To a novice, choosing a type of yoga to try first is, sometimes, quite intimidating. The seemingly infinite number of choices can be simply overwhelming….especially when the names of these classes, styles, and techniques are almost all quite foreign-sounding. (Did that instructor just say “chaturanga dandasana”?)
From what studio has the best class offerings, to choosing a class and a level that’s right for you, to narrowing down your favorite instructor, determining where to start can require a bit of helpful advice.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all option for yoga….however, there are some types of yoga that might make getting started a little easier. Here are five types of yoga that are ideal introductions for the inexperienced yogi.
- Hatha: Almost universally mispronounced, Hatha yoga is an umbrella term that typically refers to the physical practices of yoga. In Sanskrit, this series of physical body movements, postures, or poses practiced in yoga are known as asanas. Gentle enough for beginners, this term has been reappropriated to refer to a mix of styles within a class designed for those just learning to do the basic asanas. When scanning a class schedule, Hatha might be your best bet if you’re looking to learn some simple poses before moving onto more athletic or meditation-centric styles.
- Iyengar: This is a detail-oriented style of yoga that concentrates on finding the proper alignment….but, beginners needn’t fear. Props like blocks, belts, straps, and chairs are usually on hand at the studio to help you learn how to strike the perfectly aligned pose. Gaiam.com points out that every Iyengar instructor undergoes a rigorous training program, so their extensive knowledge is helpful for those with injuries, range of motion restrictions, or other physical limitations.
- Kripalu: This is a gentle yoga practice that emphasizes an inward spiritual focus with an individualized teaching approach. Students do this through a combination of asanas, meditation, and breathing. Kripalu classes can range from gentle to strenuous, so be sure to double-check the class description before signing up.
- Viniyoga: This type of yoga can be tailored to each student’s individual needs, making it a perfect choice for a beginner who is feeling a bit nervous or out of their element. According to the American Viniyoga Institute, the practice combines the eight limbs of yoga: asana (poses), pranayama (breathing), bandha (body locks), sound, chanting, meditation, personal ritual, and study of texts. This thorough experience gives you a more in-depth glimpse into the full yoga experience than Hatha. But, don’t be intimidated. Instructors can usually give each person in class the attention they need to learn the basics and reach their goals.
- Vinyasa: This is a more movement-centric practice that links the breath with each associated posture. Vinyasa (meaning “to place in a special way” in Sanskrit) usually has less individualized attention from instructors and is more athletic at its core, so if you’re up for a bit more of a challenge than the less-intensive and more-predictable rituals of Hatha, you might want to give a vinyasa class a try.
Finding the perfect yoga class is a process. Take into account your personal and physical limitations as well as what you’re looking to get out of the experience. For example, are you looking for better flexibility or a more spiritual approach to personal fulfillment?
If you have access to a studio that offers a variety of styles, try as many as you can. Many studios will even offer beginners a discounted rate to allow them to try out all of their many different class types. You never know which class will be a perfect fit for you until you’ve tried them all.