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Yoga: A Beginners Guide to Finding Zen

Originating from India, Yoga is not exactly new science. However, with the trending “wellness” theme replacing pure fitness, it is definitely something that is becoming more popular by the day.

If you’re new to yoga (often translated simply as “union”), the whole scene can be one big, confusing “I think I’ll just download the app”. With so many names thrown around on the yoga mat, how are you supposed to know which one will suit YOU as a new yogi/yogini?

Assuming you haven’t gotten deep into Sanskrit, and Hindi is NOT a language on the radar; I’ll leave the 'Bhagavad Gita' by the bedside and help you get into the basics to start YOUR practice – however it may form.

Today, in my best attempt (and some help from some of Melbourne's most admirable yogini's!), I’m going to help get your head around the yoga jargon and have your feet leading you to the studio of your choice.


The word Hatha means Willful or Forcefull, and is the word you’re likely to hear most associated with yoga. Put simply, this style is the traditional Indian format with a series of asanas (postures or poses) to align your body – muscles, skin, bones – so that your energy can flow freely. Ha (Sun) and tha (moon) is also related to balance. Not just in the universal sense, but of masculine and feminine; left and right and the union of the body, mind and soul. It’s a great way to introduce the concept of yoga into your life, and harmonise movement with breath at your own pace.


Think a series of gentle warm up postures, breath work (pranayama), holding postures for a few breaths before switching sides, balancing poses and if you’re lucky, a little bit of meditation and some Aum’s being chanted at the end of the class to send you into mindful oblivion and deep relaxation. GREAT for beginners and to wind down at the end of a busy day; but always best to inform the teacher you are new to yoga. Some studios (like mine) will advertise beginner’s classes also, so jump on those options! Classes will usually run for 60 – 120 minutes depending on your teacher, and if meditation and pranayama is included.

+ Check out this YouTube clip Yoga For Complete Beginners by one of my favourite online Yogini's, Adriene


This is my favourite style of yoga to teach, so if you are looking for something spiritual, mindful and gentle that helps build muscle and flexibility, please contact me on (+61) 406 713 018 or email me at


Iyengar Yoga (Named after B.K.S Iyengar) is based on the Hatha practise, but with more attention to the anatomical detail and alignment of each posture. In short, it’s the practise of precision – great for the perfectionist in you.  It’s a practise used to cultivate strength, flexibility, awareness, stability and has therapeutic benefits when applied under strict guidance.  Great for beginner’s and those who haven’t exercised in a while.


Poses are held for long periods and often modified with props such as blocks (foam or wooden to balance or align), straps (to emphasize a stretch or get deeper into your bends) and bolsters (to allow your muscles to “let go”) which were introduced by B.K.S himself. Great for deepening your stretches and developing a new appreciation for the limits you can push your physical self.


BKS Iyengar Yoga is an informative website that will tell you where to find a studio and teacher across Australia, and also has a list of retreats abroad to keep you interested.


A cross between the traditional elements of Hatha and the strength of Ashtanga; Vinyasa, or “Flow” yoga, as it is commonly called, is a series of asana’s (postures) that are linked to the inhale and exhale of each breath.


Generally, a few warm up postures are performed at a slower pace before setting forth on standing postures, twists, seated postures and lastly, inversions. The sequencing is of the teachers control, but anytime you feel you need a break; you can always sink into resting posture – childs pose. Usually a class will last between 60 – 90 minutes and the pace will vary based on the energy and experience of the room. The fast and harder postures are often performed at the start; but sometimes periods of Savasana (corpse pose - resting) are offered if the intensity of the sequence is high.


Right now? Online! However, I also teach the more powerful, vinyasa yoga, and am able to currently offer outdoor sessions for this. I also find solace in this practice by other teachers dotted around Melbourne. I personally recommend Liquid Room (Sandringham), Grass Roots (heated flow, St. Kilda) and Kula Yoga (Hampton and Hawthorn) for down to earth teachers, ego's left at the door, and beautiful learning environments.


Ashtanga or 8 limb yoga, is a practise that goes far deeper than the asana, but I’ll just address the physical element for the purpose of this post. Ashtanga is a set series of postures known as the Primary Series or Advanced Series for those who have been practising for longer and want more physical exertion in their practise.


As the postures are performed in time with the breath; they are performed at a quickened pace for each subsequent round of the series. Expect to work up a sweat and test your cardio vascular levels! Some studios will even utilise heated rooms (up to 37 degrees Celsius) to allow your muscles to warm up faster and get deeper into the pose. It’s strong, it’s repetitive and it’s highly addictive for athletes and those who love to be in control. Classes will run for 60 minutes and usually won’t include elements of pranayama (breathwork) or meditation.


If you're a Melbourne local, I highly recommend starting out at Ihana Yoga in St Kilda. Not only is it a supportive environment, but the teachers have an aptitude of knowledge on anatomy and precision of movement. If you LOVE the yoga path - they also offer teacher training. As this was part of my vinyasa training, I am happy to offer the first session for free as it helps me to remember my roots.


Not to be confused with hot yoga, although it is taught in a room 38 degrees or higher to replicate the birthplace of it’s founder; India. Similar to Ashtanga, it has a SET routine of 26 postures each performed in order and intensity is HIGH.


The series of 26 postures are performed in a very strict order and will be led exactly the same way from one studio to the next – no surprises! It’s great for veteran yogi’s/yogini’s that want to push their limits and create a deeper level of union, and not recommended for someone who is less than athlete-style-fit. You will drip with sweat, so bring a towel and change of clothes for after class. Classes usually go for 90 minutes.


Keen to give Bikram a try Melbournites? Head to Bikram Yoga Melbourne in Phrahan or Richmond to get started with the best.


