How to Choose the Best Yoga Practice for You

vinyasaMaking the decision to try a yoga class is a huge first step. But where do you go from there? A quick search of yoga classes and studios in your area may reveal that there are many types of yoga to choose from. Use this guide to learn about the most common yoga practices to decide which class you might enjoy the most. Or go ahead and try them all.

If you want to practice yoga to sweat and get a full-body workout, this class might be for you. Vinyasa is all about movement and a quick succession of poses. Even though there is quite a bit of variety in poses, there is still much intention behind everything you do (rinsing out the organs, aligning limbs properly, strengthening the core). This class is often done to music and has you repeating sequences of vigorous poses with a lot of core exercises thrown in there (such as the famous body-burning chaturanga). I have been to more than one Vinyasa class where the instructor has the group jam out to a Rihanna remix. It is easy to loose yourself in the fluidity of this practice and you will walk out feeling refreshed and invigorated. If you are looking for classes of similar physical challenge, check out an Ashtanga yoga class as well.

Hatha yoga really isn’t a particular style of yoga as it is more an all-encompassing yoga of many types. It is what all yoga is derived from and thus has a very rich history dating back to its Hindi beginnings hundreds of years ago. You will see many classes denoted as “Hatha yoga” and this usually indicates a mere beginner class. It is ideal for new yogis because it is where you’ll learn the basics: poses, terminology, breathing techniques and the like. Also, you gotta love the meaning behind the name Hatha: ‘Ha’ is sun and ‘Tha’ is moon in Sanskrit. Get down to the studio and find your inner yin and yang with this beginner-friendly practice. 

Get ready for a workout unlike any other. Bikram is an intense type of yoga in a room heated to 105 degrees to promote flexibility and deepness of poses. It is very set in tradition and is a series of 26 postures and breathing exercises developed by Bikram Choudhury. This class is done sans music but with constant cues and direction from the instructor. The purpose behind this class and the unwavering series of postures is to work every part of the body: organs, muscles, veins, and tendons. The heat adds another level to this already rigorous practice, so hydrate yourself like crazy before (and after) your class and get ready to detox.

Looking to relax and unwind?  Take a Yin yoga class. Better yet, take a Yin yoga class before bedtime or after a stressful day at work. This dreamy practice will surely help entice you into a deep sleep or relieve your mind of the stressors of the day. This type of yoga is restorative and all about making the individual feel refreshed and renewed. Each pose is held for an extended period of time (usually around 5 minutes). The instructor soothingly walks you through how you should be feeling, what you should be feeling, and how to deepen yourself into each pose. This class is usually set to calming music in a dimly or candle-lit room. Props often include blankets, blocks, yoga pillows, and stretching straps to create comfort and deepen postures.

What next?
What to bring: Some classes require props such as blankets or blocks, but almost always the studio will provide these. Even if you don’t have a yoga mat yet, this is something that you will usually be able to rent at a studio. Wear comfortable clothing that is easy to move in.  If you are trying a Bikram or a heated class, shorts, very lightweight clothing or moisture-wicking clothing is a smart choice because you will be sweating, A LOT. Bringing a towel to these heated classes is also a must. And remember your water bottle!

Instructor adjustments: In many yoga classes, the instructor will come around the room and make modifications to your poses.  This can be very helpful in making sure your body is aligned the correct way in a pose and that you are getting the maximum benefit out of it. However, if you are not feeling like being adjusted or touched that day, simply let the instructor know beforehand. Depending on what class you are attending, many instructors walk around the room at the end of practice while you are in your final resting pose, Savasana, and give adjustments to help you sink into the pose or even mini face massages (which can feel amazing). But again, let the instructor know if you’d rather not be adjusted that class.  

Class cost and memberships: The cost of yoga classes varies greatly. Some studios are donation-based where there is a suggested class price. Most studios will offer some sort of membership where you get a reduced rate if you pay each month as opposed to just doing drop-in classes.  Keep in mind that many studios offer one class or one week free for newcomers. If you are still unsure of which type of yoga to try, take a few different classes at different studios utilizing those free first-time classes. This way you can see which studio and type of yoga resonates with you while not breaking the bank.