A friend of mine recently emailed me saying he was interested in starting to practice yoga but wasn’t sure which style he should pursue. As you probably already know, there are many different styles of yoga. It can be overwhelming as a beginner to figure which type will best meet your needs. Luckily, I don’t really think you need to stress this decision.
All styles of yoga have the same end goal of focusing & quieting the mind, as well as promoting body and breath awareness. I primarily practice Vinyasa yoga (sometimes also called Power yoga); it is a style of Hatha yoga. Bikrim yoga (or hot yoga) is quite popular these days though personally I’m not much of a fan. Most people I know who get into Bikrim yoga like more of a hardcore workout and are motivated by the challenge and intensity of the heat. Iyengar is a practice that focuses strongly on body alignment. Ashtanga is a set sequence of poses that you work on at various levels every time you practice. Kundalini focuses on incorporating breath work and chanting. Restorative yoga is very passive and super slow moving – fabulous for relaxation and stress reduction. (This site goes into more detail on some of the different styles.)
My main piece of advice to people just starting yoga is to find a teacher that you like. And once you do, you will be hooked! Instructors often incorporate a few different styles into their classes. But even when a class remains solely one style, the class experience can vary significantly based on the instructor. Try out a few different teachers and you’ll quickly learn what elements you most appreciate in an instructor and in a practice.
My second piece of advice for people looking to start a yoga practice (which you could somewhat infer from the first piece of advice) is to start by going to an actual class. I personally love putting on a podcast and practicing at home, but I really don’t recommend that until you’ve spent some time practicing with a good teacher who can make sure you are in safe and proper alignment. This is so important as you’re learning and will help you develop good habits and avoid injury.
When you get to a new class, let the teacher know it’s your first time. Usually they’ll ask if there’s anything going on with your body that they should know about (injury, etc.). Don’t hesitate to talk to them about why you’re there and see what individual info or resources they can provide.
Most importantly, don’t worry about doing the poses right! The whole reason that yoga is referred to as a practice is because it is just that, a continual practice to connect with yourself and your body. It’s always going to be a little different every day.
[posted by Lauren]