A few weeks ago my 85-year-old grandmother called me to get some advice about taking a yoga class. She’s not one of those senior yogis—in fact, she’s never done yoga before, and also recently tore her meniscus. My immediate recommendation was that she seek out a chair yoga class, restorative yoga class or a class designed especially for people in her age group. When we hung up, I hoped that she’d take my suggestions seriously, knowing that if she attempted an all levels or beginners yoga class she would have been totally in over her head!
My grandmother represents a more extreme example of the importance of picking the right yoga class for the right person, but it’s true for all of us. Even though a flexible, athletic college student could probably get away with jumping into a physically challenging class as their first yoga class, it doesn’t mean they should. And let’s face it, starting anything new can be intimidating when you’re first starting out.
The good news is that with the number of styles and teachers out there, there’s bound to be a yoga class for every student. For those of you unsure about where to begin—or for anyone wanting to change up their current practice—here are some popular styles to consider for your first or next yoga class.
The best types of yoga for beginners
- Beginners Class
If you’re new to yoga, the best place to start is in a beginner’s class, even if you are strong and physically fit. This may be the only time in your yoga career that a teacher takes the time to really break down fundamental yoga poses like Downward-Facing Dog and Chaturanga that give so many students problems. It’s also a great way to get introduced to basic pranayama (breathing practices) and meditation. Even if you’re in great shape, don’t underestimate the value of starting with beginner’s classes—you’ll be glad you did.
- Flow or Vinyasa Yoga
Flow/vinyasa classes link physical postures with the breath, incorporating sun salutations and standing and balancing postures. Most teachers will cue movements in time with inhalations and exhalations to lead the class smoothly and rhythmically through a sequence. People who enjoy vinyasa usually are drawn to the free-flowing, almost dance-like nature of the practice. Because of the pace, it is recommended that you have some familiarity with the basics of yoga before attempting a vinyasa class.
- Power yoga
Power yoga is a general phrase to describe a strength-based, typically more athletic yoga style vinyasa practice. These classes are often heated, but not always. The style was originally modeled on the Ashtanga yoga method, and while some might be attracted to this type of class because of it’s awesome workout quality, most teachers emphasize breath work, and weave in some yoga philosophy.
- Gentle Yoga
Gentle classes are great for beginners and just about everyone. Basic breathing exercises are often explored here, as well aas a variety of important, foundational yoga postures. Most gentle classes include seated postures, standing poses and floor stretches. You may not break a sweat, but with the right teacher, you’ll likely find that a slower practice can be just as transformative and healing as a challenging one.
- Restorative Yoga
Ahh. Restorative yoga. Expect lots of props: bolsters, blankets, eye pillows and a darkened room. The goal of a restorative class is to bring you into a state of deep, conscious relaxation (and no one will blame you if you doze off!). Each pose can be held up to 10 minutes or more. A restorative class is great for people who need a little relaxation and desire a better night’s sleep.
- Iyengar Yoga
Focusing on proper alignment at a slower pace, Iyengar is a great option for beginners. It’s known for its use of props like yoga blocks, straps, and blankets to help reduce the risk of injury and to make the poses accessible to practitioners of different fitness levels. One of the main benefits of this type of yoga is its emphasis on precision and detail. It’s also great for those who are looking for the therapeutic benefits as it focuses heavily on the alignment of the body. Many practitioners find this type of yoga beneficial in terms of improving posture, strength, and flexibility.
- Hot Yoga
If you are someone who enjoys being challenged and loves to sweat, then hot yoga might be a good fit for you! It is a strenuous workout and is great for those looking to build strength, flexibility, and endurance. Hot yoga classes are set in a heated room that can range from 85 to 105 degrees. This allows for a deeper stretch and helps to detoxify the body through sweating. This style is quite intense, so it will only be suitable for beginners who can tolerate heat and are feeling up for a tough workout. That being said, hot classes can be an excellent way to get into shape and increase flexibility. It is also a great way to relax, as the heat helps to relieve tension.
