Start Small: The Secret to Beginning a Yoga Practice


Who could have ever predicted that yoga in the 21st century would mean taking pictures of gravity-defying poses on a cliff’s edge? Or glossy, sleek studios with students clad in yoga-focused fashion trends?

Look. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these things. They’re a product of humans being human in our day and age. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the only path to yoga or represents the entirety of what it is. Imagine a yoga journey based on simplicity and patience, a series of small but meaningful steps that are remarkable, all on their own. This isn’t just a preamble to the main story; it IS the story.

While it’s tempting to dive headfirst into complex asanas (postures) and challenging classes, starting your practice on a smaller scale sets you up for a sustainable, meaningful journey. This approach, marked by thoughtful progression and mindful practice, can do wonders for your health, from physical to mental to spiritual well-being. Here’s why you should take the time to build your yoga practice from the ground up:

Skill Transfer

Starting with simpler postures and gradually advancing to more complex ones allows you to focus on refining fundamental techniques. As you become familiar with your unique body and alignment, foundational skills will be transferred to more physically challenging postures and movements with grace and precision. Being deliberate in your approach enhances proprioception (awareness of your body in space) and muscle memory, both essential to advancing the physical side of your yoga practice sustainably and safely.

Reduce Injury Risk

Jumping into advanced poses without a solid understanding of your body’s capabilities can lead to injuries. Starting small reduces the risk of strain or harm, allowing you to explore your limits safely and from a place of curiosity. An additional bonus is that taking your time means you can build muscle and flexibility incrementally, following the guidelines of progressive overload.

Reduce the Pressure and Enjoy the Journey

Embarking on a demanding, intense yoga journey right from the start may be fun during the honeymoon phase, but eventually, it can feel overwhelming and lead to burnout. Opting for a smaller-scale practice out the gate eliminates the pressure to excel immediately, allowing you to cultivate patience and a deeper understanding of your body’s limits and foster a positive relationship with your practice.

Giving yourself permission to celebrate these small milestones fuels a sense of accomplishment in the moment, countering the unrealistic pursuit of perfection. The journey becomes more about connection to self and self-compassion than comparing to others or ideological standards.

Cultivating Mindfulness and Presence

Last but certainly not least, starting small and building your practice from there opens the gateway to mindfulness off the mat. With less focus on achieving complex poses, you can immerse yourself in the present moment, paying attention to your body’s cues, breath, and mind. This mindful approach not only enhances the effectiveness of your practice but also permeates into other aspects of your life, and soon, you realize how cultivating patience on the mat leads to a calmer mind off of it.

Starting your yoga journey focusing on the foundations is a long-term strategy and requires the willingness to do the work. It offers a well-rounded approach to skill development, helps mitigate injury risk, and fosters a sense of mindfulness you can take off the mat. By embracing this deliberate and patient approach, you set the stage for a lifelong practice suited to your unique body, mind, and spirit.