Yoga is an ever growing practice adopted by many people. With the rapid growth of technology, people have access to instructional videos, rich web content and high quality websites that provide great information on yoga. Like many skills in modern society, there are large groups of people who teach themselves the practices and principles of yoga. Many people find it empowering to teach themselves new skills, but there are others who prefer taking formal classes. Even if you've been teaching yourself, you may find that you are ready to make a commitment and work towards the next level on your yoga journey.
No matter your level of yoga experience, selecting a yoga class is an important decision. Many people find themselves frustrated and unmotivated with their yoga practice because their local yoga class was not a good match for them. Prevent future frustrations by starting off with information and guidelines to help in your efforts of finding a yoga class. The initial step in finding a yoga class is understanding what yoga is, and the different styles that are offered. Not every facility offers classes in all yoga styles, so understanding what style of yoga you prefer will be a large determining factor when making your final decision.
Many people often ask if you is a religion. According to Merriam-Webster, by definition religion is "the service and worship of God or the supernatural" or "commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance." So, it can be concluded that yoga is not a religion. Using a textbook definition to concretely determine if something is, or is not a religion is only applicable in a perfect world. We do not live in a perfect world; if we did there would be no need for yoga as we currently define and practice it. The topic of yoga as a religion should be an ongoing discussion, not a definitive answer.
The principals of yoga do have some religious traits and undertones. Many yoga classes read from the original religious text from the earliest days of its establishment. Many students of yoga, called yogis, are expected to uphold a certain moral code. Morality can be found in just about every formally established religion. The general principle of being kind to others is a concept taught globally. In addition to the expected moral code, many forms of yoga focus heavily on spirituality. Yoga, like formal religions focus on connectedness and unity. It's easy to understand why one could argue that yoga is a religion.
Yoga originated in Ancient India around the sixth and fifth centuries BCE. It combines physical, mental and spiritual disciplines or practices to better oneself in all aspects of health. Merriam-Webster defines yoga as, "a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation." It is also defined as: "a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being." There are several styles of yoga including: Anusara, Ashtanga, Bikram, Hatha, Iyengar, Jivamukti, Kripalu, Kundalini, Prenatal, Restorative, Sivananda, Viniyoga, Vinyasa, and Yin. Each type of yoga is different, and it's important to choose the type of yoga that works best for you.
Styles Of Yoga
Anusara is a style of yoga that is welcoming and inviting.It focuses on accepting everyone as they are. Students of Anusara are encouraged to perform the poses in any way that they choose. It's not about perfection, but rather being yourself and giving the best that you have.
Bikram is a form of hot yoga where sessions are held in a room similar to a sauna. Students will perform 26 basic yoga postures twice per session.
Hatha yoga is the most common style of yoga. It focuses on the physical yogic breathing and posture to create balance for the body and mind.
Iyengar is a purist form of yoga that focuses on perfect alignment. In Iyengar, students use yoga blocks, harnesses, straps and other object to aid in achieving perfect alignment. The use of props makes this style of yoga great for all ages and physical abilities, but achieving perfect alignment can be challenging.
Jivanmukti is a traditional form of yoga that has been adapted for a modern, Western society. It uses a combination of physicality and structured spiritual education.
Kripalu is a discipline that consists of three parts: knowing your body, accepting your body and learning more about your body. This knowledge is attained by completing a variety of physical poses for varying lengths of time. Eventually, you will go more indepth to find out more about your inner self.
Kundalini uses continuously moving poses to release the serpent energy trapped in your body. It is believed that we all have dormant energy within us that is waiting to be used; similar to a snake coiled in a cage waiting to be set free.
Prenatal yoga is designed for mothers at all stages of the child birthing process. This includes both newly pregnant mothers and mothers who are recovering from a recent delivery. The poses are structured to strengthen the muscles and prepare mothers for their new lives.
Restorative yoga focuses on relaxation and restoring the body and mind. Restorative yoga uses basic or sometimes modified poses. It also uses props such as lavender scents, eye covers and blankets to aid in relaxation.
Sivananda teaches that proper breathing, diet, exercise, relaxation and positive thinking will lead to a healthy life. In practice, Sivananda is slow moving yet purposeful. You will typically repeat the same 12 or so basic poses in every session.
- Viniyoga is a very individualized form of yoga. It focuses solely on the needs of the individual instead of the traditional goals of yoga. Each student determines their goals, and works to modify the standard yoga poses to achieve their individual goals.
- Vinyasa or Power Yoga, is an unconventional style of yoga. It uses highly aerobic exercises in a variety of sequences. Power Yoga is highly interpretive and can vary from class to class.
- Yin is a complementary form of yoga designed to work with your chosen Yang (primary) yoga. Yin is a passive yoga that focuses on making connections and relaxation.
Choosing The Right Type Of Yoga For You
Choosing the right type of yoga to practice is a deeply personal decision. Examine your goals for physical, mental and spiritual health. Research each type of yoga thoroughly. Experiment with a variety of styles and philosophies. Ultimately, choosing the best path will come from within.
Choosing a yoga style is only a portion of what you'll need to consider before selecting a yoga class. Think about answers to the following questions before starting your search.
- What time of day is best for taking my yoga class?
- What is my level of experience with yoga?
- Do I have any physical limitations that should be considered?
- What environment would I prefer? Studio? Instructor's Home?
- Would I feel more comfortable with a male or female instructor?
- Would I prefer to be in a small, medium or large class?
- What is my budget for yoga classes?
- How often would I like to attend classes?
- Is there anything specific that I need to feel comfortable in this class?
- How far am I willing to travel for this class?
Beginning Your Search
After choosing the style of yoga you would like to practice and answering the above questions, begin your search by looking at local listings, stopping by a local gym, or doing a web search for yoga classes in your area. You can also visit yoga class directory websites like yogafinder.com to search for classes near you. If the option to narrow your search is available, try being as specific as possible with your searches. Sometimes searches can be too narrow and not produce and results. If you find this to be the case, simply broaden your search terms. Take note of a few classes that seem to be a good match for you. Collect any available contact information you can on the class and the instructor.
Narrowing Your Options
Start by doing some general research on the yoga classes you selected. Eliminate any classes that don't work with the criteria from your answers to the above questions. Narrowing down your selected classes will most likely require a phone call or in-person visit to the location of the class. Watching a class take place is an excellent way to get a feel for what the sessions are like. As you continue to narrow your selections, spend some time researching the class and the instructor.
Questions To Ask About The Instructor
- Who is the instructor?
- What are their credentials?
- Where did they receive their education?
- How long have they been instructing?
- Are they a member of any associations?
- Do they have an additional skills or certifications?
Questions To Ask About The Class
- What is the pace of this course?
- What is the experience level of the students in the course?
- What is the frequency of this course?
- Will I need any special equipment to participate in the course?
- Is there a dress code or clothing requirements?
Researching the most important aspects of a yoga class is the single most important thing you can do to insure compatibility with your future yoga class. Having an opportunity to watch an entire class is very important. Not only does it give you an idea of what to expect from the class itself, but also what to expect from the teacher. Having a teacher that you can really engage with will make yoga sessions both productive and enjoyable.