New To Yoga: What Classes To Start With?
Yoga is a great practice for both body and mind and there are many ways to get into the practice. Some people may prefer private classes but most people usually take their first class in a group class these days. Previously, I had written an entry comparing the two here.
Most yoga studios offer a variety of classes on their schedules throughout the day. On one hand, it is wonderful to have choices for different needs as well as level of practitioners. For people new to yoga however, trying to identify which class to go to can be a dizzying process. One question I often hear from new students is: "What classes would be suitable for a beginner like me?"
Learning a new activity can be confusing at first. This can be the case for yoga too and it is normal. It gets clearer with time and practice. Thus, going to a class that isn't suitable may turn this into an even more frustrating experience. Finding the right class to start with can make the learning process a more pleasant one.
Here's a quick list of classes that you may see on studio schedules which are suitable for beginners. This does not mean these classes aren't advanced. They are certainly advanced in their own way but are more accessible to beginners in terms of poses. There are many styles of yoga in the community so this list is only meant as a guideline and isn't exhaustive.
Classes marked with "Beginner/ Level 0/ Level 1"
Different studios have their own ways of differentiating classes and would normally include classes that are specifically meant for beginners. Such classes would usually be slower and the teacher would be more detailed in their instructions so that students have time to understand and build the foundations of the practice.
However, there are also classes that may be marked as such but are more suitable for students who have some practice experience. This includes:
Vinyasa or Flow classes usually involve connecting different poses into a continuous flow with breath. Beginner classes in this style may be slower or involve less complex poses but it would still require some basic understanding of poses. Attempting this style of class without any prior practice experience may be confusing and frustrating to the total beginner. Thus, it would be better to become acquainted with poses in other classes, such as a beginner Hatha class, before trying this style out.
Upside Down/ Inversion
As the name suggests, such classes are targeted at helping practitioners become familiar with getting upside down. They would usually involve introducing students to the basics of inversions so students are expected to have prior practice experience. Attempting inversions without any foundation in practice is inappropriate and potentially dangerous. It would also generally be unsuitable for people with injuries, especially in the neck, shoulder, wrist and elbow regions. Please do discuss with the teacher before class if you are unsure.
Strictly speaking, nearly all physical yoga practices can fall under the umbrella of "Hatha Yoga". However, the "Hatha" listed on studio schedules typically refer to a static style of practice where the pace is slower than Vinyasa/Flow and involve staying in static poses for a slightly longer period of time.
It is a good way to understand how to practice poses and develop familiarity, strength and flexibility. Hatha classes can also be very vigorous. There are intermediate/advanced or level 2/3 Hatha classes as well so do check with the studio to ensure that the class level is suitable before heading in.
Restorative yoga is a deeply relaxing, meditative style of practice that allows you to completely relax and rest. The class may involve only a few poses held for several minutes with a liberal use of props as support to allow the body to release deeply held tension on both physical and non physical levels. This can be very helpful for people working with fatigue, stress and anxiety.
Yin yoga is characterized by long, passive, static holds in poses for durations ranging from one to five minutes or longer. It targets the deep connective tissues such fascia, ligaments, joints, and bones by applying a gentle load held over time to stimulate circulation. It may also assist in improving flexibility and joint mobility. As a meditative style of practice, it is also calming and balancing to both body and mind. Read more about Yin yoga here.
Both Restorative and Yin yoga are practices that may look simple but are advanced in their own way. It isn't only for beginners and can be a nourishing practice for yogis at any stage of practice.
Here are some quick tips if you are heading to a yoga class for the first time and want to find a suitable class:
You can look out for the classes listed above and confirm suitability with the studio before attending.
Besides the classes above, you can also check if there are other classes suitable for you.
If you have any injuries or medical conditions, do inform the studio so that they can make suitable recommendations. Let the teacher know about it before class as well so that they can provide suitable variations if needed.
Lao Tzu says, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." May your first step be the wonderful start of a lifelong practice!