Yoga for beginners: tips & exercises to get you started

Yoga for beginners: tips & exercises to get you started

Want to start yoga but afraid of doing something wrong with the exercises? Or do you think you are too immobile to practice yoga? In this article you will find out how you can find an easy introduction to yoga and what you should consider at the beginning.

Is yoga also suitable for beginners?

Yoga is basically suitable for everyone. But not every type of yoga and every exercise is suitable for beginners. When you start yoga, you should slowly feel your way forward and be guided by experienced teachers, especially in the first few hours.

Yoga styles: The most popular types of yoga for beginners

There are many different styles of yoga these days, and that's a good thing, because if you don't like a style, it doesn't mean yoga isn't for you at all. So at the beginning, take your time trying different styles and teachers to find the style you really like.

What styles are there?

In the western world, the most widespread styles are those in which physical exercises (Asanas) are in the foreground of the practice. These include Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Power, Anusara, Jivamukti, Yin and Iyengar Yoga. There are also other styles such as Kundalini Yoga, where the spiritual practice is more prominent.

How do the styles differ?

  • Hatha Yoga: Individual exercises are carefully practiced one after the other with breaks to track them down.

  • Vinyasa Yoga: Dynamic exercises that flow into each other.

  • Ashtanga Yoga: Exercise sequences that are always practiced in this order.

  • Power Yoga: A powerful style with elements from Vinyasa and Ashtanga Yoga.

  • Anusara Yoga: Very precise physical alignment with inspiring themes.

  • Jivamukti Yoga: A modern style of practice to dynamic music and frequent chanting of mantras.

  • Yin Yoga: Focus on relaxation and passive stretching. Each position is held for several minutes.

  • Iyengar Yoga: A therapeutic approach that uses many tools to stay in the postures for a long time.

  • Kundalini Yoga: Exercises are performed for several minutes each. Breathing exercises and meditation also play a central role.

Which style is best for beginners?

Whether yoga is suitable for beginners depends less on the style than on the selection of exercises, the tempo and the duration of the positions. Even for sporty people, yoga exercises such as downward facing dog can be very demanding at the beginning, as these postures are unfamiliar.

Hatha and Anusara Yoga are particularly suitable for beginners because they build up the postures slowly and great importance is attached to a clean alignment in the positions. Practitioners learn to control individual parts of the body better and to improve their overall body awareness.

Downward Dog

How to get started with yoga?

No matter what style you start with, take the time to learn and understand the basic exercises physically before moving on to more advanced variations. Keep focusing on your breathing and practice letting it flow evenly - especially in the strenuous moments. Don't compare yourself to others who have been around for a long time. Yoga is never about conforming to an ideal form, but about slowly expanding your awareness of your body and its possibilities.

Use all the tools at your disposal to make the positions easier for you. If you don't have any yoga blocks at home, you can lean on thick books, for example. As an alternative to a strap, you can use a belt or a long scarf.

Basics for yoga beginners: the different asanas

You have probably heard the term asana in the context of yoga. You can find out exactly what an asana is here and read in detail in our separate blog post.

What does the term asana mean?

Asanas are all postures that we take on our mat during physical yoga practice. In Sanskrit, all names for the exercises end with "-asana", for example Virasana, Virabhadrasana, Utkatasana.

In which yoga style do asanas play a role?

Asanas play a role in all yoga styles that we know today, but in different forms. In the western yoga styles, physical exercises represent the main part of the practice: whether powerful and dynamic like in Jivamukti Yoga or slow and calm like in Yin Yoga. In other traditions, pranayama (breathing exercises), meditation and purification techniques are more the focus of practice.

Asanas for beginners - exercises to get started

There are many yoga postures and variations that are very suitable for beginners. People with physical limitations can also practice yoga, but should definitely be instructed by a teacher, at least at the beginning.

How do the different asanas differ?

Most yoga postures have a specific focus and can therefore be divided into different categories. In general, a distinction is made between standing, sitting and lying postures. More precisely, the asanas can then be divided into forward bends, backward bends, inversions, turns and balance postures.

In a yoga class, at least one posture from each asana category is usually practiced to stretch and strengthen the body in all areas.

Different Asanas

What should you pay attention to when practicing the asanas?

