In America, yoga is often advertised as a relaxing 90-minute workout that will give you a model’s abs and a circus performer’s flexibility. But true yoga is much more than just a just a workout. The yoga lifestyle also includes breath exercises (pranayamas), purification exercises (kriyas) and much, much more.

Even if your practice is limited to yoga poses, however, the body-mind health benefits are many (see below). And the following Do’s and Don’ts will help you choose a yoga class that’s right for you.

Benefits of Yoga

A good yoga routine offers many benefits, including:

  • Peace of mind
  • An ability to relax and center oneself
  • Much lower likelihood of injury and sprains
  • Greater flexibility
  • Increased strength
  • Improved posture
  • Improved sleep

Yoga dos: The following tips will help you get the most out of your yoga practice:

  • Do find a class with a respected instructor. While instructional videos and websites can be a great supplement to one’s yoga practice, a good teacher will ensure you build habits that are healthy and safe.
  • Do research the different styles of yoga (Ashtanga, Hatha, Iyengar, Kundalini, etc.) and pick one that sounds like a good fit for you.
  • Do wear loose, comfortable clothes.
  • Do pay close attention to your body as you perform yoga poses. Notice your breath, your heartbeat, and your muscles. Yoga is a practice of awareness.

Yoga don’ts: Ensure that your practice is healthy and hazard-free by following these guidelines:

  • Don’t overexert yourself.
  • Don’t eat before practice.
  • Don’t compare yourself with others in the class—your practice belongs to you and you only.
  • Don’t give up if it seems hard at first. Your body probably won’t be used to some of the positions you’re being introduced to. Just be patient and take your time.
  • Don’t practice the poses before you know what you are doing. Improper practice can lead to strain or injury.

One step further: Once you’ve found a class you like, stick with it. You’ll soon discover that the rewards of a dedicated yoga practice go far beyond that of the average workout.