As stress can play a role in some of our IBS symptoms, you may be thinking about trying yoga to help with stress management. Here are my six tips for yoga beginners:
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Yoga can be a great way to help manage, stress, increase flexibility, and even gain strength and mobility. Recent research even suggests a consistent yoga practice may be as effective as the low FODMAP diet in reducing IBS symptoms. So, you may be considering starting a yoga practice of your very own.
As a teacher of all-levels Hatha yoga classes, I often get students who are new to yoga and looking for advice when just starting. I am always excited to share my love of yoga and aim to help those new to yoga feel as comfortable as possible.
Here are my top six tips for yoga beginners:
TIPS FOR YOGA BEGINNERS
Find a “beginner” or all-levels class.
If you don’t have the resources for one-to-one yoga instruction, “beginner” or all-levels classes can be a great place to start. These classes focus on guiding those new to yoga or can provide pose modifications for those just starting.
Try connecting with the instructor before class to let them know you’re new to yoga, and if you have any injuries. Connecting with the instructor before class can help remind them to provide extra cues in their class to help guide and personalize your new practice.
Give it three (or more) classes.
It can take several classes (or more) to get comfortable with yoga poses, terminology, and even the studio itself. You may feel frustrated at first–it’s normal! You are learning a new skill, after all.
The longer you give yoga a chance, the more comfortable you get, the more layers you can add (breath, flow, adjustments, etc.), and the more benefits you will likely see from your practice.
Yoga is not meant to be competitive, but we can often find ourselves feeling frustrated or intimidated by the other “more advanced” yogis in our classes. Please trust that yoga is much more about the journey than it is about the destination.
Your yoga practice is a time for you to connect with yourself on your mat.
Try to release the need to judge or set expectations for your practice. If these feelings do start to come about (they probably will – it’s natural), I invite you to gently remind yourself that you are exactly where you need to be at this moment in time.
Listen to your body and ask if something doesn’t feel right.
Poses can be challenging at times and may bring about a bit of discomfort, but they should never cause sharp or shooting pains. If this happens, I invite you to take a step back, make the pose less intense, and connect with your instructor after class for modifications.
A knowledgeable yoga teacher is able to provide modifications to make a pose more accessible and comfortable for your body, exactly as it is.
Also, if you need a break, please take one. Quietly grab a drink or hang out in a restorative pose, like child’s pose, until you’re ready to join back in.
Try multiple classes and find your preferred flavor of yoga.
If available, try taking several different classes with different teachers in various styles of yoga. Each teacher brings a unique perspective and will offer a slightly different flavor of yoga. You may find that you connect with one method, teacher, or class more so than others.
There are lots of different styles of yoga. Some types I invite you to consider if you’re new to yoga include Hatha Yoga, Yin Yoga, Yoga Nidra, or classes that focus on slow flow, gentle, or restorative yoga.
With that said, as you get more comfortable, try to mix things up every once in a while and take a new class. You’re bound to learn something new.
Connecting with our breath is a large part of yoga and arguably more important than the asana (poses) itself. Because of this, instructors will often provide cues to help connect our breath with our movement.
A common misconception, especially with beginners, is that we have to breathe exactly when our teacher says so. Breath is important, but it’s also just another layer of yoga.
When starting a yoga practice, I invite you to first work on getting comfortable with the poses and just remembering to breathe. If you’re exhaling when your teacher says inhale, who cares? No worries! As you get more comfortable, you can add on and start to connect your breath with your movement.
On a final, similar note, sometimes during our practice, we may feel overwhelmed, intimidated, or even lost. Whatever you’re feeling, wherever you are, know that you can always come back to simply focusing on your breath.
Inhale deeply. Exhale completely.
Do this, and you’re practicing yoga.
- Qin HY, Cheng CW, Tang XD, Bian ZX. Impact of psychological stress on irritable bowel syndrome. World J Gastroenterol. 2014; 20(39): 14126–14131. doi:10.3748/wjg.v20.i39.14126
- Schumann, D, Langhorst, J, Dobos, G, Cramer, H. Randomised clinical trial: yoga vs a low‐FODMAP diet in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2018; 47: 203– 211. https://doi.org/10.1111/apt.14400