Worried yoga will be a bit of a stretch Read our expert advice for beginners
16:13 GMT, 30 March 2012
Fancy trying out a yoga class but afraid to get stuck in a room full of super-slim women chanting and doing the 'downward dog'
Never fear! Here experienced yoga teacher Diana Holland, 53, reveals just what to expect…
Cross-legged: You may not have sat like this since school, but this is a popular sitting posture in yoga
BEFORE THE SESSION
It's important to wear comfortable clothing that allows you to stretch but isn't too baggy. Many people like to wear a longer top that will cover your stomach when you stretch upwards.
Don't eat a large meal up to three hours before the lesson – but if you're starving you can have something like a banana to keep you going.
You also shouldn't drink water during a session as you're warming the body
up and this cools the body down quite suddenly. Instead bring a bottle to sip on afterwards.
prepared to go bare foot as yoga is all about connecting to the Earth. Also it's a good idea to bring a
pashmina or towel for the relaxation period at the end.
DURING THE SESSION
Always tell the teacher if you have any twinges or injuries so they can adapt the class for you.
Sit towards the back of your
first class so you can follow the more experienced members in front of
you. The teacher won’t always be at the front of the group but will move around the
class correcting postures.
The key thing to remember is that yoga is a non-competitive practice so stop whenever you need to.
Don’t force movements if they hurt as you’ll only do yourself an injury. It's actually far more yogic to stop and rest rather than pushing yourself.
I find super-fit men especially struggle with this and tell them they must leave their ego at the door!
Energising: The 'warrior' pose is a more challenging standing posture
TO BREATHE, OR NOT TO BREATHE
People often worry when they start yoga how to 'breathe properly'.
When someone is just starting I tell them to just be a little more aware of their
breath. Think of it like a soft silk thread running in and out of your
The key is to be gentle with yourself and not to tense up about
it. Eventually you can practice breathing softly into the belly rather than
the chest. This is calming and can help during day to day life.
Try not to hold your breath when holding various poses and keep it flowing in and out instead.
A CLASS OF THREE PARTS
Generally a class is split into three main parts. The first is all about leaving the outside world behind.
You are encouraged to become aware of the room and relax into this space. Most teachers start with students lying in the 'corpse' pose and ask them to imagine sinking into the floor.
We tend to do a few exercises to connect with the breathe and simple twists to let the body know it’s going to start moving. This helps stop injuries.
The main part of the class involves movements with the support of the bandas or core muscles. To activate them you gently suck in the belly and lift the pelvic floor muscles (those you use to stop going to the toilet.)
Popular kneeling poses includes the cat that stretches out the back, while standing postures are more dynamic like the warrior. These help to increase energy and confidence. Many classes include a version of the sun salutation that puts a few different poses together and encourages a flow between them. Seated postures follow and then we end with a relaxation.
I often use music for this and encourage the class to find a relaxed, meditative state. It's not unusual to daydream during this but the key is to bring your attention back to the breath when your mind wanders.
DON'T PANIC! COMMON YOGA TERMS EXPLAINED
Here are some common Sanskrit terms you might hear in the class…
Asana – a yoga pose
Savasana – resting or corpse pose. Lying flat on your back with your feet falling away from eachother and
your hands by your side palms upwards
Balasana – child's pose. Sit on your heels then slowly fold forward bringing your chest to your thighs and forehead to the Earth.
Tadasana – mountain pose. Feet
together, toes spread and rooted to the ground. Standing tall with arms
by the side palms facing forwards.
Bandas – Your core. To activate gently suck in your belly button and lift your pelvic floor. Helps support your posture during yoga.
Namaste – Said at the end of the class. It essentially means 'peace go with you'.
DON'T ATTEMPT YOGA IF…
Pregnant women should got to standard
yoga classes but instead go to special sessions for mum's to be. This
is because there are a number of poses they should avoid.
I would also say to give yoga a miss during your period as you should really avoid going upside down or doing any standing postures.
Those with high blood pressure should make sure the class is gentle and not dynamic.
Yoga is more powerful than many
people realise so it’s important to take it easy. You may find your feet
ache after the first session as you won't be used to spreading your
toes and pressing them into the floor.
Also don't be afraid to be fussy and shop around as there are so many different styles of yoga and teachers. It's important to find a session that suits you.
Diana leads classes at Virgin Active in London. To find your nearest class visit http://www.yogapages.co.uk