How to Tell If a Yoga Class Is Right for You

This week on the Acacia blog, we’re talking about trying new things—particularly when it comes to health, fitness, and overall wellness. If you are reading this, maybe one of your New Year’s resolutions is to do more yoga.

Let me be the first to say, How brave! How wise! How exciting!

 I think yoga is an excellent endeavor for pretty much everyone for its numerous benefits—strength, flexibility, relaxation, balance, coordination, body awareness, better sleep, and digestion. No matter what decade of your life you’re currently in, yoga has something satisfying and healing to offer you.

The problem is, there are a lot of different styles and approaches to yoga. They range from the profoundly gentle to the downright athletic. Each style has its own focus and approach, and finding the one that makes sense for you at this point in your life can be a little bewildering.

Here then are my best tips for finding the yoga class (or video) that meets your needs:

Know that it may take a few tries to find the style, class and teacher you like. Because there are so many kinds of yoga, it may take a little while for you to find the one that’s right for you and your body. Also, the teacher makes such a big difference—you really want to feel a connection to her or him. So please don’t gauge whether or not you like yoga on the first class or video you try. Try at least three different classes before you make a ruling on whether you’ll continue. Deal? I like to think of it as a yoga buffet—you go out and try a few things that look appealing, and then figure out what your favorite is.

Think about your goals. Do you want to get in shape? Reduce your stress? Improve your flexibility? Learn how to meditate? Yoga can help improve a lot of different things, but you want to know your top one or two priorities so that you can tailor your class selection to them. If you’re more on the relaxation and stretching end, look for gentle, hatha, restorative, Yin, or chair yoga classes. If you want to get in shape and change your body, look for power, hot, Bikram, or vinyasa class. If you want to rehab an injury look for Iyengar. If you love detailed instruction, look for Iyengar or Anusaura. If you want to just dive in and wing it, look for vinyasa, Jivamukti, or power yoga.

Consider your limitations.  Be honest with yourself: Do you have an injury or a chronic condition? You’ll need to find a well-trained teacher and you probably don’t want to jump into a hot or power yoga class. Do you hate to look like you don’t know what you’re doing? Definitely stick to a beginner’s class at first—despite what your ego may try to tell you about how it will be “too easy.” Do you have a hard time following along with a dance class? Stay away from vinyasa or flow classes at first until you’ve gotten some of the basic poses down, as these classes can move pretty quickly from pose to pose.

Research the studio. If you’re taking an actual class, it’s worth it to check the online reviews of the place on a site such as Yelp or Google if you don’t have any friends who have already been there. It’s important to feel welcome at your yoga studio; you can learn a lot about what to expect from someone who has already been there.

Talk to the teacher. If you’re in an actual class, introduce yourself to the teacher and tell him that you’re new to yoga—he should be able to keep an eye on you during class and give you a little guidance and encouragement during the challenging parts of class. He also needs to know if you have any physical limitations so he can help you modify poses that might be difficult for you. If you’re streaming a yoga class online, you can talk to the teacher all you want—if she talks back, that’s one talented teacher!

Notice how you feel. As you do the class, check in with your body and your emotions. You can expect to feel some strong sensations as you use parts of your body that you don’t typically use, but any sharp pains indicate the level of difficulty might be too high. Also notice your emotional state; I did my teacher training in vinyasa yoga, and as soon as the year-long training was done, each time I went to class I noticed that I felt intensely angry throughout a large part of the class. My body also rebelled—I started getting extremely sore after each class, and staying that way for two to three days after. As much as I loved vinyasa yoga, it just didn’t suit me any more. If I hadn’t allowed myself to go try other styles, I might have decided that yoga itself was the problem, and not just this one particular style.

If you’re ready to dive in to some new yoga classes right now from the comfort of your own computer, phone, or Roku, browse Acacia TV’s yoga workouts – some of my favorites for beginners include Kristin McGee’s Yoga for Real Beginners and Hemalayaa’s Yoga for Everyone.

AcaciaTV is now available on Amazon Prime! Not a member? Your first 100 days of fitness are free HERE — use the code tryacacia4free to get started.