t push past your edge. The aim is to feel good in your body, not try to make it do a pose that looks the same as someone else's.
And lastly, always modify if needed!
If you hold each pose for 5-10 breaths, it can create a great yoga for beginners class for you to practise by yourself or with your friends as often as you’d like.
*Note: If you have any health concerns, consult a doctor before beginning a yoga practise.
Marjariasana / Cat Cow
Cat cow is the perfect way to gently warm up your spine and introduce breath synchronized movement.
This lengthening of the spine helps to improve circulation to the discs between the vertebrae, which in turn relieves stress from the back and calms the mind.
Come into a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Your wrists should be underneath and in line with your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips.
Balance your weight evenly on all fours.
Inhale to look up, lifting your heart and dropping your belly towards the mat.
Then exhale and tuck your chin into your chest, curving your spin up towards the sky.
Bring awareness to your body and your breath as you repeat these movements.
Continue this fluid movement for 5 breaths.
Tadasana / Mountain Pose
Mountain pose is the foundation of all standing poses and makes for the perfect starting position or resting pose.
It looks simple, but if done correctly you are active through your entire body.
Stand with your feet together, big toes touching with a slight gap between the heels. Alternatively, keep feet hip-distance apart. Press down through all ten toes as you spread them open. Lift your kneecaps by engaging your quadriceps and lift up through the inner thighs.
Draw your belly in and up as you lift your chest and roll your shoulders up, back and down away from your ears.
Feel your shoulder blades coming towards each other while opening your chest, but keep energy through your fingers with palms facing inwards towards the body.
Imagine there’s an invisible string drawing up through the crown of the head all the way to the sky and breathe deeply throughout your entire body.
Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward-Facing Dog
Downward-facing dog is one of the most common yoga poses you will come across. It stretches and strengthens the entire body, making it an excellent pose to do every single day.
Begin in a tabletop on your hands and knees, with your hands stacked under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
Press your palms into the mat, spreading your fingers wide and pressing your index finger and thumb into your mat.
Lift your tailbone and press your butt up and back, drawing your hips toward the sky.
Straighten your legs as best you can, or keep your knees bent, and press your heels gently toward the floor.
Ensure your head is between your arms, facing your knees, and your back should be flat with a lengthened spine.
Hold for 5–10 breaths.
Kumbhakasana / Plank Pose
Plank pose is a highly recommended yoga pose for beginners as it helps to build stamina and core body strength, which is needed for many of the other more challenging yoga asanas.
Kumbhakasana tones all of the core muscles of the body, including the abdomen, chest, and lower back. It strengthens the arms, wrists, and shoulders, as well as the muscles surrounding the spine, which helps to improve posture.
Come to all fours, with your knees under your hips and your hands flat on the floor directly underneath your shoulders.
Lift your knees off the floor and extend your legs out behind you, forming one long line with your body — balancing on hands and toes.
Press your palms flat into the ground, hands shoulder-width apart, shoulders stacked directly above your wrists, rounding into the shoulders and with your core engaged.
Draw your shoulders down your back, away from your ears. Keep your neck and spine in a neutral position by looking down at the top of your mat. Modify by dropping your knees to the ground to reduce intensity.
Hold this position for 3-5 breaths.
Virabhadrasana I / Warrior 1
Warrior 1 is the first pose in a series of Warrior poses. It’s a popular pose that you will often come across during a yoga class. Warrior poses are essential for building strength and stamina in a yoga practise.
Virabhadrasana 1 is a great pose for stretching open the entire front body (quads, hip flexors, psoas) while also strengthening the legs, hips, buttocks, core and upper body.
From mountain pose (Tadasana) step your right foot back.
Keep your front foot parallel to your mat and pointing forward. Position your back foot at approximately a 45-degree angle. Modify by standing on the front of your foot with your heel off the ground.
Keep your feet hip-width apart and square your hips to the front of the mat.
Bend into your front knee, making sure your knee is stacked directly above your ankle, or behind it. Keep your back leg strong.
Extend your arms up towards the sky and relax your shoulders away from your ears.
Hold for 5 breaths before switching to the other side.
Tree / Vrksasana
Tree pose is a perfect beginner’s standing pose, helping you to gain focus and learn to breathe and balance while standing on one foot.
Begin in mountain pose with your feet together and place your right foot on your inner left upper thigh or modify by leaning it on the left ankle. Externally rotate your right leg out.
Place your hands in a prayer position and hold a steady gaze by looking at a spot in front of you.
Keep your belly engaged and shoulders relaxed. Avoid leaning into your standing leg.
Hold for 8-10 breaths then switch sides.
Seated Forward Bend / Paschimottanasana
Seated forward bend pose or Paschimottanasana as it’s more popularly known in Sanskrit, is an excellent pose for giving the whole back of your body a good stretch — from your calves to your hamstrings (back of the thighs) to your spine.
It’s always good to incorporate a seated forward bend in your yoga practise and this one is brilliant for opening up the body and learning to breathe into the discomfort of a posture.
Begin in a seated position with your legs together extended in front of you, feet are firmly flexed with toes curled towards you, and your arms are extended above you towards the sky with palms facing each other.
