Yoga Demystified For Beginners

by Kazaray Taylor

Interested in yoga but not sure if it’s for you? Then read on. Natural Awakenings interviews five local yoga experts who share their advice and encouragement to help you take that first step into a yoga studio.

YogaShine in Valhalla

Beginners are warmly received and get all the individual attention they need at YogaShine. “Many people think you have to be in good shape in order to take a yoga class,” says Vitalah Simon, owner of YogaShine. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Yoga is not about wrapping your leg around your neck three times and sticking your toe in your ear. Yoga is for every body, in all shapes and sizes and levels of experience.”

Vitalah teaches Kripalu Yoga, a style of Hatha yoga, taught with compassion and awareness, that develops strength and flexibility.  It is ideal for beginners of all ages. “The word Kripalu means ‘compassion,’” says Vitalah.  “As we practice [yoga] we are invited to be compassionate toward ourselves and not push or force our bodies, but rather to use consciousness and curiosity in exploring the edges of our experiences.”

Vitalah personally responds to students’ concerns and limitations. New students are asked to fill out a personal health history, which Vitalah reviews with them before their first class, to guide her in modulating the stretches and poses as needed.
Vitalah’s advice for beginners “Please be gentle with yourself, and, while exploring your abilities, honor your own limitations.  Do your best not to compare yourself with others, and have fun. Classes at YogaShine are Pass/Fail, and as soon as you walk in, you pass!  It is advisable not to eat at least one hour before a class, and  to dress comfortably, so you can breathe easily.”

Classes appropriate for beginners All of YogaShine’s classes welcome beginners. VItalah has been teaching such multi-level classes for twenty years, and she finds that it works out just fine.  Newcomers always get  all the  attention they need. There is a special gentle class for people with disabilities and for seniors. And to encourage you in taking that first step into yoga, the first class is free.

YogaShine, 7-11 Legion Drive, Valhalla. For more info call 914.769.8745 or visit yogashine.com.

Yoga at Full Circle Family Care in White Plains

Full Circle Family Care is a beautiful, tranquil integrative health center that offers a large array of healing modalities as well as yoga classes. “Beginners are not alone here. Most of our yoga clients are beginners or are returning to yoga after a long break from it,”  says Beth Gibney-Boulden, yoga teacher at the center. “We welcome people to come as they are; no mats, props, or fancy yoga duds required!”

Full Circle Family Care’s all-levels Kripalu yoga class is a good option for people just starting out with yoga. “Kripalu honors the wisdom of the body, so students are encouraged to move in ways that feel just right. In this way students learn to listen to and honor their needs, on and off the mat,” says Beth. “Beginners will appreciate our attention to detail, which  ensures their safety while in the postures, yet allowing them to maintain the flexibility to modify any pose and express the pose in their own way.”
Classes appropriate for beginners Full Circle Family Care offers Prenatal Yoga, all levels of Kripalu Yoga, Mommy & Me Yoga and Yoga for Fertility. Prenatal Yoga is best for women in their 2nd and 3rd trimesters, or in their first trimester, if they have been already practicing yoga.

Beth’s advice for beginners “Taking the first step onto the mat is often the biggest challenge,” says Beth. “Try to let go of the common notions that you are not flexible enough, not strong enough, not slender enough, not young enough, etc. The truth is, YOU ARE ENOUGH, exactly as you are, Beth adds, “Finding the right fit for your yoga practice is important, so explore different styles and teachers before making an assessment about yoga.”

Yoga at Full Circle Family Care,1241 Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains. For more info call 914.421.1500 or visit fullcirclefamilycare.com.

Liberation Yoga in Mahopac
Husband and wife team, Dave and Adrea Robles, are owners and teachers at Liberation Yoga, a studio that offers predominately Vinyasa Yoga classes, a form of Hatha Yoga some may find more physically demanding than Kripalu Yoga. “Vinyasa essentially means ‘movement with the breath,’ and is sometimes called Vinyasa Flow, due to its fluid and creative style,” says David.  “Expect to move rather than just stretch, with an emphasis on a graceful flow between asanas (positions), combined with a slow, deep breath.”
Fortunately for beginners, though, basic flow classes are offered at Liberation Yoga four times per week, and focus on introducing proper body alignment and breath. “Although the basics classes are designed for beginners, they are still intended to be challenging,” notes David. “You can expect to work hard and even sweat, but at the same time you will come out of class feeling calm, invigorated and refreshed, rather than exhausted.”

