Do you keep hearing about yoga movement and its benefits but have yet to try it? Maybe you have a friend that practices regularly and they keep encouraging you to come along to a class. Perhaps you are thinking, “I’m a total beginner, where and how do I start yoga?”
There are hundreds of options available to us for yoga: a plethora of group classes both online and face-to-face. There are also many different styles and lineages of yoga for you to choose from.
If you have been thinking about wanting to start practicing yoga for a while, here are 4 practical questions to ask yourself before starting.
*Please note, when I use the word yoga here in this post, I am referring to yoga as a holistic practice that includes movement (Asana), breathing techniques (Pranayama), and meditation (Dhyana); not solely a physical practice.
My hope is that these 4 questions will help to reduce the overwhelm that might come with so many options and help you find a practice that suits what you are looking for.
Firstly, a very important question that will guide the way for you.
What is your intention for starting?
In starting yoga, what are you hoping to gain from the practice?
There are countless reasons why people practice yoga. Helping to know why you want to start and what you hope to gain from the practice will help steer you in the right direction of finding exactly what you want. You might not actually be sure at first but even having a rough idea will be helpful.
In our Western culture a large majority of people practice yoga for the physical health benefits or at least that is what might attract them at first. Some people are drawn to yoga for its positive benefits on the mind and emotional health. There are others that follow the path of yoga as it fulfils them spiritually.
When it comes to asana, the physical movement component of yoga, there are many different styles you could try.
- Hatha Yoga: mostly static postures, breathing exercises, energy work, and meditation.
- Vinyasa & Ashtanga Yoga: heavy emphasis on physical dynamic movement which is normally at a faster pace to increase heart rate, build heat, and shift energy.
- Yin Yoga: focuses more on joint and connective tissue health through static long-held shapes. Practice is mainly floor-based and slower, normally taught from a more meditative approach with a mix of Eastern philosophies.
- Restorative Yoga: focuses more on relaxation and calming the nervous system in comfortable positions; a gentler approach with lots of props used for comfort.
- Bikram/Hot Yoga: Heavy emphasis on physical movement which is normally at a faster pace to increase heart rate and burn energy in a heated room to increase sweating. The same set of postures are followed each time, very structured and specific.
- Iyengar Yoga: a Hatha Yoga style practice using many different types of props in a very structured and specific way.
Of course, there are countless more styles of yoga. It’s also important to note that within one style there can be huge variation in how the yoga is taught or what the focus is, which will depend on the individual teacher guiding the class.
Some studios or teachers have separate Meditation classes to their Asana (yoga movement) classes. Some combine a few aspects of yoga all in one class.
Depending on your intention, you might be drawn to a certain style which you can try as your starting point. For example, if your focus is on the physical health benefits and you enjoy moving your body more vigorously you might try a Vinyasa class. If you want to reduce stress or feel more relaxed, you might try a Yin or Meditation class. Of course, these are not hard and fast rules, just suggestions.
Do you prefer group classes or private 1-on-1 sessions?
The next thing to consider is, do you want to try a group class or a private one-on-one session?
There are many reasons why you might consider a private session. Private sessions allow for a personalised practice that is tailored to you and your needs! They could be suitable if you have a specific goal you’d like to work on, or have an injury, chronic health issue, are pregnant, or have a mental health condition that requires more sensitivity and safety. Private sessions can be booked at a time that suits you, which allows for more flexibility.
If you find group classes overwhelming or have a significant health condition, it may be more beneficial to consider a private session with a teacher who you feel comfortable with or one that specialises in the condition you experience. More on this below, in question 5.
On the other hand, group classes have a lower price point than private sessions, so this might allow you to try a wider range of yoga styles and yoga teachers. In group classes, whether online or face-to-face, you can experience and benefit from the energy and rhythm of the group, which for some people can be a very uplifting experience. Group classes also provide you with the opportunity to meet new people and be part of a yoga community.
You might eventually try both group classes and a private session once you find a teacher you like.
What format of practice do you prefer: in-person or online? Online live or pre-recorded?
This is more of a practical consideration. Do you need flexibility to practice yoga from home at times that suit you? Are there face-to-face options available locally to where you live?
For some, depending on where they live, the options for in-person classes or teachers in their local community might be very limited, or even non-existent.
Unfortunately, there might be times (lockdowns & pandemics) when the face-to-face option isn’t available, but we are lucky that during those times there are countless online options.
If you are thinking of trying online yoga, you can either watch and practice along to pre-recorded classes or join live classes. The live classes have a different feel about them as you know you are practicing at the same time as others, and it does allow some connection with both the teacher and other students. In live classes the teacher might be able to cater for your individual needs.
Pre-recorded classes allow more flexibility for the obvious fact that you can watch and practice whenever you like. However, this means there is no live teacher you can connect with if you need support, need to tailor the practice, or have questions to ask. For this reason, I would recommend beginners joining live classes to start with to ensure a safer, more interactive experience.
Do you have any specific requirements or preferences for the type of yoga teacher you are looking for?
If you have any physical health injuries or live with a chronic health condition you may want to find a yoga teacher that specialises in yoga therapy (treating conditions through yoga) or a teacher that has extensive anatomy training and experience. Some teachers specialise in teaching yoga for people with specific conditions, such as yoga for Parkinson’s disease.
If you are an older adult, you might like a senior yoga teacher that understands how to adapt the practice to suit an ageing body. If you are pregnant or recently gave birth you could consider finding a teacher who has training in pre- and/or post-natal yoga and has the knowledge of how to support your body during this time.
If you are managing a mental health condition or challenges such as anxiety or depression, it is important to find a teacher that has experience and training in mental health and how to teach yoga in a safe way. For example, this is what I personally specialise in, yoga for anxiety, read more here. If your intention for starting yoga is to focus on your mind, a teacher who is trained in this area will know how to give you more specific yogic practices for the mind.
You may also have you own preferences in terms of what teacher you might like, for example: someone of a specific age range or gender, someone who has similar values to you, someone who takes a more holistic or spiritual approach, and of course someone whose personality you simply click with.
Lastly, you may want to consider the training and experience that you would like your teacher to have. You can consider whether you prefer having a teacher who recently completed their training or one who has been teaching for a long time. You can also consider where and for how long their teacher training was.
There’s a lot to consider so take your time. Try different styles and different teachers. Remember, it may take some time to find a teacher or place to practice that truly resonates with you. There is no rush.
I hope these 4 questions are helpful. If you have any other questions on how to get started with a yoga practice, please reach out and ask me!
If you would like to join my next Yoga Foundations Course (perfect for beginners or those wanting to start yoga) check the dates and read more about it here.