Yoga practices have become more popular during the last couple of years. Today, most people start their practice at home, through online videos or apps.
Perhaps you began practicing yoga in this way, and now want to gain instruction from a teacher in real life, or experience group sessions in a studio setting.
Finding the right teacher or studio is critical to your progression as a yoga practitioner. Here are three important considerations you can begin with:
- Types of Yoga Styles/Classes : There are plenty of different yoga styles out there. Knowing their names and particular characteristics will help you choose the right type(s) of teachers for your needs.
- Location : The more convenient the location of a studio or the private class is, the more likely you will have a continuous practice. Check out the places near your house, your workplace or a neighborhood where you hang out a lot.
- Your Needs & Feelings : You may find a particular class challenging, you may face some emotions or hardships along the way. That’s normal. However, if you experience constant discomfort and feel like you don’t see any progress or relief in a particular setting, that class or teacher might not be the right one for you. Always listen to yourself!
Here are some answers to common questions people ask as they seek out a teacher, studio, or practice routine which works for them.
Q: What are the common types of yoga classes?
Hatha Yoga: Hatha yoga is the most mainstream type of practice. The focus here is on asanas (poses), performed in a balanced manner. Poses are usually held for a while flowing with the breath.. Most body parts are worked, and over time this practice will increase strength, stability, and flexibility. Some breathwork and meditation are also included. The physical difficulty of the practice may vary significantly depending on the level of the class, which is usually described in studio offerings using terms like beginner, intermediate, all-levels etc.
Vinyasa Yoga : Vinyasa means “flow” and in this type of class, you switch between the poses every breath. A “vinyasa flow” might not challenge your level of strength, but you will feel more cardio-intensity. Vinyasa practice improves stamina and the movement-breath connection.
Kundalini Yoga: This practice focuses on energetic work more than physical movement. So here you would see lots of breathwork, the making of sounds, and work with emotions or hormones through certain movements in a Kundalini class. If you’re seeking something more toward the transcendental end of the spectrum, you might give Kundalini a try.
Yin Yoga/Restorative Yoga: In yin yoga, passive poses are held for at least a couple of minutes each. These gentle movements target connective tissues like fascia, ligaments and tendons instead of muscles. Here your body gets the rest and rejuvenation it needs, especially if you have a regular intense physical practice(like cardio, weight lifting and active types of yoga). Also great for the nervous system and getting rid of the residues of emotions. Restorative yoga is similar. Being a very light practice designed to restore the energy of your body, it helps the healing process.
Power Yoga: This is like a hard-level hatha yoga with fitness-like components added. This class will push you through limits physically while increasing your stamina and strength. Expect to sweat!
Ashtanga/Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga: A rather specific practice, Ashtanga Yoga has six strictly defined pose series. When you go to a studio class you will likely practice the first – “primary” – series of Ashtanga Yoga. This means that you will repeat the same sequence of poses every class. Don’t fall for the word “primary”, even this series will give you quite a challenge!
Q: How do I find a teacher or a studio?
While yoga is best learned with a teacher, it can be overwhelming to look around and find someone you can trust. To start, you might ask friends who practice for recommendations. You can also do an online search, read teacher bios, get a feel for the types of yoga they teach, and discern their general approach. How do they teach? How do they see the world?. Feel it out! Does someone resonate with you?
This is the same for a studio. You might go to studio websites, look for pictures and examine the energy of the words, ideas and styles of yoga offered. It can be a trial and error process to find a space and teacher(s) you align with. Visit a studio and try a class; if it doesn’t work for you, try something else! Sooner or later you’ll find a place which feels like home.
In general, it is best to find a teacher who has been practicing a long time. Look for teachers deeply rooted in humility and grace, who maintain a personal practice. Having a guide who deeply understands their own body will make a difference. Such a teacher will understand that yoga can bring up what is below the surface, and help you navigate through to find the clarity you seek.
Q: How can I avoid finding a teacher who is misguided?
In general, teachers who are practicing each day and are truly living with a heart of Metta (loving kindness), will not be misguided. If a teacher is cruel to the class, doesn’t try (no one is perfect!) to live what they teach, teaches without regard to the breath’s leading, or doesn’t practice themselves, this can ultimately lead a student to places of injury and confusion. Or worse, a destructive teacher could damage you personally on an emotional level. If your gut is telling you that a teacher is not right for you, listen to your gut, even if they argue persuasively that you should stay.
Q: What if I don’t like what shows up in my yoga practice?
First, make sure you are taking a class which fits your personality, one in which you feel safe. You should feel challenged at times, sometimes on all levels, but in the end you should feel good, and at peace. If you realize you need another teacher, or type of class, try many – until you discover a practice which feels right. Classes can be gentle, or very active and physically demanding. Find what brings you closer to harmony. Read descriptions of class offerings to find something that matches what you are hoping to experience.
A last piece of advice from our own yoga teachers:
There are times when bumps in the road appear. In the moment it can feel challenging, but when you step back to take a bird’s eye view of your journey, you see that ultimately you are growing toward your own human potential, stepping into what the yogis call dharma. Dharma is what would be considered our right path; the path we walk when life is flowing, even if it is in a direction that feels scary and unfamiliar. We can know we are on our path if our gut, heart and mind are in coherence!