“Health is wealth. Peace of mind is happiness. Yoga shows the way.” Swami Vishnu-devananda 1927-1993
When I began my yoga practice some 30 years ago, there were only a few styles of Hatha yoga emerging in the western world. As can sometimes happen along the enlightenment path, the yoga tree sprouted branches, which only served to confuse some people and attract others to this life transforming practice. I have written about the many benefits garnered from practicing yoga with a qualified teacher, but when choosing what style of yoga to begin your study it can all get a bit overwhelming. Especially if you wander into a sweat-inducing power yoga class at your gym expecting an hour of rest and relaxation.
Before taking a yoga class you will want to consider a few things:
- Your age.
- Your physical condition and limitations.
- Any injuries that restrict your movements.
- Your weight.
- Level of stress.
- Your need for relaxation or action.
Once you know yourself a little better, the next step is to look over the list of yoga styles that follows and find a few that speak to your body and state of mind. Go online or to the phone book and see what yoga is being taught in studios and gyms in your vicinity.
Before attending a class you will want to ask a few questions about the teacher to ensure you will be safely and professionally instructed.
- Has the yoga instructor been practicing yoga for longer than 5 years?
- Does the instructor have a 200 or 500-hour training certification?
- Has the instructor been teaching yoga longer than 3 years?
- Does he/she have a personal daily yoga practice?
- Does the instructor do yoga with the class or walk around correcting and teaching?
Once you are satisfied with the answers you will want to take a few classes to see if it suits your body, calms and focuses your mind and leaves you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated by the end of the class. This can happen whether you are doing a 90 minute full on Ashtanga Primary series or a gentle Kripalu style yoga. When you find the right class for your body-mind then begin your practice and let the magic arise.
Guide to Yoga Styles
1. Slow paced, stretching, easy postures, simple breathing techniques and some seated meditation: Hatha, Ananda, Integral, Integrative yoga therapy.
2. A challenging workout with emphasis on the breath-body movement, detoxification through sweat, focus of mind, building strength, flexibility and stamina: Ashtanga, Bikram, Vinyasa, Dynamic.
3. Slow paced, concentrating on proper alignment and symmetry of postures, longer time spent holding postures, honoring the wisdom of the body, use of props: Iyengar, Kripalu, Anusara, Therapeutic, Svaroopa, Viniyoga.
4. Use of breath with movement, chanting, meditation, visualization, and relaxation: Kundalini, Sivananda yoga.
5. Blends the spiritual wisdom of yoga, the touch of Thai massage, and acrobatics in order to cultivate trust, connection and playfulness: Acro Yoga, Partner yoga.
This is a brief over view of what to look for when you are ready to begin a study of yoga. It is not my intention to place a method of yoga into a descriptive box that may limit what you will encounter when studying with a creative, qualified instructor. Above all, your classes must feel safe for your body and ultimately effective in transmitting the principles and benefits of this ancient practice.