From exercise to lifestyle to philosophy, yoga is a dense umbrella of information. Ask most people and they’ll say, “I LOVE yoga.” Cool. But what does that really entail? Finding a great yoga class for yourself can be as hard as finding the perfect pair of jeans. Here are a few things to look for to find the right class for you.
To OM or not to OM? Yoga in the west has taken many forms. From classes that incorporate weights to Yoga Nidra, many yoga teachers have distilled their classes to meet their own philosophies. Yoga itself has 8 foundational limbs, called Ashtanga (not to be confused with Ashtanga yoga). Each class, teacher, and studio will often lean towards one or more of the limbs and this limb should align with you. It’s perfectly fine to only want a yoga class for exercise and it’s perfectly fine to lay on bolsters for 2 hours. It’s not so fine to sit through a class and mentally negate everything the teacher says because you don’t align with their philosophy.
Training & Experience
Did you know that anybody, and I mean anybody can get a yoga teacher certification? It’s important to look into what training and experience your teacher has for more than safety. Training and experience should be credible and relevant to what they are teaching AND should align with your interests. More than ever there are yoga fusion classes that integrate non-yogic elements into traditional classes. Goat yoga, anyone? Get picky and look for something that suits your movement or mindset goals. It may not be in your best interest to go to an Ashtanga class if props are a beloved part of your practice.
Is calling out a pose in sanskrit enough direction for you or do you like your yoga to sound like a game of twister? Let us not ignore what we are looking for, a great yoga teacher. If you are looking for someone to really teach you about yoga, choose a small, intimate class where you feel comfortable asking questions. There is a solitary stigma in many classes but that makes it difficult to learn the deeper intricacies of a yoga practice. Teachers cultivate their own communities of people who resonate with their teaching styles. Call and ask before the class what kind of cueing and teaching the teacher embodies. Some people love hands on adjusting and other do not want to be touched. Some love when the class is paused for an educational moment and student observation, others cannot stand it! These are important boundaries to establish before taking a class.
One breath per asana or five minutes per asana? It can feel frustrating to be out of sync with a class and constantly waiting or behind their patterns. Every teacher will vary their pacing throughout a class but it’s important to feel connected to the pace of the class.
Are you ready for a trip to chaturanga city? Yoga asana, pranayama, and dhyana have infinite combinations of sequences. Figuring out what your movement habits are or which ones you wish to change, will help you align with a certain teacher. If you constantly feel the need to open, find a teacher that favors backbends. If you enjoy the gentle shifts of breath within a static posture, find a Bikram or restorative teacher.
Feel no shame
Feel no shame in calling, googling, or asking a friend about a teacher or studio. That’s what the internet is for! The most important thing is that your feel appropriately guided on your yoga journey. Yoga teachers everywhere have varied philosophies, trainings, teaching experiences and their own movement habits. Finding one that works for your goals, personality and preferences is important to cultivating a deeper yoga practice.