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How do I find a good yoga class?

Monday, 7 September 2020 18:00

So you know you want to do yoga and now you have to find a yoga class. What should you look for? How would you even know what to look for if you are a beginner? Here are my suggestions to get you started.

If this blog looks too long for you, scroll down to the 4 key questions in the ‘Is this yoga class for you?’ section at the end.

Is yoga for me? I’m nothing like those yoga pictures I see.

The most common obstacle people give me for not doing yoga is that they are not flexible enough. This always makes me laugh. That is a reason to do yoga, rather than to stay away from it! Drop whatever excuse is holding you back and do yoga.

Yoga is for every body, regardless of age, condition, fitness, flexibility, ability or fashion sense. Yoga is not about looking good (though that can be a side effect of practicing yoga), it is about feeling better physically, mentally and emotionally.

Where to look for a yoga class?

  • Recommendations are a great place to start. Ask friends or post it on community groups to get referrals from strangers in your areas. You’ll get a few suggestions to get you started.
  • If you are shy, you may prefer to do an online search for “yoga near me” or even do a search within those local community groups.
  • Ask your local gym. Their yoga classes probably won’t come up in a search but they are sure to be on their timetable. (Be aware that yoga teachers at gyms can be fully trained yoga teachers or they can be fitness trainers who’ve done a weekend module in yoga. I recommend the fully trained teachers as the quality of the yoga will be very different.)
  • Yoga classes take place in local halls, gyms, yoga studios and sometimes in parks too. Look out for posters and flyers in your community.

Now you have found a few options, how to choose which yoga class to attend?

There are many different yoga schools, not to mention all the yoga teachers out there, each with their own personality. Depending on your preference, you could research them or just use your gut instinct to help you choose.

Here are some questions to consider and help you narrow down your options:

  • Which classes suit your schedule?
  • If money is an issue, which classes suit your budget?
  • If you have a particular condition, do they have experience teaching people with a similar condition? Eg pregnancy or people with hypermobility. I know a yoga teacher who has had alopecia himself and started a yoga class for people with alopecia; a class where the students feel safe to take off their wigs and scarves to reveal the bald patches on their scalps while they practice yoga. Whatever condition you have, there will be a yoga teacher who can help.
  • How many years’ experience do they have teaching yoga? Experience does not guarantee quality, but this can still be a useful question
  • What training have they completed? In 17 years I have only been asked this by institutions, no individual student has ever queried it. Yoga is not regulated so there can be people out there teaching without any certification. A qualification and years of experience do not guarantee better teaching, but should ensure that the teacher is better trained and able to keep the students safe from injury.
  • Do they have any testimonials on their website, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc?
  • Websites and social media posts can also give a sense of the teacher’s personality and teaching style. To which teacher do you feel drawn?
  • What style of yoga do they teach or do you want to learn?

There are so many types of yoga. Which is the one for me?

There are very many styles of yoga ranging from the dynamic to the slow and meditative. Nowadays there is so much choice that you can also find boxing yoga, beer yoga and even naked yoga. There is yoga for all tastes! I particularly enjoy AcroYoga and would ike to give Goat Yoga a go. (Worth looking up. The videos are!amazing.)

Here is a guide to the common yoga words you may come across when looking for a class:

  • Hatha ~ this is standard traditional yoga.
  • Iyengar ~ named after its founder, this school is very precise with its alignment.
  • Vinyasa ~ involves moving sequences flowing from one pose into the next rather than a collection of static poses.
  • Ashtanga ~ an energetic style of vinyasa yoga (see above).
  • Bikram ~ also known as Hot Yoga, is done in a room heated to 40ºC to replicate the Indian climate. If you choose to do hot yoga, ensure that you rehydrate well and are gentle as you stretch. The hot temperature will heat your muscles externally so you can feel more limber than your muscles may really be and this could lead you to over-exert and injure yourself. It’s important to be aware of this in all classes but even more so in these very hot classes.

There are many more. If you come across one that is not on this list, look up a description. Which appeals most to you? Try a few and see which you favour. Ultimately it shouldn’t matter which style you choose. The benefits you experience from your class are what is most important.

What should you expect from a yoga class?

Yoga classes vary a lot, as the previous section has shown. However, regardless of whether they are fast or slow, quiet and meditative or chatty, these are the things I believe a good yoga class should include.

  • A moment to become aware of how you are feeling mentally, physically & emotionally at the start of the class.
  • Warm ups (this might be integrated with the initial posture work).
  • Yoga postures presented in a way that you feel safe to attempt, able to ask questions if you have any doubts and free to rest or ask for an alternative pose if you don’t fancy that one that day because of pain or any other reason.
  • Awareness of breath. You’ll find out more on this in your yoga class!
  • A relaxation at the end where you lie on your back for a period of time. Not all classes include this. For me this section is vital. It is the time when your body and mind integrate what you have done during the class.

Is this yoga class for you?

For me, all of the above can be summarised into these 4 key questions:

  1. Do you enjoy the teaching style? Do you like the teacher?
  2. Do you feel safe in this yoga class?
  3. Is there a 5-15 minute relaxation at the end of the class where you lie still on your back?
  4. Regardless of how the class was conducted, do you feel better at the end of the final relaxation than you did when you walked in?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, look for another class. There is enough choice out there for you to find a class that suits you.

I wish you well on your journey. There is a version of yoga and meditation for everybody, just like there is a type of music and reading for everybody. Keep looking until you find yours.

Food for thought