The New Year is upon us and often we start to make personal goals, affirmations and resolutions. We say things like ‘New Year, New Me’, or ‘This is My Year’, or This Year I want to…(fill in the gap). How many of these sentences actually end with an act of Self Care? Or how many are materialistic things that we think will make our lives better if we have them, or setting unrealistic expectations of ourselves. You may be thinking, I actually make personal Self Care goals – that’s great – so how do you make sure you follow them up?
Yoga is not just a goal, or something you can tick off your checklist of things to do…go shopping, clean the house, meditate, do yoga etc… Yoga is a way of life; a way to bring Mind, Body and Spirit together as one, both on and off the mat. Find a class that makes you feel better for going, even if you don’t know why, yet.
“I Tried Yoga Once and It Just Wasn’t For Me”
Have you ever said, I want to start practising yoga, but… I’m not very good at yoga; i’m not very flexible; I’m not spiritual enough; I just can’t switch off; or the most common, I tried yoga once but it just wasn’t for me? Having more of an understanding of what Yoga is and what style may suit you may give you more direction to finding a suitable class; you choose the level at which you engage with each component of the class. Some styles of Yoga, such a Power Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga would appeal to those who wish to focus more on the body/stamina, with a more physically challenging class; other styles, such as Scaravelli, are more experimental and free, and may tap in to more spiritual elements of Yoga. There are many components of every Yoga style, and every class is different, so it would help if you had a sense of your intention before choosing a yoga class; what do you want from a yoga class?
That’s a tough question though, right? What if you don’t know much about Yoga, how can you find a suitable class? It might be a good idea to just have a go! Go to a class with an open-mind, along with your own intention, and see how that class works for you.
All types of Yoga include a variety of Yoga Postures, known as Asanas. The main changes you will find are: the way they are taught; the pace in which they are taught; the length you will hold the postures; the level of the class; the focus of the class. Someone may go to a class with an intention of slowing down and focusing on their breath, whereas someone else may want to release tension in their shoulders and back. What is common across each style, is the sense of mindful meditation achieved in each class; whether you are just breathing, actively counting your breath, reciting mantras, moving with the breath slowly, or flowing freely, you gain a sense of meditation by allowing yourself to explore how your body moves and checking in with how you feel, both physically and mentally.
What Benefits Can I Get From Yoga? (these are just a few)
- Improve your posture
- Release tension from certain muscles in your body
- Gain greater flexibility
- Build strength
- Feel a sense of calm and clarity of mind
- Improve concentration
- Approve ability to deal with stress
- Discover more about yourself
- Become more aware of your body and how it moves
- Challenge your stamina
- Help appreciate more
- Increase cardiovascular, respiratory efficiency
- Regulate the immune system
- Gain more self-acceptance
- Can be used as a way to deal with trauma
What Are the Differences Between Each Yoga Style?
When you are new to yoga, each style can become overwhelming and confusing. At first, I would suggest looking for a class that is suitable for beginners, or even a class suitable for all levels and giving it a go. But here is a very brief guide to some popular styles taught in the local area:
This is a style used as more of an umbrella term for many types of yoga styles in popular culture. It is likely to be a more gentle class, involving asanas (postures), stretching, breathing techniques and sometimes a sense of flow if in more of a Vinyasa style. You will find classes like: Vinyasa, Power, Gentle, Yoga for Beginners/Improvers etc… tend to come under this category.
This styles combines standing, seated and lying postures with flowing movement in order to stretch and lengthen the body, using a flow to link one movement to the next and holding postures when needed to deepen your practice. This class can be a more slow and gentle flow, or a more physcially demanding flow with pace, depending on the class/teacher.
A more challenging yoga sequence, with a set, structured sequence that flow together in the form of Vinyasa. This class is more dynamic and can be quite physically demanding.
This is a slower form of yoga, where poses are held for much longer than other styles, giving the muscles enough time to really release and relax into each pose. Less poses are practised in these classes, with a focus on really letting go and stretching out tense muscles. Can be quite challenging on the mind and focus.
This style of yoga is far more experimental and free than other types. The class will often only consist of a few poses, but the teacher will give you time to explore getting into the pose, and how it feels to move your body freely. This is quite a different style of yoga that should be approached with an open-mind.
These classes will have a strong focus on body alignment, with the use of props in order to move with the correct form. Similar to Yin Yoga, the postures are held for longer in order to allow the muscles to relax and release; mostly popular with those with alignment problems, or in recovery from injury, and more focused on smaller session or private sessions.
Meditation and relaxation during classes are very class dependent. Some teachers like to have a 10-15 minute relaxation towards the end of the class, some may just have 5 minutes, or not any, others may have a meditation focus throughout the class.
To Take Away
What ever your style, what ever your intention, choose a class that you feel comfortable in and know that every yoga class is different. There is no ‘one size fits all approach’, so try different classes to find out a bit more about what you are looking for. You will soon learn what you like and what resonates with you.