If you’re new to yoga, the idea of trying a class for the first time can be overwhelming. Not only will you be in a room of new people, but you’ll be doing an exercise that is entirely foreign to you, and often, well, instructed in a foreign language (newbies, that language is Sanskrit)!
The best way to overcome the anxiety of the unknown is to be prepared and inform yourself. There is something for everyone when it comes to yoga. So whether you know what you want to get out of your practice or not, this guide is designed to help you at least pick a place to start.
What type of yoga is best for you?
With studios everywhere continually trying to come up with creative names for their classes, it is especially challenging to know where to start if you’re new. Not to mention, it has become increasingly difficult to find a class simply titled, “Yoga for Beginners” (but, it does exist!).
Have no fear if you can’t find this one. Try looking for classes that utilize keywords such as “Level One” or “Yoga Basics” if you’re interested in starting with the fundamentals.
Here are some other general beginner options that should be easy to find on the schedule at your local studio or gym:
In this form of yoga, you will move breath by breath through continuously changing poses, which helps focus the busy minds of yogis, making it especially beneficial for first-timers. Vinyasa yoga helps increase strength and concentration by moving at a pace that encourages its practitioners to concentrate on the breath.
One form of Vinyasa yoga that keeps to the same idea of fluid movement and rhythm is Slow Flow yoga, also known as Easy Flow yoga. The main difference is that there are fewer poses, and therefore fewer transitions.
This means that students can focus more on each pose. Not to mention the fact that more time in each pose allows you to align your body in a way that feels safe and anatomically correct (which your instructor can help you with).
If You Want to Build Strength
Some say that Slow Flow yoga has elements of Hatha yoga and that Hatha yoga is not one specific style but rather an umbrella term for many forms of yoga.
Don’t get too caught up in the classification, though, because the critical thing to note is that in a Hatha yoga class, you should expect to hold poses for longer than a Vinyasa or Slow Flow class. The benefit of holding poses for even longer is that you will gain strength, mostly due to the all-mighty force of gravity and underestimated power of using only body weight.
If You Want to Lose Weight
Often referred to as a category of its own, since entire studios are dedicated solely for practicing in 100-degree heat, hot yoga can be any style in this setting.
The added heat is beneficial for loosening the muscles and losing weight due to the release of sweat and toxins.
If You Want More Flexibility and Less Stress
You’re not wrong if you generally associate the word yoga with flexibility, as all yoga poses provide an opportunity to stretch the body in beneficial ways we don’t get from our normal day-to-day activities and movements. There is one yoga style, though, that will go beyond this level of stretching to our fascia, which is a sheet of connective tissue beneath the skin.
The way we release this fascia is through Yin yoga, where poses are typically held for up to five minutes, helping to improve blood circulation and mobility of the body. Yin yoga is an excellent option for recovery from more intense exercise because it not only relieves tight muscles but helps them maintain length.
If the idea of Yin sounds nice and like it would benefit your body, but the idea of supporting yourself with a pillow or a blanket in those long holds sounds even nicer, look no farther than Restorative yoga. Restorative yoga utilizes more props, such as bolsters, which allow you to ease into the poses so you can soften and restore muscles.
Restorative yoga is widely practiced not only for its healing impact on the physical body but also on the mind. If you need to relieve stress, this will be a beneficial class for you.
On the slightly more active side of the stretching yoga styles is Deep Stretch yoga, which typically includes a warm-up and sequences throughout the class that build heat in the body, making it easier and safer to stretch. The poses are focused more on primary muscle groups and held for a shorter amount of time.
The more you practice a variety of yoga styles, the more likely it is that your interests, preferences, and needs will shift over time. Not only that, but the strong mind-body connection you manifest through yoga means that one day you may very well know precisely which style of yoga you’re craving at any given moment. Though you are not quite there yet, we only say this as a reminder to not stress over where you start; what matters is deciding to start at all.