Five Tips for Yoga Beginners

Even after years of professional football in the NFL, nothing gets me sweating like yoga. I’ll sing yoga’s praises, but when I was first starting, yoga made me miserable. Walking into a yoga studio for the first time, I was cocky. Older people filled the room and people I knew I was a better athlete than, but to my surprise, I was getting my ass kicked. Now after almost a year, my increased flexibility improved athletic performance, and reduced stress makes me falling out of all those embarrassing posses worth it.

This post is for anyone who was like me a year ago, you have a desire to start but have no idea what the heck you’re doing.

Find a Studio/Teacher For You

With lots of people staying home, and most yoga studios begin closed, this part is made simple. There are many great apps for at-home yoga. I use Down Dog, which in light of coronavirus, has given away all of its services free for a year. Being able to find which kind of yoga and at what duration works in the comfort of home is incredible. I wish I would have started yoga at home instead of walking into a yoga studio like a boss and leaving like a punk.

Respect Your Body’s Limits

Whether you’re a stay at home mom, a writer, a businesswoman, professional football player, or a dancer, your body has specific limitations. Don’t push yourself to do anything that’s dangerous or feels painful. There’s a difference between pushing your limits and disregarding them completely. Yoga has tons of variations for different movements, so there are plenty of alternatives that will keep you safe but challenge you. Don’t forget to BREATHE!

Don’t Compare Yourself

Comparing myself is the part that I got hung up on because, as a world-renowned athlete standing at 6’5 with a muscular frame, I convinced that any physical exercise I was supposed to kill.

The woman next to me doubled my age but was putting her leg behind her head, while mine was barely off the ground. I felt ashamed. When the man who I deemed overweight to my other side was twisting his torso like a spinning top, and I thought my spine was going to fall out of my ass, I felt and defeated. I didn’t even take into account how much progress I was making and the benefits I was surely receiving. I’m a hard worker and competitor, but yoga isn’t about winning. Yoga is about finding your center for health and relaxation; competitions are not relaxing.

Eating and Drinking Before Yoga

Since I didn’t have a significant understanding of yoga or much respect for the practice, I thought it would be a great idea to have one of my favorite meals before heading over to the studio, a breakfast burrito. Growing up in Texas, you can’t put enough ingredients into a burrito, I’m talking about chorizo, potatoes, eggs, avocado, bacon, the works. Within five minutes of my first yoga class, I was sweating grease out of my pores, and that gigantic burrito was doing the Merengue in my belly. Also, I drank way too much coffee and felt dehydrated and stiff.

I advise that you don’t eat up to an hour before doing yoga and if you must make sure it’s something light that’s not going to try and shake your stomach while you’re trying to balance on one leg. Drink a decent amount of water before but not so much that you’re wiggling for the bathroom during a time of stillness and meditation. That breakfast burrito will be a great reward afterward.

Wear Comfortable Clothing

Your yoga clothes can be cute, but if you’re spending money on Lulu, they better be comfortable. You will stretch your body in all directions, and so you don’t want to wear anything that will scratch, irritate, or dig into your skin. Tops that won’t fall over your head in a shoulder stand might be more functionally appropriate. The yoga studio isn’t a club or red carpet, and they give no awards for the best dressed.

I know I only promised five tips, but the last thing I want to say is to enjoy yourself and have fun. You deserve time to work on your body, mind, and soul. Yoga isn’t something you should wake up and dread, nor is it something to mark off your to-do list. Be present and enjoy your time, refocusing, recentering, and being present.

Light and love,

R.K. Russell