How to Start Reaping the Health-Based Benefits of Yoga

Written by Irene Byrne

September is Yoga Awareness Month and will slip by many unnoticed. However, if you have ever thought about starting a yoga practice, do it now! I started a regular practice twenty years ago, and how I felt about it then and now is very different. Like many, I assumed that eventually I would end up in handstand and headstand and pretzel shapes. Wasn’t that the goal? Actually, none of those poses are what I now consider a yoga goal. Yoga is breath and movement and presence all at once. So much more manageable and attainable at any level of yoga practice. So as all our lives pick up steam in September, explore some yoga to support you on your journey.

Where do you start?

You can go to a local yoga studio and sign up for a class. Most studios will allow you to borrow or rent a mat so no need to make any purchases before you even try it out. Look at the class descriptions and choose something that says introductory/beginner/gentle…you get the picture. If unsure, just ask! Yogis tend to be very kind, open and compassionate people. I wonder why? Is it connected to their practice?

If you prefer to start at home, that is also a great option in this new world of online life. I have a subscription to the Yoga Collective and when I can’t get to a studio class, that is where I click. They offer classes at every level and of every length, and have multitudes of teachers to choose from. There are many other subscription options out there and most offer a free trial period. All you need is an open space in your home. If you do not have a mat, use a towel, and grab some pillows as props. Yoga also opens the mind so take advantage and get creative. Practice like no one is watching!

What do you wear?

Comfortable clothes that allow you to move freely. I suggest leggings and a t-shirt or top. Consider layers so you can keep cool as the heat builds. That’s it! You can wait to race to Lululemon until you see if yoga is really for you. Yes, there are so many cute yoga outfits, but that is not what yoga is about.

What are the different types of yoga?

This is where I feel many of us get stuck before starting. You do not need to know about all the different types to start. It would be overwhelming and undo your time on the mat. However, here is a brief overview of the most well-known types of classes. Each one is a little different and each teacher tends to lend their own feel to a class. It is good to try different types and different teachers and see what speaks to you. Yoga is a personal experience. That is part of the magic.

Here is a brief overview of the most well-known types of class:

  • Vinyasa – A flow class incorporating many different poses that all link to the breath.
  • Hatha – A good class for beginners as they are paced slower than other yoga styles.
  • Ashtanga – A more athletic sequence of poses. Not for beginners.
  • Yin – Slow paced seated poses that are held for longer periods of time.
  • Restorative – A more relaxed, end of day practice.
  • Iyengar – Focuses on alignment and detailed movement.
  • Kundalini – Focus on core and breathing to release energy from the body.
  • Hot Yoga – A series of poses in a heated room.

Now it is time to take yourself to your mat and just start. Five or ten minutes can make all the difference in the world. Just being present for yourself and with your breath is how you start your yoga journey. After my first foray into yoga, I did stick with it and explored all sorts of classes. I enjoyed most of them, but not all of them. The whole headstand thing just wasn’t for me. However, I benefited enough to recognize that I wanted yoga to be a part of my life. In 2015, I became certified as a yoga teacher. I specialize in Yin yoga, and I can truly say that it has changed my life for the better.

Namaste (it means “the light in me, honors the light in you”),


About Irene Byrne

Irene has spent her career in the field of education at both the early childhood and college levels. She has published several books and is currently working on the latest edition of Preschools by the Bay, a guide to preschool for bay area families.