David’s advice for beginners “I like to tell my students that yoga is equal parts hard work and surrender, and these halves are kept in balance by self-awareness,” says David. “Yoga is non-competitive by nature, and emphasizes following your own path.  Be kind to your body and feel free to take a break if you need one. At the same time, be committed to practicing regularly.”

Classes appropriate for beginners Liberation Yoga is offering a free Absolute Beginners Class on September 27 at 2 p.m., designed for those who have never done yoga before. For those who find the idea of yoga intimidating, this class is intended as a doorway into the world of yoga.

Liberation Yoga & Wellness Center, 900 S. Lake Blvd, Mahopac. For more info call 845.803.8389 or visit LiberationNY.com.

Quest Yoga Arts in Mount Kisco
As with Liberation Yoga, the majority of the classes offered at Quest Yoga Arts are Vinyasa classes, a flowing yoga style with postures typically lasting one breath per movement.  “A flow class might move too fast for a first time student,” notes Susan Draper, owner of Quest Yoga Arts. “We recommend [our] four-to-six class beginner workshops for true beginners, but students are welcome to jump right in to our regularly scheduled classes. In that case, the gentle yoga or align/flow classes would be the best place to start.”
Ironically, one of the most frequent comments Susan hears from people who don’t practice yoga is that they aren’t flexible enough for yoga. “These are actually the people who could experience great benefits from yoga,” says Susan.  “Yoga helps increase flexibility. As we age we start to lose flexibility. A yoga or thorough stretching program can allow one to maintain or increase flexibility.”

Susan’s advice for beginners “Relax, keep an open mind, and enjoy,” says Susan.  “Recognize that, just as in learning any new skill, it takes some time to get familiar with the various postures. Cultivate a love of yoga by committing to one class a week, and watch your practice blossom.”

Classes appropriate for beginners Quest Yoga Arts offers numerous beginner workshops from September through June, weekday mornings, evenings, and weekends: pre-natal, post-natal, kid’s classes for ages four and up, and gentle yoga that’s perfect for seniors, those nursing an injury, or people just seeking a relaxing class.

Quest Yoga Arts, 11-13 Main St., Mt. Kisco. For more info call 914.241.9642 or visit questyogaarts.com.

Golden Temple Yoga Studio in Katonah

Kundalini Yoga and Meditation classes are offered at Golden Temple Yoga. Perhaps even more than other types of yoga, Kundalini Yoga can help the practitioner reach a peaceful, euphoric state, and deep inner calm – all in the first class. This is a result of Kundalini Yoga’s ability to balance  the glandular system and  strengthen the nervous system. Indeed, Kundalini Yoga promotes not only health, but happiness and awareness, as well. “Combining breathing, movement, stretching and sound, Kundalini Yoga is a safe, comprehensive technology that can be practiced by anyone,” says Rai Kaur, owner and director of Golden Temple Yoga. “Practicing Kundalini Yoga keeps the body in shape, increases vitality, and trains the mind to be strong and flexible in the face of stress and change.” In fact, Kundalini Yoga was brought to this county by Yogi Bhajan specifically for the times we are living in now, to make living under current stresses possible.

Beginners are encouraged to call ahead and arrive 15 minutes before class to get a brief introduction and orientation to the studio. There are no prerequisites, and Rai invites those with particular concerns to call beforehand.
Classes appropriate for beginners Golden Temple Yoga classes are open to men and women of all levels and abilities. Seniors are welcome, as well. Prenatal classes are offered occasionally and a class for people in recovery is now forming.

Rai’s advice for beginners
“Golden Temple is a noncompetitive environment that supports personal growth and healing,” says Rai. “Therefore you do not have to be a ‘pretzel’ to practice. Let go of all your preconceived notions and thoughts and just try it!”

Golden Temple Yoga Studio, 223 Katonah Avenue, Katonah. For more info call 914.232.3473 or visit goldentempleyoga.com.

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