Get Your Yoga On
I’ve been in the fitness industry for a long time, and I remember thinking yoga was for those looking for a spiritual stretching session. Nothing wrong with it, but not my thing. In 2002, my best friend, Kiersten, told me about a yoga course she took that was designed for the fitness industry.
YogaFit wanted to make yoga more approachable and show the benefits to people that loved exercise. So, I went to a level 1 training…and I fell in love with yoga.
Since that time 15 years ago, I’ve taken their level 2 training and done work in their pre/post-natal yoga training. YogaFit now has over 5 levels of training, with specialty courses for kids, older adults and even those geared towards the military.
I don’t really teach yoga anymore, but I still go to a studio once or twice a week, or practice at home. If you haven’t tried it, you’re missing out. So, let me tell you a little more about it.
The Many Benefits of Yoga
There are many mental and physical benefits of a regular yoga practice. Most people I know that exercise regularly, myself included, primarily focus on the physical aspect.
Improved flexibility and mobility.
Improved muscle tone and strength.
Better breathing and energy.
Reduction in chronic pain.
Weight loss, or weight maintenance.
Improved cardiovascular health.
Improved athletic performance.
All of these are fantastic, but according to the American Osteopathic Association, they are not the only benefits you gain. We all have stress in our lives that can manifest itself in various ways: interrupted sleep, headaches, stomach issues, high blood pressure, inability to concentrate or even substance abuse.
Yoga helps you tune into your body, focusing on breath and movement, as well as meditation. All of these things can help you develop coping mechanisms for your stress.
Which Type Do I Choose?
This often where people get confused. They hear the words vinyasa, vini, ashtanga, Bikram and Hatha and feel their head spin. Let me give you a brief description of some common types of yoga, with the help of some yoga experts at Gaiam.
Ashtanga – a vigorous yoga style that links breath and movement in a specific sequence of poses. Classes perform the same sequence in the same order every time. Physically demanding.
Bikram – like ashtanga, poses are performed in a specific sequence each time. It is very physically demanding as it is performed in an artificially heated room. You’ll walk in and already be sweating before you start moving.
Hot Yoga – Bikram is a specific style of hot yoga. So, if a class is billed as hot yoga it will be done in a very warm room, but the poses can change from class to class. Personally, I don’t do Bikram or hot yoga. I am sensitive to heat, and have passed out from overheating before, so it’s not the right style for me. If you have medical issues, get clearance from your doctor before attempting this style.
Hatha – technically a term that refers to any class that teaches yoga postures. However, if you see it as the title of the class, it probably means it’s a gentler class appropriate for beginners.
These are just a few of the many types of yoga. Classes can be called different things based on how the teachers were trained, and the physical demands of the class. Read the descriptions carefully to decide which class is right for you.
Where to Practice
Just like a gym, location and cost are usually the biggest factors when looking for a yoga studio to practice at on a regular basis. If it’s not convenient for you, you’re probably not going to go to class. Also, it has to fit in your budget. If it’s beyond your means, you’re not going to go. Then, you need to consider the classes that are offered.
Are there beginner classes that are offered at convenient times? Is there a variety of classes, or does the studio focus on a specific class or type of yoga?
Lastly, I’d recommend trying a place that has an introductory offer for first time clients. Many studios offer this type of deal. Sometimes, it’s a 3-pack for a discounted rate, or a reduced monthly rate. It gives you a chance to try different classes, and meet various instructors to see if the studio is a good fit for you.
What To Bring
Depending on the studio, they may provide mats at no charge or for a small fee to use during each class. However, if you’re going to class regularly, buy your own mat! You can pick them up at Target, Walmart, local sporting goods stores or online. A small towel is also a good idea if you tend to sweat easily, or if it’s a heated yoga class. I like to have water handy, but if it’s a crowded class, that may not be feasible. So, have your water ready when you’re finished, or put it off to the side and out of everyone’s way. Check the studio’s policy, as some don’t allow them into the classes.
Wear comfortable clothes that you can move in easily. You do not want to feel constricted in your class. If something is too tight, or you constantly have to pull up your pants you can’t relax into the postures. Look for breathable fabrics that stretch.
I hope this helps you feel more comfortable approaching yoga. It truly is a great way to relax and improve your health and fitness!