Hello future yogis!
Are you looking to dive into a new yoga adventure, but you’re not quite sure where to start?
You’ve come to the right place.
Whether you’re here to heal your body, de-stress your mind, or just to have some fun – the first step is always the same.
While it may sound simple, taking that first step onto the mat isn’t always easy. Beginners yoga comes in all kinds of styles, offered in a range of different mediums. It’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Plus, yoga is usually pretty alien to fellas. Yoga is physically, mentally and even socially different to typical sports or hobbies. I’m not gonna lie, there’s some weird shit involved.
If you’re a bit nervous or a bit lost, I don’t blame you.
Like most men who find yoga, it’s something I had to seek out on my own. I never had any friends try to bring me to a class, or studios try to recruit me. So if you’re in that position, it’s your path to choose.
A lot of so-called “Beginners guides” that I see out there are really just generic lists of yoga benefits. They come with very little practical advice on how to start or what to expect.
I’m not going to sell you on the benefits of yoga, or try to convince you that “real men do yoga” (what the hell does that even mean?). If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you’re already sold on the idea.
This guide is all about how and where you can begin to learn yoga. How best to approach the practice, how to prepare and what you can expect to find. It’s also full of male-specific tips you’re not likely to be told anywhere else.
So I’m here to tell you – man to man – how to get started on your yoga journey.
All the Ways You Can learn
We’re lucky enough to live in a world where yoga is freely available to us, as long as we have an internet connection. You’ll never be short on information, but finding the stuff that’s right for you – is becoming harder than ever.
Your available mediums are including but not limited to:
- Online articles and blogs
- Mobile apps
- Subscription yoga websites
- Private classes
- Online classes
So where do you start?
That depends on your budget, your goals and your access to yoga studios.
If you’re looking to learn exclusively from home, I’d recommend using a combination of online mediums. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses: with some being more visual but less detailed, and others being very informative but difficult to translate into practice.
Some of the more comprehensive yoga subscription websites appear to provide a range of media: online classes, webinars, articles etc. But for the purposes of this guide I’m going to avoid the more premium services because they’re not exactly necessary and I’ve actually never used one.
In the beginning stages there is more than enough free content out there to get you started. Using the right mix of complementary mediums will help give you a well-rounded yoga education.
Articles and Blogs
Well seen as you’re already on one, let’s start with blogs.
There’s a huge number of blogs and articles out there, detailing the various yoga poses and sequences. Yoga Journal has become the leading online presence for credible yoga information. It is very informative, if a little dry sometimes. Yoga International is another well-established source of quality content.
I turn to them when I have a specific pose in mind that I’d like to learn, or if there’s something I’m struggling with. Often you’ll find that information faster by searching for articles, rather than skipping through videos to find the pose you need.
As for Yogi Goals – for now, at least – this blog is less about specific alignment and pose advice, and more about general yoga lifestyle advice. I’m not a yoga teacher (yet), so I’d never risk giving out advice that could cause injury. Just like this article, this blog is here to show a new generation of guys how to make yoga a part of their lives, and to support them along the way.
So there’s a range of different sites that you can learn from. That being said; when you’re a beginner and everything is new – you need a more thorough education than words on a page.
YouTube – not just a place for cat videos – is also a great gateway to high-quality yoga content and wonderful teachers. They offer everything from coffee-break warms ups to hour long sweat sessions.
To begin, you should be looking for a beginner series that takes the time to explain the fundamentals of moving and breathing. The poses are obviously important, but first things first.
I personally subscribe to:
- Yoga with Adrienne
Adrienne is really down-to-earth and immediately puts you at ease. Her videos are very beginner friendly and it feels like she’s right at home practising with you.
2. Allie – The Journey Junkie
Allie produces super high-quality videos from her Zen-Den, with expert and engaging instruction. The smart video sequencing really helps your progression, keeping you moving from video to video with ease.
3. Yoga with Tim
Tim’s laid-back approach really helps you relax and engage with his videos. It’s refreshing to see a male yoga instructor creating such great content on YouTube and finding success with it.
I tend to look to YouTube for inspiration when I’m having one of those blank days and I can’t seem to figure out what I want to do on the mat. With the guidance of the instructor and the on-screen visual cues, it becomes a much easier practice.
At some point in your yoga journey, I’d highly recommend you find an experienced teacher to practice with. The sooner the better really.
Yoga is going to have you moving your body in ways you’ve never experienced before. Even the basic poses have elements that aren’t as intuitive as you’d think. Finding the right rotation in the foot, opening of the hips or extension of the arms: are all subtle elements of alignment that are easy to get wrong.
