How to choose your first yoga class
You’ve heard a lot about yoga from friends, colleagues, or even your doctor, but what is it all about and which yoga class should you choose to start with?
The answer really depends on your personal history and experience in life, which includes health, body and mindset.
Three main principles of yoga practice
If you follow these principles, you are off to a good start.
1. Create awareness.
2. Focus on your breathing.
3. Balance engagement with relaxation.
Most yoga classes focus on yoga postures (asana) and breathing (pranayama). However, keep in mind that they are only two of the eight components of traditional yoga.
Although the body is the gateway to the mind, yoga involves techniques and practices to help clarify and focus the mind.
Below is an introduction to some yoga styles to help you choose your first class.
Hatha yoga is particularly accessible to beginners as the poses are practiced with space between, giving you time to understand and feel the pose.
Note that Hatha yoga is the asana and pranayama components of traditional 8-limbed yoga practice. In modern times it has become known as a gentler style of yoga.
Hot Yoga is essentially Hatha Yoga postures designed to be taught in a room specially heated to around 37 - 40 degrees. These stabilising, wrist-friendly classes are suitable for beginners. With practice you will learn how to move in the heat to reap the benefits of hot yoga.
Flow Yoga/ Vinyasa Flow
Vinyasa literally means variations of the poses, or a dynamic linking system.
A common linking vinyasa is moving from Plank (neutralising/ stabilising) pose, lowering down (chaturanga), Baby Cobra or Up-dog (back bend), finishing in a Down Dog (forward fold).
The focus on wrists and shoulders can be challenging for beginners who need to develop upper body strength and mobility. Due to this and the increased pace of Flow Yoga classes, begin with a Gentle or Easy Flow.
Heated flow classes are basically Vinyasa Flow in a heated room. Heat is generated in the body as we move, therefore the temperature is
lower than in Hot Hatha and the class sequence adapted to the heat.
Yin yoga is a modern concept of ‘slow yoga’ suitable for all levels. Uniting Buddhist mindfulness practice, Chinese meridian theory and the Indian chakra system, Yin stretches the connective tissues, improving flexibility in tissues and joints.
If you are hypermobile, choose Hatha or Flow yoga for strengthening the muscles to stabilize the joints.
Yin Yang/ Yin Yang Flow
Here the ‘yang’ part is Hatha or Flow Yoga to strengthen the body, combined with Yin Yoga to improve flexibility, making this a balanced class.
However, you can find balance in all yoga classes. Remember to stay within your healthy, functional range of motion.
In a yogic sense, we grow up as we release tight places in body and mind, gaining insight into ourselves, developing helpful patterns and finding authentic meaning to our lives.
There is no ‘arrival’ in this never-ending process, but simply a journey.
By Natasha Gunn, Programme leader at Hot Yoga Eindhoven (hotyoga-eindhoven.nl) and Art Awake Yoga (artawake.nl).