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Exercise

5 Best Tips to Get Started Doing Yoga

By Judi Bar, E-RYT 500, and Dawn Lorring, PT, MEd, MPT, CSCS, SCS

Some people think as they get older, they just get less flexible. But yoga can counteract this tendency and do so much more to keep you feeling good.

It gives you better posture, balance and strength. It helps you manage stress. You’ll find you have more energy. It also lowers blood pressure and eases all kinds of pain, including arthritis. Another surprising benefit: It can improve your memory. If you enjoy it enough to do it regularly, a yoga practice will help you manage your weight.

For anyone struggling with mood swings or depression, yoga can really help. Getting to know other students in class gives you a feeling of community and distracts from pain and negativity. People often walk out of class feeling good, and even lighthearted.

But if you are thinking about starting yoga, here are five important things we recommend:

1. Research yoga offerings and the instructors before attending a class

Some classes focus mostly on the physical body, while others focus more on the mind, emotions and spirituality. Every instructor is different in his or her approach and training, so you may have to try a few different classes and teachers to find out what works for you.

2. Start with a beginner’s class

Many community and fitness centers offer beginner classes. These classes take into account health challenges common to many, such as cardiac issues, osteoporosis, back and bone conditions or joint replacements. A good beginner class will also modify the postures with gentler variations and props (such as a chair) as well as limit or eliminate bending activities, so that those who are starting out with less physical ability and restrictions can lean on the prop and gradually build their strength and endurance. Conscious deep breathing, meditation and relaxation are usually included, which are perhaps the most beneficial components for stress and anxiety.

3. Choose between different yoga types based on your own goals

If you are looking more for stress relief and relaxation, a gentle class such as chair yoga, hatha yoga or restorative yoga, which include more relaxation and meditation, might be the way to go. You will still create strength and flexibility in your body with these gentler movements. If you are looking for more physical fitness and cardio, and yoga is the only exercise in which you are engaging, you may choose a class with more movement such as a vinyasa or flowing class. A main component in vinyasa style is the blending of movement with breath.

4. Take your time to avoid injury

Yoga is a process of meeting your body as it is, and working from that place. There should be no pain in yoga, and more vigorous classes definitely increase the potential for injury, especially if you are not familiar with the proper body mechanics of the postures. Learn how to do postures slowly and deliberately first before you attempt to flow through them quickly. It could benefit you to observe a class before you participate to familiarize yourself with the poses and make sure that the class is at an appropriate level for you. And remember, even a more powerful class should still have plenty of time for relaxation at the end, because the body needs time to rest and repair.

5. Tell your instructor about any health conditions or injuries

It is essential to make sure the instructor is aware of any conditions or limitations that you have, and that he or she has a valid certification and can help you work within your ability level.

This article originally appeared on the HealthHub from Cleveland Clinic.

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