I get this question a lot from friends who are interested in starting a yoga practice to undo the aches and pains of a sedentary office job.
I’m new to yoga. What classes should I be looking at?
While I personally prefer ashtanga and vinyasa for my practice, I like to recommend classes that move slower to someone new. Even if my friends are athletic, I think it’s important to learn the fundamentals of breath, alignment, and drishti, and also getting familiar with the names of common yoga poses.
Classes that are titled Hatha, Iyengar, Beginners and All Levels are usually a good place to start. A slower-moving class gives the teacher more opportunities to make sure you’re practicing safely and to offer more instruction. It also gives you time to settle into each pose before moving on to the next new thing.
Yin Yoga and Restorative are also nice options for beginners who are looking to feel less stiff rather than getting in a challenging workout. Coincidentally, many of these classes are offered in the evening and weekends, which may be perfect for the Monday to Friday 9-5 crowd.
Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and any classes with Power or Flow in the name move at a much quicker pace and may experiment with more advanced postures like arm balances and inversions. New students can easily get lost in these classes, and because it flows from one posture to the next, the teacher won’t be able to provide the same level of instruction for each pose as in a slower paced class.
With that said, as long as you let the teacher know that you’re new to yoga, they can keep an eye on you to offer some modifications or have you set up your mat next to someone more experienced to follow.
Also, Bikram, Hot or “heated room” yoga may be overwhelming for new yogis who are looking for something a bit more introductory and less sweaty.
With a few Hatha classes under one’s belt, the itch to try something more physically demanding could be a great opportunity to try a Vinyasa or Flow class. And really, once you have the fundamentals down, you can pretty much go to any class that suits you.