Starting a yoga practice can be overwhelming. Where do you start? Is all yoga the same? How do I find the right class for me?
These are all really good questions that I hope to answer in this blog post. When there are so many choices out there, how do you know you will make the right one? First, there is no “right one” when it comes to yoga, there is only what is right for you. Just like there are lots of types of people, there are lots of types of yoga. So how do you find a style or practice that will give you what you need?
1. Know your Goals
People practice yoga for many reasons. Yoga helps to build strength, increase mobility, and improve balance. It also helps calm your mind to help you sleep better. It reduces stress and anxiety and can help you manage difficult challenges in your life. This is only some of what yoga has to offer. What are you seeking from a yoga practice?
Yoga is for all bodies and all people. While it may not look like that on Instagram, there is always a way to modify and adjust a yoga practice to suit your needs. Understanding what you need for your body helps. Have you had joints replaced? Are you working with lower back pain or shoulder pain? You want to find a class to make you feel better, not worse. Knowing what your intentions are will help you decide where to land.
Some styles of yoga focus more on the physical body. Some focus more on the mind. Many focus on both. Some classes cater to younger people. Some are better for people over 50 who are managing older bodies with possible injuries or “bionic” body parts. Practicing a style of yoga that suits your needs and goals is what you want.
2. Choose a Style Based on Your Goals
If you are looking for a more physical practice, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, or Iyengar are 3 ways to go. Ashtanga is a flow style of yoga that has a set sequence that you learn and practice. Vinyasa yoga is also a flow style, but will change each time you come to the mat. Iyengar is a style of yoga where you hold the poses, no flow, and is deeply alignment focused.
If you are seeking a slower, gentler style of yoga, Yin Yoga, Restorative, or Svaroopa yoga is the way to go. These styles are less about strength and more about relaxation and ease. Yin Yoga holds poses to get into a deep stretch. Restorative and Svaroopa use props to support the body while encouraging breathing and relaxation using gravity.
If you have trouble getting on and off the floor, Chair Yoga is for you. You can have a wonderful yoga practice all while sitting in a chair, or using the chair to help you balance. You can build strength, mobility, and mindfulness, all while seated.
3. Find a teacher who will support your goals
Just like with any modality, there will be teachers you vibe with and those you don’t. Finding a teacher that supports your journey can be challenging, and take some experimentation. Here are some things to look for.
Your Yoga Teacher Should:
Engage with students in a meaningful way. If they just show up, teach, then leave, they are not invested in your growth. It doesn’t even matter that you are there. A good teacher cares that you are there and wants you to get the most out of your practice.
Answer questions and give support when necessary. Support might mean alignment corrections, suggestions about modifications, mindset cues, or things to think about while practicing. You should feel like you can get help when you need it and that your teacher can offer you that help.
Help you understand the practice in YOUR body. If you are working with an injury, or have joint replacements, you’ll need specific modifications for certain poses. Your teacher should offer you ways to practice that feel safe in the body that you have. There are always ways to modify.
Help you feel safe, generally. Your teacher should be mindful of your boundaries, how you want to be touched, if at all, and how much interaction you are looking for. If you just want to show up and practice, that is your choice. Maybe you want all the hands-on adjustments, that is also your choice. If you only want verbal cues, again, your choice. Your practice, your choice. Your teacher should support you in the way that you want to practice.
Yoga for life
Yoga is a practice that can support you for your lifetime. I have been practicing for almost 30 years and I know this to be true. I feel strong and mobile, have excellent balance, and can stay calm, even when life gets challenging. However, having an aging body requires certain adjustments to allow you to practice for life. My practice at age 51 looks a bit different than it did when I was 23. I give myself the support that I need, and I continue to benefit from my yoga practice. When you know what you want out of your class, it will be easier to find a class that suits you best.
I offer all levels of yoga, online and on demand at Purple Room Yoga. My classes are tailored to people over 50 who want to stay active, and cross-train for life. If you want to Age Gracefully, with Strength, Balance, Mobility, and Mindfulness, these classes are for you. Before and after live classes, I am available to “hang out” and chat, about your yoga practice, or about whatever is going on in your life. Feel free to ask questions, I’m here to help. Get a 10 Day All Access Free Trial by clicking here!
Back to Yoga Basics is a 4 week online course that teaches you everything you need to get started in your yoga practice! Registration is open until November 22, click here for more information!
Have you ever wished that you had an owner’s manual for your body and mind? I’ve got you covered. The Over 50 Body/Mind Handbook is a free eBook to help guide you through the ups and downs of being human. If you are GenX or older and feel like your body is falling apart, click here to get your free copy. Your body and mind will thank you.