By: Judi Bar, E-500 RYT
Yoga is a practice that can include everyone, with modifications available for most poses. It also can help you to notice what your mind and body are telling you, both on and off the yoga mat. With many types of classes available, you might ask: What are the benefits of yoga? And how can I find a class that’s the best fit?
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Health benefits: mind and body
The mental and physical health benefits of yoga are many, and researchers continue to find more. Foremost is that yoga has been proven to reduce stress in the body and mind. This is paramount for your body’s health. It counteracts the “fight or flight” response in the nervous system and brings the “rest and digest” response into play.
The relaxation and meditation of yoga promotes a gracious, thankful, centered practice that can bring an overall sense of well-being and peace.
A good yoga class will:
- Enhance your sense of balance
- Strengthen your muscles
- Lead to better functioning
Yoga can promote a positive approach to life in general, offering a sense of peace and resilience. It also can improve other areas of your life, helping you manage your weight, sleep more restfully, experience less discomfort in the body and improve digestion.
Finding the right yoga style for you
There are many styles of yoga — from a rigorous Ashtanga class, to a slower-paced Hatha session, to the physically and mentally challenging practice of Kundalini. Each style offers a different path to connect with your mind and body.
Here are three tips to keep in mind when shopping around for a yoga class:
1. Start with a basic class, and then explore
You may not know which type of yoga is right for you until you actually try it. When you’re starting out, look for a yoga class labeled “gentle yoga” or “beginner’s yoga” to try. You can also observe and try different classes.
Remember that the right style of yoga for anyone is accessible, doable and inclusive. You should feel welcomed, supported, and not judged. It should not feel competitive — rather, it should provide the right environment for you to proceed at your own pace, with advice from your teacher.
2. Look for a certified, experienced instructor
A good class has as much to do with the yoga teacher as it does with the style of yoga. Look for an experienced teacher registered with Yoga Alliance, a national organization that sets best practices and ethics in the yoga community.
Make sure the instructor is approachable — you should feel comfortable asking questions or sharing any concerns before, during or after class.
3. Pay attention to how your body feels
Remember, you do not have to wrap your leg around your ear to do yoga. Mostly, you need to pay close attention to how your body feels during and after each class.
You should feel challenged but not to the point where it is overtaxing on your body. If you are a first-timer, monitor yourself carefully. You shouldn’t feel pain associated with the poses and movement.
One of the most important things to remember is to breathe deeply during the practice.
If the class and teacher are right for you, the way you feel during and after class should motivate you to continue with yoga. And if you enjoyed that specific class and want to take it again, you’ve likely found the right fit for you.
Over time, as you incorporate what you learn in yoga into your day-to-day life, you’ll enjoy more conscious breathing and body awareness — and it becomes easier to continue.