Always pay attention to your breath. As long as the breath can flow calmly and evenly, everything is fine. When you catch your breath, it's a sign that you're pushing your limits. It is more important than doing the exercises as perfectly as possible that they feel good to you.

There should never be pain during yoga practice. Not every posture is suitable for every person. Over time you will learn to listen to your body better and to do the exercises in a way that is ideal for you.

List, presentation and explanation of the most important yoga exercises for beginners

  • The Tree - Vrksasana
    Standing balance pose on one leg while bending the other sideways. Actively press the soles of your feet and inner legs against each other to create stability. The hands can be folded in front of the chest or stretched out long.

    Cobra and Tree
  • Cat - Bidalasana
    A great spinal mobilization exercise with many possible variations. On all fours, stretch your right leg back and your left arm forward. Hold for a few breaths and then switch sides.

  • Cobra - Bhujangasana
    Lying position to open the front of the body and strengthen the back. In the prone position, place your hands under your shoulders and press the tops of your feet into the mat to engage the muscles of your legs. Lift the upper body using the strength of the back and keep the neck long.

  • Standing forward bends - Uttanasana
    Place your feet hip-width apart and bend your knees slightly. Bend your torso forward until you feel a stretch in the back of your legs. Keep the leg muscles and feet active while allowing the head, shoulders, and arms to hang. Feel free to use blocks under your hands if you're not that agile yet.

    Forward bend
  • Grasshopper - Shalabasana
    Simple backbend, in which the upper body and arms are raised from the prone position. The hands can be crossed over the lower back, the neck remains in extension of the spine.

  • Downward Facing Dog - Adho Mukha Svanasana
    From the all fours position, extend one leg backwards with toes planted on the floor. Place the other foot next to it - you are in the plank pose. From here, bend your legs slightly and push your pelvis far back and up. A straight and long back is more important than being able to straighten your legs and bring your heels to the floor.

  • Shoulder Bridge – Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
    Simple Inversion Pose, where the pelvis is raised from the supine position with bent knees while keeping the feet, shoulders and head on the mat.

    Schulterbrücke und herabschauender Hund
  • Half Twist - Adria Matsyendrasana
    Seated twist with one leg extended and the other leg bend. The upper body is turned towards the raised leg, with one hand grasping the knee of the bended leg and the other hand behind the body for support.

Tips for yoga beginners: the right breathing technique

Why is proper breathing so important in yoga?

One ​​goal of yoga practice is to bring more life energy (Prana) into the body and to distribute it in the best possible way so that we feel vital in all areas of the body. Breathing exercises (Pranayama) serve to positively influence and consciously control this flow of energy in the body, because in everyday life we ​​breathe unconsciously most of the time.

Breathing helps us to remain calm and permeable in strenuous positions. In stretching postures, it helps us release excessive tension and relax more easily.

How do I breathe when practicing the asanas?

As a general rule, you can remember that upward movements are connected to the inhalation (e.g. raising your arms while standing) and downward movements are connected to the exhalation. So for the sun salutation (Surya Namaskar) you raise your arms above your head with the inhalation, and with the exhalation you bend down into the forward bend. While you remain in a position, your breath should continue to flow calmly and evenly. In the beginning, it's normal to keep forgetting your breath or having a hard time keeping a steady rhythm. Therefore, at the beginning of your practice, always do some breathing exercises while sitting before you start to move your breath together with your body. If you're practicing a pose on both sides, such as Tree (Vrksasana), you can count your breaths to hold each side equally.

Are there any tips on how I can learn correct breathing?

In yoga, we usually breathe through the nose using the Ujjayi breathing technique. This breath resembles the sound of the roaring of the sea and creates a gentle inner warmth. This sound is caused by the narrowing of the glottis, which causes the breath to become more even.

To learn this technique, raise one hand and hold its palm close to your mouth. Breathe in normally and as you breathe out through your mouth, imagine that you are blowing on a mirror. Practice this a few times, then try the same with your mouth closed. You should feel a slight constriction in your throat as you do this. Once you get a feel for it, try creating the same feeling and sound while inhaling through your nose.

No matter how old or how athletic you are: You can start yoga at any time. Give yourself time to learn the unfamiliar exercises step by step and ask your teachers for advice if you are unsure about the alignment in some positions. Over time you will develop strength, flexibility and a subtle body awareness that will allow you to become more and more comfortable in the poses. Have fun practicing!