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How to Pick a Yoga Class That's Right for You

Confused about what kind of yoga class to select? Here are some tips so you can make a better choice.

As a yoga teacher, I write my class descriptions for the websites of the studios where I hold classes. I’m often asked what certain things mean in class descriptions and how to know what kind of class to select. Here are some tips to help you make a good choice for you: 

  1. If you’re looking for something appropriate for a first-timer, pick anything that has “Beginner” in the title. These classes are slower and provide more instruction around how to place the feet and hands in the pose.
  2. If you’re looking for something with a cardiovascular aspect, pick a class with “Vinyasa” or “Power” in the name. In Sanskrit, the Hindu language of yoga, the word “vinyasa” means "to flow". Classes like these will keep you moving for the first half and towards the end, will slow you down for deeper stretches.
  3. If you’re looking for something slower and more relaxing, anything with “restorative” in the title is for you. These classes use things like yoga blocks and blankets to support the body, so you can be in a pose for up to 5 minutes. These classes often present fewer postures and longer holding in each one to give you a deeper stretch. Many studios present these classes on Sunday nights.
  4. If you’re looking for an athletic flow, choose a power class. These classes (the style that I teach) present classical poses that are essential to building strength and flexibility. These classes present functional movement over poses that require a tremendous amount of flexibility. However, you will stretch, sweat and work muscles. The last quarter of class is devoted to slowing the heart rate and deeper stretches for the hips.
  5. If you like to sweat, heated or hot yoga classes are for you. These classes add more heat than the traditional class and some are taught in studios where there is an additional heating system installed to increase the heat. Typical heated or hot yoga classes are 85-90 degrees; this differs from Bikram yoga, where the room is heated to 105 degrees (see below).
  6. If you like a very hot yoga room and the same sequence every class, Bikram yoga is for you. This style was developed by Bikram Choudhury and involves a series of poses, done in the same order at each class and a room heated to 105 degrees.
  7. If you like classes without heat but a focus on breathing and moving in a slow, mindful way, hatha classes would work for you. These classes provide information about how to do each posture from an alignment perspective, along with a focus on breathing. Some classes will add a meditation aspect and will encourage you to be still and notice how you feel.
  8. If you’ve been practicing for at least a few months, try an Open Class or All Levels class. These classes are considered appropriate for anyone with some experience and will present some more challenges poses.
  9. If you’ve been attending open classes and workshops for a while and are looking for even more challenging classes, try any class that notes itself as “Advanced.” These classes may present several arm balances, use props to bind the arms, may include headstands, handstands and other inversions. They may also give you time to do your own thing or ask you to do a series of poses on your own, with the expectation that you know how to do the postures.
  10. Hip Hop/Classes to music: These classes are yoga done to music. The style of music may vary depending on the background of the teacher. They add a current and upbeat song list to a flow that can get your heart rate up and provide what you may find is a pleasant distraction and a motivator to exercise. The style of yoga may vary depending on the background of the teacher so check with the teacher or studio owner before class to find out.

Finding a class that fits your needs and interests can take some time. I suggest that people with no yoga experience try a beginner’s class to start and to try at least 3 of these before moving to an open or all levels class. I also suggest that if you take a class and don’t have a great first experience, try it at least once more before you decide it’s not for you. Sometimes, it takes another try before you can decide completely. Lastly, if you’re really not sure from the description what the class will be like, ask the studio owner for more information. 

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