- Yin Yoga
Yin is a great choice for beginners who wish to focus on flexibility, mindfulness, and relaxation. It is a slow-paced style of yoga that involves holding poses for longer than in other classes. It emphasizes the cultivation of stillness and awareness, allowing for a deeper exploration of the body and mind. It can be a bit intense for newcomers, as poses are held for a longer period of time which increases the intensity of the stretch and requires a lot of patience and concentration.
- All Levels Yoga:
If you’ve been to several classes and are feeling good about listening to the teacher’s cues—and actually knowing what the heck she’s talking about (well, most of the time)—the yoga world is your oyster! All-levels classes can be a grab-bag of the styles teachers love to teach. Typically, you’ll find multiple levels of instruction and modifications offered, and one student may not be doing the exact same thing as the next. When you’re not sure of what class you’re in the mood for on any given day, consider an all levels class as your default option.
- Private Classes
If you have specific needs and physical challenges, you may want to consider taking private yoga classes. Private classes can be tailored to your individual needs and can provide a more personalized experience than a group class. Working one-on-one with an experienced yoga teacher can help you to create a personalized practice and make sure you are doing the poses correctly.
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Choosing the best yoga style for you
This list is a good jumping off point, but it’s also extremely helpful to research class descriptions at local studios online, or give a call to the front desk. These days, classes vary from studio to studio, so don’t be shy about asking a teacher or studio staff member if you have questions about classes. That’s their job, and usually they’re pretty good at it!
Finding your best yoga class
Once you’ve decided on the best style of class for your needs, you may need to further choose between different studios and instructors. Doing a little research can help you find out what each studio offers, what kind of atmosphere they have, and what kind of teacher experience they have. It’s important to read reviews and get a feel for each studio before deciding on the one that’s right for you. There are five simple tips for finding the right class for you.
- Consider the teaching style and class size
When looking for a yoga class for beginners, it’s important to consider the teaching style and class size. A smaller class size with a hands-on instructor is ideal for beginners, as it allows for more personalized attention and guidance. This can help ensure that the student is properly executing the poses and prevent potential injuries. Additionally, the instructor should be open to answering questions and providing additional guidance and support before or after class. You may also want to consider the personality of the teacher. Are they warm and inviting or do they have a more serious teaching style? Do they model the poses and provide sufficient cues to follow along or do they focus more on the spiritual aspects of the practice? Ask yourself if their teaching style fits your personality and learning style.
- Ask friends and family for recommendations
It’s important to find a class that’s tailored to your specific needs–and what better way to get that advice than from people you trust? Ask around for recommendations from the experienced yogis in your life. Ask them questions so you’ll know what to expect and feel confident in making the right decision.
- Consider the teacher’s experience and knowledge
An experienced instructor can provide the guidance and support you need to learn the poses safely and effectively. An experienced instructor will be able to adjust the poses to suit your individual needs, offering adjustments and corrections to help you get the most out of the practice. An experienced teacher will also be able to provide valuable insights into the practice of yoga as a whole, helping you gain a deeper understanding of the practice and the many benefits it offers.
- Read reviews of the classes and instructors
After you’ve identified a few potential classes and instructors, take a few minutes to read reviews. Reviews can help you get an understanding of what it’s like to attend a particular class, as well as what the instructor’s teaching style is like. If a class or instructor has only a few reviews, or all the reviews seem to be from the same person, take them with a grain of salt. Try to read reviews from multiple sources, such as Yelp, Google, or the studio’s website, to get a rounded view of the classes and instructors.
- Visit the studio beforehand to get a feel for the environment
Before signing up for a yoga class, it’s important to visit the studio beforehand to get a feel for the environment. Take note of the cleanliness of the studio, the type of music the instructor plays, what props are provided, and the number of people attending the class. Doing a tour of the studio and speaking to the instructor can also be beneficial in learning more about the class. All of this will help you decide if the class is right for you and your goals.
The best yoga class for you depends on your personality, goals, age, and preferences. Everyone’s fitness and fitness goals are different, so it’s important to find the class that works for you. With a bit of research, you can find a class that will help you achieve your fitness goals and have fun while doing it.