by Nicole Doherty, recently published for American Athlete Magazine
There are as many styles of yoga as there models of cars on the street today, so how does one go about choosing a practice that suits them?
Unfortunately, we don’t have any consumer reports on yoga, but maybe we need one now that yoga has become so popular. As highly trained consumers in this society, we will logically embark on the search for yoga in much the same way that we buy any product.
When searching for cars, for example, we do our research. We may ask the opinion of our family and friends. We start scoping out the cars on the street parked in our neighborhood. We go online and we noodle around on Google and watch videos. We read consumer reports. We break down our comparisons into a variety of priorities across many categories such as performance, cost, value, brand, safety, fuel economy, comfort and design. Then we develop a long list, a short list and soon enough, our top three. Eventually, we make a firm decision and we purchase the car.
In the same way our purchase is based on our individual needs, so too the style of yoga you practice must meet the criteria relevant to why you’re starting yoga in the first place. Whether it’s to be more flexible, less stressed, more balanced, less overweight, more awake, less agitated, (and the list could go on and on…) yoga functions as an adaptogenic practice that will give you exactly what you need. Ironically, what we need isn’t always what we wanted when we started. And thus we navigate the inner landscape of who we are and the healing journey of what we’re not. Regardless of the style you choose, when you make the commitment to yourself to practice what feels right for you, you will discover an ocean of unprecedented sensations in mind, body, and spirit.
What are the basic considerations for discovering the yoga that feels right for you? How can you filter all the information that’s out there? Here are some things to consider when you begin your research:
1.) Convenience. Let’s face it, if the studio is far away, you probably won’t go. Find studios that are relatively close to either your work or your home. Luckily, yoga is move available than ever before. Try out multiple studios. The key to finding the yoga that’s right for you is to pay attention to how you feel after class and ask yourself, am I getting my needs met?
2.) Interview trusted friends & family who practice yoga. Ask them a few simple questions to begin your research:
- Why did they start a yoga practice?
- What do they love about their practice?
- What style of yoga do they practice?
- How has yoga helped them?
3.) Yelp. There are Yelp reviews for most studios. Of course like anything, the opinions are completely subjective, especially with a practice that’s so meaningful and personal. But you can get a vibe about the cleanliness and conditions of the studios, the styles of yoga they teach (even if you don’t know yet what they are), and the experiences people are having there.
4.) Considerations. You will begin to make a list of priorities. Some characteristics will resonate as more appropriate for you. Note:If you have any specific medical or physical conditions then you will also need to address them specifically.
- Physical vs Spiritually – Based
- Heated vs Non-Heated Rooms
- Held Poses vs Flow Based
- Slow vs Fast
- Easy, Hard or Challenging
- More vs Less Teacher Instruction & Guidance
- Creative Sequencing vs Repetition of Poses
- Wide Variety vs Few Consistent Offerings
- Younger vs Older Students
- Price Variables vs Donation-Based
5.) Trial beginner classes. Talk to the students. By now you have begun to formulate an opinion about what you like, so go out and take some classes. I suggest beginner classes at first to keep your body safe from injury as you learn the basic poses. Ask the students about their experiences. Beginner classes may seem slow if you are that fast-paced type, but don’t fret, we crawl before we walk.
6.) Don’t give up. Don’t take one class and formulate an opinion about all of yoga. That would be tantamount to going on one date and judging the entirety of the opposite sex base on a single experience. Trust that you will find classes and teachers that work for your needs.
The bottom line is that you need to just grab the key and start the car. The old adage, “it’s about the journey, not the destination,” applies here. As you deepen your yoga practice and transform your life in ways you can’t possibly imagine, so too the style you choose, the studio where you practice, and the teacher who inspires you will also be subject to change.
All you have to do is practice your yoga consistently. Stay with it. Give yourself this gift. You are guaranteed access to what we all aspire to feel… Whole and complete exactly as you are.