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.