Yoga Guide: Beginners Edition

Want to try yoga, but don’t know where to start? You’re in luck! 


Kaylan Peek, "You" Editor

Yoga instructor Melanie Sparrow of Statesboro’s only women-focused gym, EMPOWhER by 180 Fitness, is here to guide you in the right direction. EMPOWhER is the “women-focused only gym” in Statesboro, offering various amenities such as personal training and group fitness classes.

Although EMPOWhER is exclusive to women, this doesn’t mean yoga has to be. Yoga is suitable for all genders and body types. So, unroll those mats, y’all!

Before embarking on your yoga journey, it’s important to understand the basis of yoga. “Yoga is a combination of breathwork and movement. And without combining the two you don’t get the full benefits of the practice, and it can be combined with meditation or other types of exercise, and it goes really well with certain types of aerobics as well,” said Sparrow. 

Yoga can serve as a building block to other forms of exercise with its emphasis on core strength, balance and breath control.

The practice of yoga itself is complex because there are many different styles of yoga to choose from like Vinyasa and Kundalini. But until you figure out which style is for you – let’s check out some basic yoga poses to get you started!

Seated Meditation Pose (Sitting position)

Benefits: This pose allows you to relax and ground yourself at the beginning of your exercise. Improves posture.

“We’re used to sitting in chairs in Western society. This is very different because you’re using core muscles and back muscles that you don’t normally use sitting in a chair. In this pose specifically, you can sit up on some type of elevation like a blanket or a pillow. And you can use blocks under your knees. Which can help if your knees don’t go all the way out on the side comfortably,” she said.

Downward Dog 

Benefits: Stretches lower body and arm muscles. Stimulates blood flow in the body.

 “It can relieve tension in the back because it’s a type of inversion. So, you’re taking weight off areas of the back that are normally stressed,” she said.

 Tip: Keep knees hip-distance apart and take deep breaths!

Tree Pose

Benefits: Increases hip and leg strength. Improves balance and concentration. Slows heart rate (calms body and mind).

 “This is a balancing pose. There are pretty much variations with all poses. I brought my foot up to my thigh, but you can just leave it at your ankle. Or even leave it on the ground just on the inside of your ankle.

 Tip: Don’t be discouraged if you cannot balance on the first few tries! Remember to keep your shoulders down and away from your ears.

Child’s Pose

 Benefits: Brings total relaxation over body. Stretches lower back, thigh and arm muscles. Increases blood flow.

 If you suffer from back pain – this is a good pose for you. This is considered a resting pose and alleviates tension in lower back muscles especially. This therapeutic pose also brings calmness to your brain and relieves stress.

Tip: You can extend your arms forward like the example or tuck them behind you. Rest your forehead on your mat. 

Warrior lll Pose

Benefits: Strengthens your core, shoulders, arm and leg muscles. Stretches your body. Improves balance and concentration.

There are many variations of this pose. This intermediate level pose can serve an achievable goal for beginners. It requires stability and patience. Once you get more comfortable with practicing yoga, Warrior lll is your next step!

Tip: Don’t hold your breath. Keep standing leg firmly planted on the ground and only bring arms forward when ready. Don’t rush this pose!

Sparrow encourages the use of props with yoga – especially for beginners. You can find yoga blocks at fitness stores and even large retailers like Target and Walmart.

Yoga can be done on your time and when you feel comfortable. “You can kind of break it up throughout your day and just do poses as you have time,” she said. “Of course, you get more benefits if you do them together in a series, but you can fit it in nicely with different stretches even at your desk before you go to sleep”

Experiencing yoga with an instructor is highly recommended for beginners. This can boost your confidence when starting out and motivate you to keep going in a group setting.

But for those who are not able to attend yoga class, yoga before bed is a great alternative. “Yoga kind of helps your body like wind down from the day and so you’re relaxing your muscles and your mind before you go lay down to sleep.”

“Yoga can be very good to combat stress. So, it helps with mindset,” she said. Remember that yoga is not only a physical exercise, but a mental one too. Yoga should reduce stress, not increase it.

Don’t overthink what you’re doing. Have fun with it. Namaste!