5-Minute Expert Guide to Yoga for Beginners


If you think you’re “not flexible enough” for yoga, think again.

New York City-based yoga instructor Lauren Taus has taught a slew of people — children, women in their 90s, people with physical disabilities and domestic violence victims. “Yoga is not about women wearing tight clothing making flexible shapes,” she says. “Yoga is for everybody.” And yes, it will help you become more flexible, but yoga also improves strength and balance, helps decrease anxiety and stress, and is great for cross-training since it increases mobility and stability.

So “let go of your expectations of what yoga is,” Taus recommends. “There are a lot of misnomers about what you ‘should’ look like. Your body can do it. Keep an open mind and recognize that you can start at any place.”

Why not start now? This expert guide answers all your questions so you can enter your first yoga class with confidence.

academy-sports-logo-headshotChoosing the right shoes, shorts and shirts can arm you with comfort and complement your workout! Academy Sports + Outdoors® is where you can find Under Armour® apparel for all your yoga and athleisure needs. Shop here.What class should I take?

Hatha yoga is best for newbies. “In a hatha class, the teacher will break down the alignment of each pose and where to put your hands and feet,” Taus explains. This will give you a strong foundation to try other styles later on, adds Jessica Matthews, professor of yoga studies at MiraCosta College in San Diego.You could also try vinyasa, but those classes move faster than hatha ones. You may feel lost at times, Taus says, so be sure you’re comfortable with that before you go in.

Either way, look for a “beginner” or “level 1” class.

What should I wear?

The only thing that matters is that you feel comfortable and confident. A comfortable sports bra and tight-fitting capris, or a looser shirt and pants would all work. You can do yoga in any clothes that you’d work out in, Matthews and Taus say.

That said, if your clothing is too loose, it can prevent your teacher from seeing if your body is in alignment, or leave you adjusting your shirt every other minute. Be sure you can move around free of restriction and the urge to fidget.

You may also want to dress in layers, Matthews adds. Your body will warm up during class, and then you may feel chilly come savasana (a.k.a. corpse pose, where you lie with your eyes closed) at the end. It’s nice to have a long-sleeve shirt such as the Under Armour® Women’s Twist Tech Long Sleeve Shirt to take on and off.

If you buy new clothes for class, remember that in our golden age of athleisure, yoga gear isn’t just good for yoga. You can also wear it to brunch or when running errands around town. One last thing that not everyone knows: Don’t sweat the shoes! Yoga is practiced barefoot.

What do I need to bring?

Most studios have mats you can use for free or a small rental fee. However, you may want to buy your own mat, especially if you’re a germaphobe, Taus says. (Though most studios and gyms have wipes to clean down the mats.)

“You can get a decent mat for about $ 10 and this gives you your own ‘place to be,’” Matthews says. You don’t want just any exercise mat, though: You want a sticky mat. Simply feel the mat between your thumb and index finger. It should feel “grippy,” which means it won’t bunch up or slide — and you won’t slide around on it. If you have joint-related issues, you may also want a thicker mat.

Whether you rent or buy a mat, bring a water bottle to stay hydrated and a towel if you tend to get sweaty working out.

What should I expect from my first class?

Every class and teacher is different, but in general, a yoga class will start with slower, simpler poses to warm up your body. Then you’ll move through some sun salutations, which have more of a “flow” and move fluidly from one pose to the next. Class will slow down toward the end as you do poses seated and on your back, finishing in savasana.

The poses might be entirely new for your body, so remember: “It’s a practice, not perfect,” Matthews says. “You are not expected to have perfect alignment or hold a pose for any certain length of time. Wherever you are that day, it’s a great place to be.” And you may discover things you want to work on in your fitness regimen. For example, are single-leg poses like tree pose hard? Maybe add some balance work.

Many teachers will give hands-on adjustments to help you come into a pose safely. If you prefer not to be touched, politely tell them so, Taus says. If you have any injuries, be sure to tell the instructor before class; he or she can give you variations on poses as necessary.

While your personal goal may be to get good exercise, yoga isn’t just about the poses. Typically you’ll also learn breathing techniques. There may be some chanting (anything from a single “om” to a call and repeat), and the instructor may use Sanskrit at times.

“Hearing words they don’t know can turn some people off, and if the chanting includes names of deities, some people can feel threatened if they have a different religious practice,” Taus notes. But yoga isn’t a religion. The word “yoga” means “to yoke” or bring together. “It’s about a deeper connection with yourself. And that can happen beautifully within any system of beliefs,” Taus says.

How soon will I see results?

It depends on many factors such as the style of yoga, how long classes are and how often you practice. However, Matthews says within 3 to 4 weeks your body and brain connection will be stronger. In about 6 to 8 weeks, you may see changes in muscle definition. That’s right, you do build muscle in yoga (especially if you do lots of chaturanga, which is like the bottom part of a pushup).

What if I don’t like the class?

It happens. We’ve all taken a fitness class and not enjoyed it. If that’s the case with your first yoga class, Matthews suggests reflecting on your experience to figure out why it wasn’t right for you. Did you want more of the spiritual side? Less chanting? Or maybe the instructor’s personality didn’t gel with yours.

Feel free to politely tell the teacher, Matthews says. “Share what you enjoyed as well as what you were hoping to gain that didn’t happen. When students do this, I can direct them to another teacher or class,” she explains. Not every hatha class or vinyasa class is created equal, and we all like something different. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to the instructor, ask the person at the front desk or another student for recommendations.

