Yoga increases flexibility and builds strength - and it's easier to learn than you might think.

Yoga for Beginners: How to Get Started

If you’ve hesitated to try yoga because you think you’re not flexible enough, think again. Anyone – even those with tight muscles – can do yoga, and over time your range of motion will increase and you’ll feel less stiff. And there are numerous other health benefits of yoga as well. Try not to worry about not knowing what to do or looking silly.

Everyone’s a beginner at the start, and your yoga classmates will be concentrating so hard on their own poses they won’t even notice what you’re doing. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

1. Easy Does It

Find a class at your local community center, gym, yoga studio or health center. Choose an introductory level class, geared towards someone who’s never done yoga before. Introductory classes offer more instruction, move at a slower pace, and stick to simpler poses.

There are numerous different styles of yoga, from gentle Iyengar to vigorous Bikram (hot yoga), and some may be more right for you than others. But to start with, don’t worry too much about that and stick with one that guides you through the basic asanas, or poses.

2. Take It Slow

Go slowly, paying careful attention to alignment when learning each pose. Moving into and out of poses correctly is crucial to preventing injuries and getting the maximum benefit. Avoid bouncing or pushing a muscle too far. And don’t hold a pose longer than you’re able. If it hurts, ease up.

4. Use Your Breath

Link your movements to your breath, inhaling slowly and deeply as you move into each pose and exhaling  as you move out of it. Keep your breaths deep and even as you hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.

4. Practice at Home

While it’s best to learn yoga from an experienced teacher, there are many good books, videos, and websites that simple beginning yoga stretches. As little as 5 to 10 minutes a day of practice will pay off in increased flexibility.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.