What is it about Yoga that is so darn intimidating? Is it the young girls in the lululemon leggings, the all too perfect bottoms and perky attitudes? Since when did yoga become a "trend" of the hip, young and elite? Since when is the newest career choice of urban hipster "stay at home moms" to be a yoga instructor?
All this and more popped into my head as I was about to lead my 1,726th (I honestly stopped counting long ago) Yoga class. To heat or not to heat? Shirts on or shirtless? (guys only please) Music? Yay? Or Nah? Sigh.... what happend to good ole fashion feel good yoga. ? I just wanted to get on my mat, flow a little, sweat a little, stretch a bit and have my class walk away feeling BETTER then when I left; but all these choices were exhausting.
So it left me wondering, "Is this why "newbies" aren't coming to yoga? There are so many choices, so many styles of yoga, so many different attitudes and "vibes" from instructors and students (their "kula", their "tribe") that given the circumstance, unless one lost a bet, was super couragious, begged by their friend to try it, or sadly, was rockin' their latest yoga apparel and award for best behind - changes are, they won't be stepping onto a yoga mat anytime soon.
Since I believe in the power of yoga and its' benefits to everyone, I felt it best to break it all down as a guide for those looking to start a practice and what style of yoga is best for them.
1. Home practice - Deciding to practice at home is great. Not only does it allow you a safe and sacred uninterupted (at times) place to practice, but you can go at your own pace, choose your own program and wear whatever you want. There are many online monthly subscriptions to choose from, as well as you tube videos and podcasts to support you. Practicing at home is not for everyone, and often offers little to no guidance on your mat requiring self dedication. ( I recommend committing to a time and place each week and setting that time aside for your yoga practice).
2. Gym practice - If you are already a member of a gym, or looking into joining one in your hometown, most gyms now offer yoga as a class alternative included in the monthly membership option. Instructors are great and knowledgable (many just as educated and dedicated as studio yoga)and, often, in a sometimes less intimindating environment. At gyms you will find alot of "yoga newbies" or those simply experimenting with yoga, and/or supplementing yoga to their every day workouts. Many use yoga not as their main source of exercise but to compliment their already physical regime such as weight lifting, cycling and running.
3. Studio practice - for the more committed yogi, or someone looking to expand their practice, often times practicing yoga at a respected studio is the route to go. This doesn't mean that yoga at the gym or at the house is any LESS of yoga then at a studio, however, many times a studio is dedicated to the practice of YOGA and only to yoga. Having said that, make sure you find out what STYLE of yoga the studio specializes in (see below) and do your research beforehand.
4. Private trainer/instructor - This is probably the most expensive option but can offer the fastest results and most customized workout. Again, working with a private teacher may not be for everyones' budget but it's a surefire way to keep you committed to your practice and your goals. There are many different types of yoga teachers (both in style and attitude) so make sure you find that out first, and meet with your potential instructor first to discuss your goals.
5. Apparel - it doesn't (shouldn't) matter what you wear to yoga practice, however, here are some best practices: Guys - shorts and a tank or t-shirt (and please protect your privates). You have no idea how many times I have seen things I am not suppose to, so please keep your privates to the proper viewing audience). If you want to take your shirt off, please ask the instructor/studio/gym if this is allowed first (some environments it is okay, and others it is not acceptable). Gals - leggings, shorts, bra tops, tanks. Ladies have the most flexibilty when it comes to apparel choices, however, it is easier to practice when you don't have a big baggy tshirt and pants getting in the way. Having said that, please cover your "girls". There is nothing more distracting for both the teacher and other students when your "ta-tas" are all in their glory. In a hot studio, many wear shorts and a bra top - just make sure your cheeks are fully covered please. You may have the "worlds best derrier" but again, keep that selfie for your bedroom mirror and lover. And as far as those latest "yoga pants" - yes, they are fun to wear but not required. If comfortable in them - have fun and let your personality shine through but understand that the funkiest yoga pants does not make for a better yogi.
6. Hot or not? This is a subject that is often in debate. I admit too that sometims I like a sweat fest, but not always. I also find the hotter the room, the more I sweat, does not often equate to my best yoga practice since im slipping and sliding on my mat and can't find my footing (but maybe thats just me?) There are those that LOVE the heat, those that DESPISE the heat, and those of us in between. Take it or leave it, hot but not too hot... Whatever you decide you like is fine, just know this - HEAT does not make yoga, Yoga.
7. Music - Rock it out or keep it quiet? I'm a music girl. I like to rock out to a good beat often. I like the variety of creating fun play lists at times. But I will say this - there is nothing like the power of silence and your breath. Many argue that music and sounds are just a way to distract the mind from having to focus on the real task (what is going on inside that head of yours?) So like heat, I am also on the fence. When I do my home practice, it's alwalys in silence, however, when I teach, it's always to music (probably because most of my students like music and request that also). Neither choice is right or wrong, but again, do your research on the gym/studio/instructor style. I have went to classes before and found the music downright distracting, and the teacher playing DJ in the room (but again, that's just me). Music can, on the other hand, be a powerful motivator and a tool to bring up blocked and stored emotions as well (ever hear that "one song" and it made you angry, sad, happy, cry?). When it comes to music or not, it's really a personal preference.
8. Style - Here is where the biggest variety comes into play and can overwhelming for the new student. I offer a simple explanation below. If something appeals to you, do your research on it first and try it out before commiting. You might find you enjoyed one style of yoga a certain time in your life and now are gravitating to another (this happens to me as a teacher all the time). It's YOGA - life on your mat; it's suppose to be changing. Yoga is a internal practice, so when you find "your style" of yoga, you will know.
Hatha- If you are looking for a slower paced class where the focus is on breath and aligment then this style of yoga is for you.
Vinyasa/Flow - A combination of hatha yoga poses combined together to create a "flow" or linking of poses breath to movement. This is often a faster paced class and expectations of some yoga poses are assumed (sometimes called Power yoga).
Gentle/Beginner - A Hatha yoga style class geared to beginners or those looking for a gentler (non power) form of yoga. Slower in pace and less challenging poses are usually offered in this class.
Kundalini - An uplifting blend of spiritual and physical practices, Kundalini Yoga incorporates movement, dynamic breathing techniques, meditation, and the chanting of mantras, such as Sat Nam, meaning "truth is my identity." The goal is to build physical vitality and increase consciousness. (thought to be a more "meditative" form of yoga).
Ashtanga - sometimes referred to as Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, is a style of yoga that was developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and T. Krishnamacharya in the 20th century. They claimed it originated from a system of Hatha yoga. This style of yoga is a dynamic, flowing style that connects the movement of the body with the breath. The method stresses the importance of daily practice of a set series of movements. There are six series of Ashtanga yoga sequences, which the student progresses through at their own pace.
Yin - is a slow-paced style of yoga with postures, or asanas, that are held for longer periods of time—for beginners, it may range from 45 seconds to two minutes; more advanced practitioners may stay in one asana for five minutes or more.
Restorative - is a form of yoga that seeks to achieve physical, mental and emotional relaxation with the aid of props. The use of props makes it easier for you to maintain balance while you are stimulating and relaxing your body.
I hope this gives you a better insight into YOGA Now, stop thinking about it, unroll your mat and go practice! I promise you, no one is looking at you (or should be - except your tender hearted instructor, and she's happy you are there).