Bottom line: Keep trying! “Yoga is a practice for everybody. There are a lot of styles and teachers, and there’s a fit for everyone,” Taus says.

Do you have tips and tricks you want to share with beginners in yoga? Share below.

brittanyrisher-headshot-150x150Brittany is a writer, editor and digital strategist specializing in health and lifestyle content. She loves experimenting with new vegan recipes and believes hummus is a food group. To stay sane from working too hard, she turns to yoga, strength training, meditation and scotch. Connect with her on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

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5 Nap Strategies You Need to Know


Not all naps are created equal. If you think a nap is a nap is a nap, we’ve got news for you.

Naps vary in length, intensity and function.

There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of different nap styles. Some already have cachet (see: The Power Nap), while others are sneaking their way into our culture (see: The Coffee Nap).

The bottom line: Determining which style is right for you can result in real benefits, like improved alertness and energy throughout the day.

Here’s our hot list of the latest in napcore.

The Coffee Nap

Let’s start with the coffee nap. This type of nap recommends you drink caffeine before lying down for a rest. It sounds contradictory in nature. Why would you consume a stimulant intended to keep you awake and alert before trying to sleep? Well, studies show that by doing this, you’ll not only get the benefits of a quick nap, but you’ll also increase the effectiveness of the caffeine. When used together, and correctly, coffee and sleep can provide a speedy boost of rejuvenation during midday lulls. The technique stipulates drinking a cup of coffee followed by a 20-minute rest. The reasoning: It takes about 20 minutes to metabolize your coffee from the moment you take a sip. 

The Nano-Nap

The nano-nap is the briefest interval of sleep. We’re talking 10 to 20 seconds. It’s the moment when you pass out during the 3 p.m. meeting before your neck recoils to bring you back to life. You might know it better as the toilet nap, when you doze off briefly while escaping long work hours in the bathroom. No sleep study has concluded there’s a benefit to these. Sorry, you should have gotten more sleep.

The Micro-Nap and Mini-Nap

Micro-naps range from two to five minutes and have been shown to be surprisingly effective at shedding sleepiness. Bump them into the five- to 20-minute window and welcome to mini-nap land. This interval of sleep increases alertness, stamina, motor learning and motor performance. That’s a long list of benefits. Next time you’re thinking about how to burn 10 minutes during the day, make sure you give a quick micro-nap the proper consideration. It’s sure to do more for you than mindlessly browsing the same three websites you’ve read all day.

The Power Nap (or the Coffee Nap minus Coffee)

The original power nap hits the sweet spot right at 20 minutes. Think of it as a coffeeless coffee nap. Even without caffeine, it helps improve muscle memory and long-term memory — and retains the benefits of both the mini-nap and micro-nap. Scroll up in case you forgot.

The Lazy Man’s Nap

The lazy man’s nap is considerably longer. You’re going to have to cut out an hour to 90 minutes of your day for this one. However, if you can afford to, you’ll reap the extra rewards. Some argue it can mimic the benefits of a full night’s sleep. Benefits like perceptual processing and repairing bones and muscles, plus all the detailed benefits of the previous lengths. We have no illusions about the ease of finding close to two hours during the day to go to sleep, but in the circumstance you can, it’s a remarkably productive way to spend your time.

So Who Naps?

A lot of people. Normal people, famous people, athletes, politicians, inventors. Thomas Edison attributed much of his energy to frequent naps during the day. John F. Kennedy broke up his day with a nap to alleviate on-the-job stress.

I nap. I fancy myself a nice power nap around 2 p.m. before picking up steam and finishing off the workday with some liveliness. It comes down to being honest about your work-life responsibilities and recognizing when and how you can utilize naps as a healthful and productive exercise during the day. Napping isn’t an indicator of laziness. In fact, it’s a testament to self-awareness and knowing the best way to keep your mind and body functioning at high levels.

Don’t be ashamed of the nap. Embrace it. And now that you’ve gained this new area of expertise, use it to your advantage.

Naptime will never be the same.

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Ground Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Turkey Zucchini-Mushroom Lettuce Wrap_Lunch

Lettuce wraps are an easy way to enjoy a low-carb meal. This recipe features lean ground turkey sauteed with zucchini and mushrooms served on butter lettuce leaves. You can make the lettuce wrap filling ahead of time, freeze it, then reheat and eat when you’re ready. If you’re packing lettuce wraps for lunch, make sure to store the lettuce leaves separately.

Photo Credit: Demi Tsasis

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Easy Southwestern Chicken Casserole

Easy Southwestern Chicken Casserole

After a long day at work, dinner should be simple and stress-free. This southwestern chicken casserole from Kim’s Cravings is just that — and has you in and out of the kitchen in a flash! Guaranteed to hit the spot, this nutritious and tasty dinner will have your family asking for seconds while delivering 40 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber. This recipe is perfect for leftover chicken.

lee215resizedKim is the healthy living blogger behind Kim’s Cravings, a blog designed to inspire others to make smart choices when it comes to feeding their bodies. Kim enjoys learning about food and creating healthy recipes for her family. For more from Kim, visit her blog and connect with her on FacebookTwitter,Instagram and Pinterest.

Photo courtesy of Kim Lee. Original recipe published on Kim’s Cravings.

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