Start on the floor on your hands and knees. While keeping your hands on the floor about shoulder-width apart and fingers spread wide, gradually straighten your legs until you're in the position of an inverted "V." Your feet should be hip-distance apart, back straight with your head hanging down. Hold for 45 seconds.
Enjoy being a "corpse."
Most yoga classes end with a pose called savasana (pronounced sha-vass-ahnah), corpse pose, where you lie flat on your back, close your eyes and relax. This pose counterbalances the physical strain of the rest of the class. Consider it your cool-down.
Don't be scared off when your instructor bows her head as if in prayer, clasps her hands together in front of her heart and says "namaste" (pronounced nah-mas-tay), which the class echoes back. This ancient Sanskrit word translates loosely to mean, "I honor you" and is considered an expression of gratitude and respect.
Invest in a few basics to get the most out of your practice.
Wear a baggy T-shirt to yoga and you may flash your sports bra to the class when you try an inverted pose. To avoid this, wear quick-dry, closefitting tops cut long. Capri or full-length fitted pants protect your knees and help your instructor check your alignment. Companies including prAna (prana.com
) and Lululemon (lululemon.com
) specialize in stylish, comfortable, high-performance yoga clothing.
Consider purchasing a yoga mat if you plan to do yoga more than once. That way, you'll know when it was last cleaned (or not). Yoga mats come in all kinds of colors and materials, from natural rubber to synthetic, as well as different levels of thickness and stickiness, what keeps you from slipping. Rountree recommends beginners purchase a double thick (1/4-inch) mat. Choose one at sporting good stores or from companies including Gaiam (gaiam.com
) or Manduka (manduka.com
). To clean your mat, use a sponge to wash with soap and water and let air dry.
Most studios provide basic props such as blocks, used to help with alignment, and stretching straps, which can help inflexible beginners. If you plan to continue your practice at home, purchase these basics at sites including barefootyoga.com
Classes to Try
A generic term used to describe any form of yoga that includes physical asanas (poses), hatha classes often combine elements from a variety of styles of yoga, are slow-paced and beginner friendly.
Based on Vinyasa-style yoga, which combines fluid movements with rhythmic breathing, Ashtanga classes move through six series of poses that increase in difficulty. Fast-paced, these classes get your heart rate up and build strength.
Commonly offered at gyms, power yoga provides a vigorous workout, moving quickly through a series of poses that challenge the core and the upper and lower body.
Poses are held much longer than usual in this class that focuses closely on form and body alignment. Props, from blocks and blankets to chairs, are used a great deal.
Expect to sweat in this class held in a 100 degrees F or hotter studio. Bikram is composed of a series of 26 poses designed to cleanse and stretch the body.