Lift your chest and start to hinge forward from your waist, bending from your hips and keeping your back flat, fold your upper body over your lower body.
Engage your lower abdominals and imagine your belly button moving towards the top of your thighs.
Once you reach your limit, stop and breathe for 8-10 breaths. Make sure your shoulders, head and neck are all relaxed. Modify by bending your knees.
Bridge Pose / Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Follow a forward bend with a backbend counterpose. Bridge pose stretches the front body and strengthens the back body — a perfect beginner’s backbend.
Lie on your back, bend both knees and position your feet hip-width apart with your knees stacked over your ankles.
Place your arms on either side of your body with the palms of your hands turned down to the ground. Spread your fingers wide.
Imagine dragging your heels on the mat towards your shoulders to engage your hamstrings
Lift your hips up and hold the pose for 5 breaths pressing into both feet.
Supine Twist / Supta Matsyendrasana
Supine twists are neutralizing poses, so they’re great to include if you’ve been doing lots of backbends or forward bends.
They help to detoxify your body as well as aid in digestion and they can be energising (so good for your morning practise).
Lie on your back and hug both knees in towards you with your feet off the ground.
Place your arms in a “T” shape, with the palms of your hands turned up or down.
Let both knees drop down toward the right side of your mat.
Keep your gaze looking toward the sky, or turn to face the opposite direction of your knees.
Hold for 5 breaths before coming to the other side.
Child’s Pose / Balasana
Child’s pose or Balasana is a resting posture that is available for you to take during any time of your practise, be it at home or in a class.
It’s a calming pose that gently stretches your lower back, hips, thighs, knees and ankles and relaxes your spine, shoulders and neck.
Come to tabletop on all fours then bring your knees and feet together as you sit your butt back onto your heels and stretch your arms forward. Another option is to bring your big toes to touch and open your knees as wide as the mat.
Lower your forehead to the floor (block, pillow or blanket) and let your entire body release.
Hold for as long as you’d like!
Corpse Pose / Savasana
Aaaah sweet, delicious Savasana, oh how we love you.
This pose may seem like the easiest, but mentally it’s the most challenging, as most find it difficult to keep still.
It’s THE MOST important of all poses as it integrates all the hard work you just did prior to lying down on your mat.
Savasana relaxes the central nervous system, giving the cells of the body an opportunity to really permeate the fresh oxygenated blood, easing all the muscles and giving them the best gift after all of its hard work.
Lie on the mat with your hands and feet as wide as it is comfortable for you with palms up and toes pointed out.
Bring your shoulder blades right under the chest and just allow yourself to melt into the earth one breath at a time.
Take three deep breaths and then stay in the posture for five minutes or longer.
Online Yoga For Beginners
Online yoga for beginners is a great way to learn yoga at home. Online yoga makes it easy to do a class any time you want.
The list below includes some of our favourite online yoga platforms that you can subscribe to for a monthly fee to get unlimited class access. Some of them even have free yoga classes available so you can see whether or not you’ll enjoy their classes. Most of them have apps that you can download as well, making it very convenient to access a yoga class on your mobile wherever you are.
These platforms will allow you to choose from whichever level you want, be it beginner or intermediate or by yoga teachers you enjoy. They also include classes for breathwork and meditation.
You will find they are much more affordable than your local yoga studio, so if you’re on a tight budget then signing up to one of these platforms is the way to go. This is a great option to learn yoga at home and gain more experience and knowledge of the practise.
Online Yoga Class Platforms:
- Yoga International
- Do You Yoga
- My Yoga Works
- Yogi Approved
- Yoga Anytime
- Yoga Download
- Alo Moves
- Yoga Vibes
- One O Eight
YouTube Yoga For Beginners
YouTube is an amazing resource for learning anything. Search “yoga for beginners” on the Tube and you will be inundated with useful videos and yoga classes to help you along your yoga journey.
Below, you’ll find our favourite Yogi Youtubers in no particular order, who provide exceptional free content which will leave you coming back for more every time.
Most of them are on Instagram as well, so look them up there for more helpful yoga info and tips.
- Yoga with Adrienne
- Yoga with Kassandra
- Cat Meffan
- Kino Yoga
- Brett Larkin Yoga
- Heart Alchemy Yoga
- Alo Yoga
- Ekart Yoga
- Bad Yogi Yoga
- Faith Hunter
- Yoga Journal
- Fight Master Yoga
- Yoga by Candace
This is an incredible journey you are on and your life will be filled with so much more joy once starting a regular yoga practise.
Get ready to expand your awareness and understanding of the self through the self, and live a healthy and happy life.
We hope you enjoyed our yoga for beginners guide and that you found it a useful resource in beginning your yoga practise (consider bookmarking this page to come back to whenever you want to learn more).
If you have any questions or comments on getting started, please drop us a message below and we’ll be happy to get back to you, yoga is as much about self as it is about community.
Here at Rustic Retreats, we will be hosting yoga retreats perfect for all levels. We know what it’s like to be a beginner and we would love to support you on your journey into yoga.
Learn more about our amazing Rustic Retreats here.