This is the most common question I get asked. The market is flooded with so many different classes, styles & techniques. Add teachers, experts and friends' opinions on what types you should and shouldn't adopt. Strategies you should and shouldn't practice and whats excellent and perfect for you. But how can you possibly know what yoga to start with and how to get started if you have never done yoga before?
There's everything out there, from traditional styles where you will learn age-old teachings from Indian Gurus in yoga studios to more up-to-date teachings which may include more energetic physical practises in gyms and keep fit studios as we as a nation become more ‘obsessed’ with how we look. There's restorative and relaxing yoga (yin/yoga nidra/restore), which may be found in studios, temples, and local church halls. Mother and baby yoga, pregnancy yoga and new fads like boxing yoga and even stoned yoga (it's a Californian thing - and a whole other blog post!). The lists of different yoga classes are endless. So where do you start? Here are my top tips:
1) Be honest with yourself. Forget about what you have been “advised,” and remember why you want to do yoga. Nobody cares about your answer - it isn't a trick question or test. Just be honest with you. If you can be honest and open with yourself, you will get much more out of your practice. If it's a toned body you want and you’re not fussed about the spiritual element of yoga, then great (in the best possible sense). Maybe look at more physical practices of yoga like Ashtanga or vinyasa flow, but whatever your start point, its simply a focus point to begin a yoga practice, which is the first obstacle to over come. Just merely doing yoga. Rolling a mat out and beginning can be a massive mountain for beginners. After you have begun practising, an exciting yoga journey will take its course if you maintain an open mind and heart to any other possibilities that may result from your physical practice (and they will).
2) Choose a beginner's class. Whatever you do, do not let your ego take over and choose an intermediate or advanced-level type because you think you’re physically strong. You may go to the gym five times a week and drink protein shakes after your regular spin class, but it doesn’t mean your muscles and joints are used to working in a yoga class.
3)Don’t be too fussy about the teacher (to begin with). You will know what style and teacher suits you when you have experienced a few teachers and types of classes. Just choose a teacher and go with an open mind; the rest will fall into place over time.
4)Only do what feels right. You will need to connect your mind and body from the get-go. Yoga means to unify. So this is where the magic happens. If the teacher sets a posture for you and it feels strained or particularly uncomfortable, then perhaps it's not for you, and you should ease off and modify it. I accept that when I am teaching, not all postures and modifications are for everyone, so I don't expect everyone to follow along all the time. The most important thing to remember is that you aren't competing with anyone else and certainly aren't competing with yourself. Just be.