Okay, so you’ve heard all about it, you’re friends are doing it, you’ve told yourself you’ve been meaning to do it, and here you are! Showing up to a Yoga class for the first time can be nerve-racking- so congrats on getting this far.
There is a reason everyone who does Yoga talks about it all the time, how it changed their life, how you should come to a class with them. Can you guess the reason?
Yoga is an effective way to exercise the body and calm the mind. We don't often realize the importance of a Yoga practice to support our quality of life until we begin to practice. Here are some of the ways Yoga increases quality of life:
How many times have you driven from one place to another and, upon arrival, have no idea how you got there? How many times have you had trouble falling/staying asleep? How many days have you suffered with low back pain, neck and shoulder tension, digestive issues, and inability to focus?
The truth is Yoga can be the all-natural solution to all of these problems. The poses, breathing exercises, and meditation techniques found in Yoga are unlike any other form of exercise. They target all aspects of being human and make it a better experience- even an experience worth celebrating! Don’t believe me? Come to a class and see for yourself. It may very well be the best decision you’ve ever made.
Just like life, Yoga is a practice that is always evolving. Sometimes we go to the mat to balance and calm ourselves, other times to energize and invigorate. Sometimes it’s helpful to sit and meditate in silence, other times it’s helpful to sing in joyful devotion and raise our spirits. Whether you are a new student to Yoga or already have a consistent practice, you will benefit from different types of Yoga, including private study and group study, as your life and Yoga practice evolve together. Here are a few things to think about when choosing between private or group classes:
1. Are You a Beginner?
When first starting a Yoga practice, I typically recommend beginning with private sessions or workshops designed specifically for beginners. In these sessions, the teacher has a chance to meet and develop a connection with you. During this time you will have the opportunity to share any injuries or health conditions you may be dealing with and what you’d like to get out of your Yoga practice. Private sessions and workshops for beginners are all about making a connection with the teacher so that he/she can provide you with an effective practice suited to your needs and desires. Upon completion of three private sessions or a workshop series for beginners, the teacher will most likely have enough knowledge to guide you to the appropriate group classes or help design a home sequence for you to practice on your own.
2. Do You Have Injuries, Health Concerns, or Recent Emotional Trauma?
Finding a teacher who can work therapeutically with your injuries/traumas will be a fundamental part of your healing. I would highly recommend learning from a teacher who can, depending on your situation, teach you how to modify your practice and increase your capacity to heal. This is typically done in a private session, but you might be able to find audience-specific classes like Yoga for Pain Relief, Yoga for Cancer Patients, etc, which you might consider joining.
3. Do You Want to Develop a Regular Yoga Practice?
Practicing at home is very rewarding, but it can be sometimes be difficult just to get yourself on the mat. If you are struggling to practice at home, I would recommend starting group classes. Group classes are fantastic because they encourage a sense community which supports each other’s yoga practice. Attending group classes is a great way to meet friends and learn something new, choosing and regularly attend class times that work for you. Many studios offer class packages or memberships- I highly recommend taking advantage of these offers as they provide incentive for you to keep coming back. I recommend taking classes twice per week- anything more is bonus! Remember: the more you practice, the more benefits you will receive and the better you will feel!
4. Are You Looking to Advance your Practice?
Advancing your practice can mean different things. Some people are looking to advance their Asana (Hatha Yoga) practice. In this case, attending an advanced level group class or working privately with an instructor who knows a lot about advanced Asana can be beneficial. For others, advancing their practice means learning Yoga breathing exercises (Pranayama), exploring different types of meditation and higher consciousness, or learning more about Yogic philosophy. In this case, it will be beneficial to study privately with a teacher who can share these techniques with you or to find a workshop or series about your topic of interest.
Remember, a Yoga practice is always evolving. It’s okay to practice different types of Yoga in different settings depending on how you feel each in moment, day, or phase of your life.
Still have questions? Contact me and I will help you decide the best type of practice for your needs and desires!
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Matthew Mitlas is a writer and yoga instructor in the Collegeville, Ambler, Blue Bell, and greather philadelphia area of Pennsylvania.