Beginners always think yoga workouts are going to be easy. Although it's not likely to feel that way when you start, it will get easier as you build strength and flexibility. Another thing that you may discover, like so many others have, is that yoga is far more than physical exercise.

People generally try yoga to help improve their physical strength, to lose weight, or unwind. Indeed, after practicing for a while, they not only accomplish their earlier goals, they discover a lot of unexpected benefits. In fact, a continuous yoga routine changes the brain's chemistry. A study published in 2015, from the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, used an MRI to highlight yoga's part in protecting the brain from losing gray matter and shrinking with age. Essentially, the findings revealed that yoga keeps you young.

Yoga's Roots

Initially, Western interest in yoga had to do with its philosophies, so the physical practice of yoga workouts didn't get full-on attention from the public or researchers until the 1950s. Romanian Mircea Eliade wrote "Le Yoga" in 1954, and the English translation hit the book stands in 1958 as the most comprehensive source on yoga in the West.

Eliade focused on Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which concentrates on the link between the body's energy, or prana, as well as one's mental health. His book explains that the aim of yoga workouts is connecting the body and the mind, which ultimately frees the spirit. Modern yoga workouts come in many varieties, springing from a range of philosophies. Once you've explored a few options, you'll know which is the best fit. You really only need your body to practice yoga; however, the right equipment can make the whole thing more enjoyable and provide support for some of the more challenging moves.

Yoga Equipment

Start with comfortable clothes, because yoga requires that your body is free to move without restrictions. If you're wearing a loose, baggy T-shirt, don't forget a tank top too; you don't want to be distracted with worry that you're exposing yourself. Yoga pants are easy to find. The main requirement is that they let you move freely, and you can always wear sweatpants. It's a good idea to go barefoot, so you don't run the risk of slipping. The mat can get slippery when you work up a sweat, and you will sweat if you're doing your yoga workouts properly.

Yoga blankets and mats

Yoga blankets and mats

A yoga blanket is a helpful aid for positioning yourself in various yoga poses. Use it folded, or adjust it, so it feels comfortable to give you support for your back, legs, and neck. The blanket is also useful to absorb sweat, which is why the material is essential. Blankets made of cotton or wool, as well as hand-woven Mexican blankets, are absorbent, machine washable, and all excellent choices.

Give some consideration to your yoga, mat because it's crucial to a good workout. The standard size is 24 inches wide and 68 inches long. But if you're tall, you can get longer mats up to 84 inches. Typically, yoga mats are an eighth of an inch thick, and they can be as ample as a quarter inch. However, what you trade for in comfort may make it more difficult to maintain some of the standing poses in your yoga workouts.

What are mats made of and how does it affect yoga workouts?

Entry level mats are polyvinyl chloride, otherwise known as PVC. Their durability, comfort, and "stickiness" work well for beginners. Foam and rubber are the eco-friendly alternatives to PVC. You do need to be aware that foam and rubber contain latex, which causes allergic reactions in some people. PVC and foam mats offer the most comfort, but they get slippery when they're wet. Rubber, cotton, or jute yoga mats are best to prevent slipping during your yoga workouts.

Cotton is the traditional material used in yoga practice and is more absorbent and softer than the other choice, jute. They're both environmentally friendly, and the fabrics hold up over time. However, they are thinner than mats made of PVC, rubber, or foam and tend to be a topper for another mat.

Use a block or bolster for stability during yoga workouts

Blocks are either wood or thick foam. They're one of a variety of props used in yoga and are helpful for people who aren't as flexible. Using blocks means you don't have to reach all the way to the floor. Plus, they provide lots of stability while you're gaining balance and help you "get the most out of your yoga pose" no matter what level you're at with your yoga workouts.

Bolsters differ from blocks in that they're made of fabric and are more like a big pillow or cushion. This prop is for restorative yoga and is helpful for those with limited flexibility. Depending on the pose, the bolster helps open up the heart and hip flexors. It's a wonderful tool for relaxation.

Strap for stretches

A yoga strap is helpful for supporting you in a pose, improving your posture, and maintaining alignment through your body. There are lots of ways to use the strap including to get a great stretch. You can use the strap to open up your shoulders too, by holding it on each end with your arms wide and straight in front of your body. Then, holding the strap a little wider than your shoulders, continually raise the strap over your head and behind you. Using a strap ensures you are comfortable and maintain your position throughout the move.

What to Expect from Different Yoga Workouts

The workouts in this article are to help you discover the potential of improved health and well-being through a daily yoga practice. You should consult with your physician before starting a new exercise regime. Yoga postures may not be suitable for everyone and could lead to muscle injury if not done correctly.

Yoga workouts for relaxation

Sometimes the best thing for the body and the mind is to relax. These yoga workouts will help.

Hatha yoga workouts

A slow-paced Hatha workout is perfect for beginners because the focus is on postures and breathing techniques. Unlike Vinyasa flow or Ashtanga, which are yoga workouts that practice the fluid movement of one pose into another, Hatha requires you to remain in the position for a few breaths. Yoga workouts may link your mind and body. Regular practice reduces stress, lowers your blood pressure, and helps you sleep better.

