Know Your Moves, Know Yourself: A Guide to Getting Started With Yoga

Since its inception around 1500 BCE, yoga has evolved from an obscure spiritual philosophy to a widespread practice around the world. We’ve seen the stretches and heard a bit about the mysticism, but what really makes it so popular? What are the real, proven benefits, and where did it come from? If you’ve ever pondered these questions, read on as we delve into this fascinating form of fitness that has withstood the test of time for good reason.

The Basics of Yoga

The word ‘yoga’, from Sanskrit, translates to ‘yoke’ or ‘union’. This ancient Indian discipline involves a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices aimed at achieving a harmonious balance between body and mind. Traditionally, yoga’s goals include stilling the mind, gaining deeper insight, resting in detached awareness, and achieving liberation (Moksha) from the cycles of rebirth (samsara) and suffering (duhkha). This path leads to unity with the divine (Brahman) or the true self (Atman).

These days, new interpretations of yoga have expanded its appeal, focusing more on enhancing mental awareness and physical fitness. These practices can be adapted to meet individual needs without necessarily involving spiritual commitment, making yoga a versatile tool for improving overall health and well-being.

The Benefits of Yoga

Yoga is great for your physical, mental and spiritual well-being. It even has some benefits that are particularly effective for women. Here’s a look at some of the key benefits:


  1. Improved Flexibility and Strength: Yoga stretches, tones and strengthens the body’s muscles. It also helps improve the body’s flexibility, reducing the risk of injuries.
  2. Enhanced Breathing: Yoga involves numerous breathing exercises known as Pranayama, which can improve lung capacity, boost circulation and enhance respiratory function.
  3. Improved Posture and Balance: By strengthening the muscles of the core and enhancing balance, yoga gives you the benefits of good posture.


  1. Stress Reduction: Through its meditative and mindful practices, yoga can help calm the mind and reduce stress and anxiety. It is known to decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, which in turn can improve your overall health.
  2. Increases Body Awareness: Yoga requires you to contract or relax specific muscles as you stretch into each pose. This awareness brings a deeper awareness of your own body, which can improve your comfort and confidence in your own body.
  3. Improves Concentration and Mood: The concentration required in yoga can help improve your concentration, focus, and memory outside of the gym. It is also known to enhance mood and overall sense of well-being through the release of endorphins.


  1. Sense of Unity and Oneness: Yoga often incorporates a spiritual element that encourages practitioners to feel a sense of unity with themselves, others, and the universe.
  2. Encourages Self-Care: The principles of mindfulness and self-compassion learned in yoga can encourage better self-care and increased self-love.
  3. Promotes Mindfulness: The meditative aspects of yoga help to cultivate a mindfulness practice, which can help you live more fully aware of the present moment, leading to greater emotional resilience.


  1. Hormonal Balance: Yoga can help regulate the endocrine system, which controls hormonal balance. Poses and breathing exercises can alleviate symptoms of hormonal fluctuations such as those experienced during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, including mood swings, fatigue, and hot flashes.
  2. Supports Reproductive Health: Certain yoga poses increase blood flow to the pelvic region, which can improve reproductive health and enhance fertility. Yoga also helps in managing menstrual pain and discomfort.
  3. Pregnancy and Postpartum Recovery: Yoga can be beneficial before, during, and after pregnancy. Prenatal yoga helps in maintaining fitness during pregnancy and preparing the body for childbirth, while postnatal yoga helps to strengthen the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles, supports back health, and boosts overall energy levels during the postpartum period.

Yoga is more than just physical exercise. It’s a mind-body practice that supports and strengthens your body, both inside and out.

The Types of Yoga

Hatha Yoga
Hatha is often considered the foundation of all yoga styles. It involves basic movements and breathing exercises, such as physical postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama), aimed at aligning and calming the body, mind and spirit in preparation for meditation. The pace is slow and gentle, making it a good choice for beginners.

Vinyasa Yoga
Known for its fluid, movement-intensive practices, Vinyasa yoga teaches you to coordinate movement with breath to flow from one pose to the next. It focuses on cardio and strength training through dynamic sequencing—great for those who want a vigorous workout.

Yin Yoga
A slow-paced style where postures are held for longer periods of time, typically 3–5 minutes. It targets deep connective tissues like fascia, ligaments and tendons. It focuses on increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility, plus cultivating awareness of inner silence. Great for anyone looking for a calming and balancing activity to complement more intense workouts, or for those dealing with stress, anxiety, or chronic tension and stiffness.

As you can see, yoga comes in many forms. Each one has distinct characteristics and benefits that will be suitable to different people with different needs.

How to Get Started

Choose the Right Style
It’s important to select a style that aligns with your fitness goals, flexibility, and comfort level.

Start with the Basics
Before diving into more advanced classes, focus on learning the foundational postures. Basic poses like child’s pose, mountain pose, downward-facing dog, and warrior poses are the building blocks of most styles of yoga.

Listen to Your Body
Yoga is about connecting with your body and mind. Pay attention to how you feel in each pose and respect your body’s limits. Do not push into pain. If you feel any discomfort or strain, ease back or ask your instructor for modifications.

Use Props
Yoga blocks, straps, or cushions will help maintain balance during poses and achieve proper alignment. Props can be particularly helpful in poses that require more flexibility than you may currently have.

Focus on Your Breath
Breathing is central to yoga. Concentrate on breathing deeply through the poses and use your breath to help guide your movements. This can also help you stay centred and calm throughout the practice.

Practise Regularly
Consistency is key when starting yoga. Try to go several times a week to start seeing improvements in your flexibility, strength, and mental clarity. Even a few minutes a day can make a significant difference over time.

Join Beginner Classes
At the start, try a class designed for beginners where you can learn from a qualified instructor who can provide personalised guidance and corrections. This will help you learn the correct technique and avoid injuries.

Be Patient and Persistent
Progress in yoga can be subtle, so it’s important to be patient with yourself as you learn. Flexibility, strength, and the mental benefits of yoga will develop over time, not overnight.


With a better understanding of what yoga is, why it’s good for you and which style is which, you can start your journey, or delve further, into one of the most ancient forms of mental and physical fitness. To find out more about Fernwood’s yoga classes, click here or call your nearest branch.


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