Been thinking about starting yoga for ages now but feeling overwhelmed by the range of classes, teachers & studios on offer?
Not sure of where to start?
Here’s a few tips to get you off the procrastination flow and into the yoga flow.
1. Ask yourself what it is you are looking for:
It helps if you know what you want.
Do you want a class that will make you sweat, will work you hard, and is consistent every time? Try Bikram.
Or do you want something that flows from one posture to the next with emphasize on the breath? Check out Prana Flow, or Vinyasa.
Are you an athlete looking to do some cross-training? Think about Astanga or Power Yoga.
Are you interested in chanting? Give Bhakti Yoga a whirl.
Or maybe you love the idea of pranayama (breath work)? Try an integrated class like Prana Flow, or Kundalini.
Or do you want a class that just focuses on the physical side of yoga? Maybe you can find what you want at a gym.
2. Talk to the studios: Once you know what you want, go and have a chat to the studios available and see what they suggest to you. Pay attention to how you feel when you walk into each studio, and the way you are treated.
Are you listened to? Are you attended to quickly? Do you feel good in the studio? Be mindful that some studios will lock the doors when there is a class on, so it pays to call ahead of time and check when an appropriate time is to drop in. Ask for a tour of the facilities. Take away a timetable so you can read it in more depth.
3. Talk to yoga-loving friends: Recommendations are always good – find a friend who’s judgment you trust and ask which teacher and classes they like, and find out why. Get them to take you to a class. It’s always more fun, and less threatening, to start a new activity with a friend. It helps with motivation too if you’re going with someone else.
4. Work out what times will suit you, and what budget works for you: Sometimes the studio or teacher we choose comes down to convenience, so it helps to know when you would be likely to go to class and how much a class is worth to you.
Don’t think of the money you spend on a class as the same as spending money on entertainment, think of it as investment in your health and well-being. A regular yoga practice can help rehabilitate injuries and prevent new ones, and can also provide relief from certain conditions, and prevent new conditions from developing. How much is your health worth to you?
But do be mindful in committing to a year’s membership when you’ve never really done that style of yoga before. Try starting with a beginner’s offer – most studios will offer some kind of deal on your first few classes. Or try a ten pass. Then, when you know what you really love, dive in and get the best deal by committing to a year.
5. Try, and try, and try again. The best time to think about joining a studio is when it first opens, because usually they will offer free yoga for a period of time so you can check out the classes, and they often offer discounted joining specials.
So jump in and try as many classes as you can, with different teachers and different styles until you find something you like. You may discover you love classical hatha yoga, but the teacher doesn’t quite speak your language, so find another teacher.
Each teacher brings something different to a class, and appeals to different people. Just because your friend raves about a particular teacher, it doesn’t mean you too will love him or her.
Which leads on to… 6. Pay attention to the teacher. If you’ve never done yoga before, it’s hard to know what a great yoga teacher is like, compared to a not-so great yoga teacher, because you have nothing to compare against. Each teacher will have a different style too. Some teachers like to physically adjust and correct their students, while other teachers prefer to give verbal corrections and adjustments and let the students find the pose from within.
Regardless of their style though, what great teachers all have in common is that they ‘see’ their students. They notice when alignment needs correcting, and when breathing is strained. They see where students are tight, and where they are weak. A great teacher is responsive to the needs of his or her class, and doesn’t recite the instructions for each asana by rote, instead paying attention to what needs to be said in that moment – even in Bikram, which is known for it’s tightly scripted class. A great Bikram teacher can work off the script, and still be responsive to the needs of individual teachers.
If, after trying a smattering of styles and teachers, yoga still doesn’t grab you… than maybe it’s not for you at this point in life. But don’t write it off for good either – we change every year, and yoga is such a transformative practice, you may find that down the track, it does appeal to you. Obviously as a teacher and serious addict I am completely biased, but if you don’t like yoga, do yourself a favour and try one class a year, just in case you do change your mind… and then you’ll understand what I’m raving about all the time!
This article has been featured in Personal Hack’s Personal Development Carnival.