That’s why it’s so helpful to have a real teacher there that can offer guidance and correct your form. At least in the beginning, while you get your fundamentals down.
I’ve taken classes by many different yoga teachers and while I’ve never had a “bad” class”, the amount I of enjoyment and value I got from each varied dramatically. If you find a teacher that resonates with you right away, fantastic. If that’s not the case then please do try others before you let it put you off the practice.
Yoga classes come in all shapes and sizes. With varying degrees of complexity, chanting and all-round weirdness. Some are definitely more appropriate for beginners than others.
Selecting the right class in the beginning is so important to get the best experience.
An Ashtanga class can challenge even the most seasoned yogis, and nothing is more disheartening than getting smashed in a class that’s above your level. Whereas a Yin class won’t physically push you, but it won’t teach you much of the yoga fundamentals either.
Also, there are the likes of Kundalini, which appears to be absolute madness.
If your studio offers a beginner series, that’s your best place to start. Over the course of a few weeks, you’ll be gradually introduced to the fundamental poses and breathing techniques. I think they have more of a classroom vibe than what you’d expect of a typical yoga class, with a slow and methodical pace.
For the full guide on what to expect from your first yoga class, click here.
I loved my beginner series. Just being around a bunch of people who all suck at yoga just as much, falling over and learning together. It really helps break down that fear of failure.
If you can’t find a studio that runs a beginner series, they will almost certainly run regular beginners yoga classes. Whilst they won’t be aimed exclusively at first timers, the pace is definitely slow enough for you to join in and pick it up as you go along.
What to Wear
When it comes to yoga wear, finding the right balance between comfort and fit is the aim of the game.
You want something that’s free and flexible so your movements aren’t restricted. That means jeans, trousers and shirts are a bad idea.
When you’re in a class, it’s important that your body is visible to the teacher, so they can see your alignment.
Besides, baggy t-shirts will just flop in your face in downward dog. If you wear baggy clothes and you’re prone to sweating, I hope you like being waterboarded too.
Most male activewear will function just fine for yoga, so dig out those workout shorts and tank tops. If the climate allows it, feel free to go shirtless too. I always do. Especially if it’s a yoga class or you’re just practising in a hot country.
Simple Do’s and Don’ts
- Do stay hydrated
- Don’t drink so much you’ll need to pee during practice
- Do bring a towel
- Don’t practice on a full stomach
- Do honour your limits
- Don’t bring your mobile phone into class
When to Practice and How Often
Yoga is best practiced as a lifestyle, rather than an exercise. Try not to approach it as something you do once a week when you feel like it, but as something you do regularly as part of your routine.
Consistency is key
A great way to start is to commit to a short practice of sun salutations each morning. They energise you for the day and will go a long way to limbering you up and keeping you healthy. Most importantly you will develop the habit of unrolling your mat each day and dedicating yourself to your practice.
Developing Your Personal Practice
Once you have the fundamentals down, I’d wholeheartedly encourage you to start a personal practice. Yoga classes and YouTube are great for guiding you and getting you accustomed to the various poses and sequences, but it’s in your personal yoga time that you really start to deepen your practice.
For your first few practices, you can expect to be a little stiff and awkward, and that’s normal. If you’re not used to stretching, your body probably has lots of fused tissue and muscle tension.
Over the course of your first few months, you may notice some rapid change in how your body moves and feels. You won’t necessarily be capable of amazing feats of flexibility right away, but if you’re like I was and had never really stretched before – the release can be profound.
There may be some growing pains along the way. A little muscle soreness is to be expected, especially in the beginning. A long as you’re kind to your body and you don’t force it, you’ll be fine.
Let’s Wrap Up
That’s a lot to take in, right? Don’t sweat it.
Yoga is a process, not a destination. It doesn’t matter if you struggle at the beginning, or even after years of practice – being “good” holds no value. You can forget about all the advances moves and practices for now. Don’t worry about how you look or how close you can get to touching your toes.
Go into your practice with an open mind and heart. Everything else will come in time.
To get started, I’d encourage you to get a taste of yoga in the comfort of your own home. Check out the links to YouTube to access some great beginner content and give it a shot.
If you need any clarification on any pose, head over to the likes of Yoga Journal to get the details. If it’s available to you, investing in a good teacher will set you up with some solid fundamentals to build upon.
Finally, just keep at it!
Yoga has many benefits. Some are immediate, and some come with time. By committing to a regular yoga practice you are choosing to invest in your health and happiness. It will be the best decision you ever make.
See you on the mat.