Choosing a Yoga ClassbyKarennaC©
Yoga is a great activity. It's physically beneficial; yoga increases muscle tone and flexibility, as well as building strength. Mentally and emotionally, yoga provides other benefits, such as increased ability to focus, calmness, and a sense of well-being.
As more people come to recognize the benefits of yoga, more people are seeking to take classes, and more classes are being offered. These classes may be taught at a local gym, a yoga studio, a school as part of a recreation program, or in other places. In addition to classes, private individual lessons are often also available.
The difficulty is finding the type of class and instruction that is most appropriate for you. A good place to start is determining what type of yoga most appeals to you and will be most accessible for you if you have any physical limitations. There are several different types of yoga. Among the best known are:
Hatha Yoga. Hatha is the style of yoga with which most people are familiar. It's often relatively slow-paced, and is a gentle introduction to yoga for those who haven't practiced before. It's very relaxing, and is easily adapted for a variety of physical limitations.
Ashtanga. Ashtanga Yoga is a more physically rigorous form of yoga. In Ashtanga, emphasis is placed on breathing and on following a structured sequence of poses, each of which flows into the next without stopping. Ashtanga is usually performed in a heated room, though not as hot as in other forms of yoga. Power Yoga developed from Ashtanga and is very similar, though there is less emphasis on the specific sequence.
Iyengar. Iyengar Yoga emphasizes proper alignment of the body in each pose in order to experience maximum benefit. In Iyengar, poses are held longer than in other forms of yoga, and props may be used to assist the body into position.
Bikram. Bikram Yoga is practiced in an extremely warm room, usually ninety-five to one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. The heat helps loosen muscles, increasing flexibility, and the resulting sweat is believed to purify the body.
Once you have chosen the type of yoga you feel is best for you, the next step is to find a class in that style. You may want to check with area gyms, adult education programs, and recreation departments, particularly if you're interested in Hatha Yoga, in addition to finding yoga studios in your area. Bikram Yoga classes, because of the need to heat the room, are often held at Bikram studios. There are studios which specialize in only one of the other forms of yoga, as well as those in which classes are offered in more than one type.
While you are seeking a class, one important consideration is the instructor. Most gyms and studios have stringent requirements as to the qualifications of their instructors, such as a certain amount of training or specific certification. Many different types of training exist for instructors, ranging from one-day workshops to intense training courses that last several days or weeks and include the philosophical and spiritual concepts of yoga as well as the physical. Certification can be obtained through any of these; however, an instructor who has participated in the more in-depth training is likely to have two hundred hours or more of training, practice, and instruction under supervision of a more experienced instructor. The more training that has been received, the more effective the instructor is likely to be.
In addition to the instructor's qualifications, it's important to think about your own comfort level, personality, etc. For example, would you be more comfortable with a male instructor or a female? Keep in mind that in most classes, the instructor may physically adjust you in poses to be sure that your positioning is correct, though instructors will respect their students' physical boundaries. However, if you aren't comfortable being touched by someone of one gender, you'll likely want to find an instructor of the other gender.
Do you learn best through demonstration or by hearing an explanation? Yoga instructors often use a combination of methods to teach the poses to beginning students, but may use one method more than others. Is it easier for you to be in a fast-paced environment or slow-paced? The environment of the class depends both on the type of yoga and the personality of the instructor. Would you prefer an instructor who is structured, or one who is more laid back?
With these questions in mind to help you find an instructor with whom you will work well, you also need to consider the setting of the class. What time of day would be best for you to practice? Yoga classes generally last from one to two hours, depending on the type of yoga and the size of the class, among other factors. How convenient does the location need to be? Is it easier for you to get to the local gym, or are you willing to travel to a studio?
Once you've found a few potential classes in the type of yoga you wish to practice, it's a good idea to contact the instructors and arrange to visit the classes. Some instructors or studios offer a free trial class; others may not but might be willing to allow you to observe. It's important when you visit classes to learn whether the class is open to beginners, if you've never practiced or are starting a new type of yoga, and how comfortable you feel and the other students seem. By observing or participating in a trial class, you'll get a feel for which class will be the best fit for you.
Yoga is a beneficial practice, both physically and emotionally, and can contribute to lifelong health and fitness. Choosing the best class for you will help you make the most of the practice.