I remember my first yoga class, and I wasn’t too excited to go.
I was producing a big fitness video for MTV and my executive producer told me to go find the “next big thing” in fitness. I was a hardcore runner and spinner at the time, but that wouldn’t translate into a home workout, so I was off to check out this “new to the west” thing called yoga.
This was 1997, and not many people were doing yoga, so when I looked in the phone book-yes the phonebook, there were only about 7 yoga studios in NYC listed.
Yes, only 7 yoga studios in NYC, can you imagine!
Now you can’t trip without stumbling into one. I picked the one with an address on St. Marks Place in the east village, thinking that was most MTV-like.
I figured I would go, take a quick class, report back that I hated it and move on to the next fitness craze- but the exact opposite happened.
I loved it.
I loved the physicality of it, I loved the mental awareness it brought about, I loved the feeling of community at the studio- it totally rocked my world.
I was lucky to find a style and teacher I loved right off the bat, but not everyone wins the yoga lottery on their first try and unfortunately some wind up never returning.
Going to yoga should bring on the same feelings as meeting your best friend for coffee- excitement, camaraderie, a strong sense of self, getting pushed to your edge, and finally-bliss.
If you take a class and the teacher acts superior, speaks rudely, doesn’t explain the poses or the sequences, and spends more time talking about herself than teaching you a valuable lesson about living yoga off the mat, then find yourself another teacher- asap.
Here are few things to consider on your quest for the perfect yoga class.
Find an Experienced Teacher who Suits Your Personality
I can’t express how important this is. Yoga teacher trainings are how studios make their money, so everyone has one. The only problemo is that some of the owners are new teachers themselves who are teaching people how to teach yoga without having enough experience themselves.
You might think there’s no harm in teaching someone to stand in Warrior 1, but if someone has a knee injury there are modifications that need to be made, and when you get to teaching advanced poses like headstand you want to trust that your teacher knows how to explain the proper set up for standing on your head.
Make sure you look into their background, and confirm that they have at least a 200 hour training, but preferably 500 hours.
Once you know they’ve got the education part down, make sure they’ve also got the personality. If you’re a super serious, introvert then a gregarious, joke cracking teacher might not be the best fit.
If you go to a class and find the teacher super boring or incredibly annoying don’t swear off yoga for good- try another one!
Choose a Style That Supports Your Goals
Need to de-stress you’ll probably want to skip the hot vinyasa class and look into a more relaxing one that includes a slow flow, holding restorative poses and some sort of pranayama and meditation exercises.
Cant’ touch your toes and aiming to get flexible and work up a sweat? A vinyasa flow class would be perfect! You’ll move through a series of poses, one after the other, and learn how to synch the breath with your movement as you flow.
Want to get strong, lose weight and build muscle then a yoga sculpt or yoga with weights class is your best bet. I actually created my Xen Strength Yoga method after I turned 40 when the regular yoga just wasn’t cutting it to stay in shape.
There are many other styles of yoga to explore, such as Iyengar, Ashtanga, Kundalini and more. Do your research and find one you love- one that you’ll want to go back to week after week, then ask yourself how you feel when you leave.
You should always leave feeling better than when you walked in, “lighter,” more content, and energized or relaxed depending on what type of class you took.
Always Start with a Beginner Class or an Open Level Class
The worst thing you could do when starting out on your yoga journey is roll out your mat in a level 2 class and feel defeated in the first few minutes.
Make sure that you confirm the level of class you’re taking, preferably starting with a beginner level, to learn the correct step-by-step alignment and have a teacher watch over you the first few sessions.
If the studio nearest you doesn’t offer beginner specific classes then take an open level class and be sure to tell the teacher that you’re new. She’ll be sure to keep a closer eye on your alignment and most likely adjust you if she sees you doing something that could cause you pain or an injury if held too long.
Ready to roll out your mat?
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