Hot yoga

Premature aging happens because of a build-up of toxins, and getting sweaty helps your body eliminate them. Hot yoga studios use infrared light to increase the body's temperature, making you sweat. Combining yoga increases the absorption of the photons given off by the infrared light, which encourages the skin's cells to rejuvenate. The result is softer skin and an overall healthy glow. The warmth of the infrared lights also allows your muscles to stretch with a lower risk of injury. Hot yoga increases your metabolism too, helping you to lose body fat and gain muscle mass. Other benefits of doing regular hot yoga workouts are balanced hormones and a heightened sense of well-being.

Salty yoga workouts

The cleansing qualities of a salt cave, combined with yoga workouts, is a trend that's only gaining popularity as time goes on. Part of the draw is the ambiance. Himalayan pink salt, known for emitting relaxing negative ions, covers the floors and the walls. The atmosphere makes a salt room a meditative place that is the ideal setting for yoga workouts. Salt Yoga is one of the healing arts for cleansing and connecting the body and spirit. Like all yoga workouts, the practice increases oxygen levels and calms the nerves. The addition of dry salt therapy means this yoga practice has additional benefits like reducing inflammation, preventing infections, and relieving congestion.

Essential Poses to Know for Yoga Workouts

All yoga workouts start with basic poses, so you'll feel a lot more confident if you're familiar with a few of them.

Child pose

The child pose is a super simple resting position for newbies. It's a relaxing pose to do before bed as it releases tension and eases stress.

Start on your hands and knees. Bring your knees and feet together and sit back until your butt is resting on your heels. Then, stretch both arms forward and lower your forehead to the floor. Once your arms extend to the floor, relax into it, and let the tension release. Feel free to stay in this pose for as long as you want.

Cat-cow

Here's a basic yoga pose that helps the spine, strengthens back muscles, and reduces stress.

You can use a blanket or double up the mat to provide padding for your knees. Start on all fours. Paying attention to your foundation, spread your palms as wide as you can and place them on the ground, aligned with your shoulders. Make sure your knees line up directly underneath your hips and press down with your thighs to set your foundation. Your back should be firm and flat like a "tabletop," and your neck stretched long. This pose is the tabletop position and is the starting place for cat-cow.

Next, comes breathing; notice the natural rhythm of your breath as you inhale and exhale. Once you're ready, as you inhale, allow your back to sway down and scoop your chest upward, moving your shoulders away from your ears and bringing your gaze forward. Press down on your foundation and get a long stretch on your neck. You'll have a swayed back in this position. On the exhale, the tailbone curves under, as you draw your navel up and drop your chin to your chest. Press down and curve your spine to get an outstanding stretch. Now repeat the moves upon each inhale and exhale.

Tree pose

This pose is all about balance. It requires focus and controlled breathing while standing and keeping the body balanced on one foot.

Start with your feet together. Then, place your right foot onto your inner left upper thigh. Press your hands in prayer in front of your heart and find something in front of you to focus your gaze. Slowly inhale and exhale 10 times, then switch sides. You shouldn't lean into the standing leg to maintain your balance. Instead, your stomach muscles should engage and tighten throughout this exercise, while your shoulders relax.

Warrior one and two

Warrior one opens the quads and hip flexors while strengthening the legs, hips, butt, core, and upper body.

To start, stand with feet together and then take a giant step back with your left foot. Next, turn your left heel down, angling your left toes forward 75 degrees. Next, lift your chest and press your palms up overhead. Next, step forward, placing your feet together. Then repeat the process using your right leg.

For Warrior two, stretch your legs into a lunge position as in Warrior one. Then, place your back foot out at 45-degree angle and the front foot at 90 degrees, pointing straight in front of you. Bend the front knee until it's directly over your ankle while keeping your torso straight and tall. Stretch both arms out to your sides and gaze to the right. Hold for at least eight breaths in and out. Next, turn your head to the left for the same number of breaths. Return both feet to the center position and repeat on the other side.

Downward facing dog

The downward facing dog is possibly the most well-known yoga position out there. Start in tabletop position then drop down on your elbows. Next, walk your legs back and sink into the heart to earth pose. Relax the shoulders away from the ears. Now look up gently, walk your knees forward, curling your toes under. One by one, lift each knee, then each elbow. Slowly walk your legs up toward your belly button. Spread your palms wide and press them into the floor. Pedal the feet, use your breath and remember that it's okay if your heels don't touch the mat while you're learning.

Morning Yoga Workouts

Waking up in the morning is a whole lot more enjoyable with yoga workouts. It's a great way to start the day by helping you to feel connected and grounded.

Yoga Workouts to Build Strength

Although yoga is excellent for reducing stress and building self-confidence, that's not all you get from an ongoing practice. As you become stronger and also more flexible, you may find that you want to switch up your routine. Here's a yoga workout that's sure to get your heart rate up and take you to the next level.

Strong, Flexible, and Grounded

Ensure you check with your doctor before making any changes to your exercise routine. Once you get the green light, you will find that there are a variety of yoga workouts that are easy enough for beginners. Then, when you're comfortable with the physical aspect of the practice, you may find that the spiritual nature of yoga workouts is equally as important on your quest to become stronger, more flexible, and more grounded.