Reserved for the more “spiritual” of the bunch, Kundalini focuses on breathwork, mantra, meditation and a series of postures designed to ‘wake up’ the kundalini (serpent) energy within your spine.  According to research, Kundalini yoga is the perfect meditative practice for increasing endorphins, relieving anxiety, releasing addictions and letting go of fear.


Aside from the usual asana, kundalini also utilises Pranayama (Breathwork), Mudra’s (hand gestures) and Bandha’s (body locks) and will alleviate a lot of mind chatter if you have a qualified teacher – which are hard to find! It can unlock some very deep and dark emotions however, so make sure you are mentally strong enough to start 'doing the work'.


Kundalini House is well-known in Melbourne nd has professionally trained teachers allowing you to escape into your own blissful enlightenment. Also, if you want to ensure your teacher is legit, head to Kundalini Yoga Teachers Association (AU & NZ). Not only will you be able to find a teacher in your region, but there are loads of updates on workshops, events and teacher training! Thanks to Marsha Tauber for passing on that info :)


Yin yoga, is a chance for your body to fall quietly and slowly back into its self. It’s not vigorous or strength inducing; but rather a beautiful chance to bliss out to external forces and reclaim your inner calm.

"Essentially Yin yoga stresses the connective tissues of the body - ligaments, tendons, fascia, joint capsules, bones and of course the muscle fibre. Yin theory also encompasses Chinese Meridian Theory and the Indian Chakra system. There is a very strong energetic component to the practice of yin. A yin class can also include meditation techniques, pranayama etc...There is also a lot of scientific evidence about the benefits of applying slow, tensional loading to our connective tissues, which is what we do in a yin practice. Eastern philosophies have long known the benefits of the body having a harmonious chi/prana balance. Slowly Western science has begun to map and find scientific evidence to support these age old traditions." - Leonie Lockwood


Yin classes are with or without props (depending on the teacher) with the aim of staying in one asana for a longer period of time (3-5 minutes) and really going deep into stretching the tissues. It's about learning how to surrender mentally, emotionally and physically. In the process we become clearer and closer to our true being and of course, more mobile.

The class will usually consist of only 6-9 postures, and the emphasis is to focus on maintaining a strong balance of breath through each asana (this really depends on the teacher’s focus). If you’re going to try a class for the first time, ensure you let the teacher know so they can help with any adjustments.


My favourite places in Melbourne to practice Yin are Grass Roots yoga in St Kilda and The Yoga Place in the CBD - regarded as one of the TOP THREE studios in Melbourne. Senior Yin teacher, Leonie Lockwood has been kind enough to give me a greater understanding of the Yin practice, and holds regular classes and workshops in the Melbourne region.


Although initially I thought restorative and Yin were interchangeable, I've had some great insights from two of Melbourne's well versed yoga guru's to help clear things up! With the help of both Leonie and Gena, I hope that the explanation below can help you find your final flow:

"Restorative Yoga turns on the healing relaxation response by combining supported yoga postures with conscious breathing and awareness. Restorative yoga helps to bring back balance, to build resources and expands vital life force energy. With the correct guidance, students can learn more about their subtle body. In time, the subtle body becomes a never-ending exploration of learning and inspiration. Through the practice of Restorative yoga, you can begin to release the deepest layers of tension in both body and mind. This is a practice that rests the body but engages the mind; it is in the ‘non-doing’ that the magic happens. Restorative yoga is not a ‘passive’ practice of collapsing, instead it is an active process of focusing the mind on healing thoughts, feelings and sensations." - Gena Kenny


Depending on the teacher, restorative classes run from between 60-90 minutes and use a combination of bolsters and blankets (often rolled into shapes) to aid in the natural release of deep tension set within the body - and mind. The magic of restorative appears not only in the physical body, but at a deeper level, it allows the mind to rest by engaging it in play. Initially, restorative can look as though the body is relaxing into oblivion, while in FACT, the art of 'non-doing' is allowing the mind to work at deeper levels to cease that monkey mind and allow healing thoughts and sensations to arise from within.

Restorative is a practise for anyone who would like to reduce deep tensions of stress, illness, injury and more simply; the daily pressures that life throws our way.


Gena is a Melbourne local teacher, and is both the founder and director of Ohana Yoga in Port Melbourne. Not only is she regularly teaching on the schedule, but also holds workshops on the art of truly letting go into the deeper realms of restorative yoga.

BHAKTI, SIVANANDA, SATYANANDA, KRIYA, ACRO, PARTNER, YANG… While that’s it from my perspective, there certainly are a WHOLE lot more yoga options to discover, but as always, I recommend starting at the start. Perhaps advancing over time when you’ve realised your purpose of practise.

On a final note, a little etiquette for your first class is ALWAYS appreciated:

  • Make sure you turn up 5-10 minutes early to secure your spot and sign in

  • Check if you need to bring your own mat to avoid missing out or having to hire one

  • Where comfy clothes you can stretch in - make sure they're not see through!

  • Bring a towel to shower afterwards, if you're doing hot yoga, or sweat a lot

  • Be open minded, leave your ego at the door and don't compare to the person on the next mat; your journey is yours alone.

Another trending option, is to immerse yourself in a Yoga Retreat. I have worked with Love Me Retreats in the past whom have female based retreats in Bali, Queensland and Regional Victoria, and also plan to do them again in future when travel options reopen. Another great website is Book Yoga Retreats which offers training and retreats all over the world. The possibilities are ENDLESS!

Hope this helps you get started on your own yoga journey and start enjoying the endless benefits of becoming one with yourself - on and off the mat.

Love & light,

Monique Elouise

Follow me on Instagram for updates and wellness tips @anahata_reiki_and_wellness

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