A few months back, my mom sent me an article clipped from her local newspaper on how to find the right yoga instructor. It’s a subject I don’t even think about anymore for myself, but choosing a yoga class can be really intimidating to a beginner! Here are some tips to help you get started on your yoga journey.
- Know what you’re looking for.
People keep telling you how awesome yoga is, and you’ve decided to give it a try – great! But what are you hoping to get out of it? When you hear the word “yoga”, what does that call up for you? A hardcore workout, a spiritual practice, or something else? Are you looking to get in better shape, or trying to bring some calm to your busy life? Are you recovering from an injury, or do you have a physical condition that limits your movement? The beauty of yoga is that it can be all of these things, and it can work for any body type, any level of physical ability, but you should take your needs and limitations into account when choosing a yoga class. If you’re already fit and just looking for a workout, you won’t find it in a gentle yoga class, and if you’re out of shape or limited in your movement, a fast-paced class could be too rough. Understanding what you want out of a yoga class before you start looking for classes will help you narrow your search.
Too often, when we’re starting to build a healthy new habit, we find ways to talk ourselves out of it and remain set in our old ways. I once knew a guy who paid for a gym membership for a full year without ever going to the gym – he had every intention of getting back in shape, but he couldn’t commit to the changes in his daily routine (like packing a gym bag, or taking a short lunch and leaving work a little early) that were necessary to make that happen. It is hard to make these sorts of changes! Trying a yoga class is ideally the first step in breaking an old habit and starting a healthy new habit. You don’t want to give yourself any reasons or excuses not to do it! So take a few minutes to decide what you want out of your yoga practice. It can just be something simple, like “getting in shape”, and it can change with time as you learn more about yoga, but having a basic idea of what you’re looking for will help you choose the kind of class you want. If you go to any ol’ yoga class, it might not be what you’re looking for, which will make it easy to say “Oh, I tried it, but yoga’s not for me.” Well, that class might not be for you, but there are many different types of yoga classes! Try to identify what you want up front, and then choose a class that seems appropriate for your needs.
If you’re looking for a great workout, try vinyasa or ashtanga style yoga: these styles keep you moving! Or try Bikram yoga, or any yoga class that says it’s taught in a hot room. A yoga class at a gym will often be heavier on the fitness component, too. If you have an injury or a movement-limiting problem, try looking for a class labeled yin, gentle, or restorative yoga – these classes will move slowly and often use props to make sure you’re fully supported. When in doubt, look for a beginners or basics class, as this should be appropriate for anyone, no matter how nervous or out of shape.
And then (and I shouldn’t even have to say this), go to the type of class you’ve identified as being what you want. It’s really easy to say, “Oh, the beginners class is at 6:00, but a 7:00 class fits my schedule better, so I’ll just try advanced acro-dance yoga instead.” Don’t set yourself up like that. Sure, you might discover a surprising love for acro-dance yoga, but more likely you’ll be in over your head and unhappy. Know what you want, and then go do what you want to do.
Now that you have an idea of what you want to get out of yoga, next time I’ll talk about ways to find some yoga classes in your area to try!