Getting Started with Yoga

2012-01-31 by . 0 comments

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Still trying to keep that New Year’s resolution? Today’s Fitness 101 post comes from guest Elyse Familant, a personal trainer with over 25 years of experience in the fitness world, who teaches core, yoga, and spinning classes. Here, she gives us an overview of what yoga is and its benefits. If you are starting off the New Year looking for a workout, give yoga a try!

Yoga, the 5000 year old practice has become one of the hottest exercise trends with almost 11 million Americans participating. Everybody seems to be doing it and touting the benefits. Locally, yoga studios and gyms have seen their class sizes expand dramatically.

And for good reason. Practicing the postures, breathing exercises and meditation makes your mind, body and spirit run like a well-oiled machine. Yoga makes you healthier, happier and gets you in shape — all at the same time.

But don’t take my word for it, there are hundreds of studies and scientific research that show that yoga helps manage or control anxiety, arthritis, asthma, back pain, blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic fatigue, depression, diabetes, epilepsy, headaches, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, stress and more.

Yoga helps:

    • Improve muscle tone, flexibility, strength and stamina
    • Reduce stress and tension
    • Boost self esteem
    • Improve concentration and creativity
    • Stimulate the immune system
    • Create a sense of wellbeing and calm.

Yoga is for everybody

How about you? Have you been thinking about starting yoga, but are worried that it will be too difficult? Maybe you’re convinced that everyone else will be able to twist themselves into pretzels, while you can’t even touch your toes.

No need to worry. Yoga is truly for everybody. Just make sure you know what kind of body you are (tight muscled athlete, stressed out mom, senior looking to add activity) and start your practice with classes that accommodates your specific ability and physical needs.

Anyone can do yoga. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are or whether you’re a couch potato or a professional athlete. Age and fitness level do not matter because there are modifications  for every yoga pose. The idea is to explore your body and learn what it can do, not strive to become as flexible as an elite gymnast.

Yoga is for everybody, but NOT for anybody who has:

    • severe osteoporosis
    • high or low blood pressure
    • problems with his or her spine

Also, if you are pregnant, obese or rehabilitating from an injury, you should definitely get clearance from your doctor and know the kinds of limitations you before you start to practice.

How to get started

Once you’ve decided that you like to try yoga, make a plan so that decision to try yoga ends up being a good experience.   This requires some research of your part, but worth the investment so that you get are matched up with a class situation that is right for you.

1.     Find a Class

Many yoga classes are out there, and you may be turned off if you pick one that does not suit your personality and state of physical fitness.  The many different styles of yoga offered include Hatha, Vinyassa, Power, Bikram/Hot, Kundalini and more. If you can read up on the differences between the various styles before you take a class, you will be better prepared to know what to expect and to know what sounds appealing or not to you. As a general rule, most Vinyassa and Hatha style yoga classes are good for beginners.

Check yoga studios and research online to find out about the local yoga classes in your area. Many gyms also offer yoga classes, which is a great place to start if you already belong to a gym.

2.     Dress the Part

Dress in comfortable clothes that are form-fitting. You don’t want your shirt and pants to fly up when your body is moving down and around. Take off your shoes and socks because yoga is done barefoot.

Bring a sticky mat. You can buy these inexpensively everywhere from department stores, athletic stores or yoga studio/pro shops. The mat creates traction for your hands and feet so you don’t slip. Some gyms/studios have mats for students but the down side is that lots of people probably use them and you can’t be sure how often they are being washed.

3.     Know What to Expect

Arrive at least 10 minutes early to your yoga session and tell the teacher it’s your first class. In a typical yoga class, the students place their mats facing the front of the room. The teacher may start class by doing some centering and breathing exercises. This is followed by warm-up poses, more vigorous poses, then a final relaxation/ meditation. Most yoga classes end with Corpse pose, also called Savasana (pronounced sha-vass-ahnah). With this pose, you lie flat on your back, close your eyes and relax. Do not walk out of a class while the class is in Corpse pose. If you have to leave, do it before.

At the end of the relaxation, the instructor typically bows her/his head as if in prayer, clasps her hands together in front of her heart and says, “Namaste” (pronounced nah-mas-tay). The class will then say that back to the instructor.  This Sanskrit word means “I honor you.”

After your first class, ask your teacher any questions you have or provide feedback if you have any. Make plans for your next class and know that it will be easier than your first. You are now on your way to becoming a healthier and happier you.


Elyse Familant

Elyse Familant

Elyse Familant is a personal trainer and teaches yoga, spinning and core classes. She has been in fitness industry for more than 25 years. In addition to offering classes and fitness routine, Elyse provides stress management techniques and nutritional counseling focused on eating healthy for today’s demanding lifestyles. Elyse has her B.S. from Cornell University and is an American Council on Exercise Certified Personal Trainer, Nutritionist, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America Certified Aerobics and Fitness Instructor; AAAI Certified Yoga Instructor; Stott Pilates Certified Pilates Instructor; Mad Dog Athletics Certified Spinning Instructor and PiYo Certified-Pilates/Yoga fusion Instructor. You can contact her at



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