There are too many styles of yoga now to list. A style comes from a participant that has merged their personal experience with the base of an old philosophy, adding in the Seth Godin "people like us do things like this" ingredient, and you have a style. It might just be the way of the world that we are trained to acknowledge where we belong by association, and so it only makes sense that it's come to this. However, in a world that's become a 100 menu item Chinese restaurant (how on earth can that small kitchen make that many meals?!) it can leave the punter dazed and confused as to which way to turn. We no longer have forks in the road, we have a Brice Marden perspective, breaking our linear position for one of pure immersion.
In fewer words to make my point, we have made it easy to refine our personal choices and more difficult by the sheer number that comes our way. So how do you know which yoga class to take?
It is a difficult thing to be able to concentrate on many position changes and continue your rhythmic breathing at the same time. Being new to a class will inevitably create tension in the beginner for this very reason. It's termed as a learning curve - the tension you feel until the information stores itself and becomes a part of following your nature, or secundum naturum. Nature, ideally, being the instinctual part of how we operate.
Anything unfamiliar requires simple. It's just easier to digest. Yoga teachers can wow you with expressions like "breathe into your back". As a novice this just makes no sense to you. We tend to look at the poses to determine the level of the class, however, the most simple asana can invite the deepest journey with the intention of the teacher. Don't be fooled by what looks basic. There are layers to this.
It's important to test a few classes and determine which one resonates with you. By that I mean which word/s from the teacher stayed with you post class. That's resonance, something that leaves a reverberation for awhile after the class. It might make you think about your feet more than usual. It might make you notice when your breath scatters. Are you more quiet than usual? Are you more energised than usual? Observe the post digestive effect of your class and how it makes you feel.
Feeling is everything
The video below is a snippet of Abraham Hicks on the topic of getting a job but the essence behind the words can be used very effectively in finding the right yoga class.
Do you feel a sense of satisfaction during the class? Does it make you happy?
This might be contentious but worth exploring. Personally I know only too well the idea of austerity and tapasya and, sadly, the idea of feeling "unclean" per my past yoga experience. Fervent fasting, forcing meditation, aching sciatica during yoga class. Somewhere, sometime, I had an impression that hard was the road to bliss.
Maybe the road to bliss is just bliss.
If your journey is to achieve a free floating handstand, and the teacher makes it fun, and you feel a sweet little glee in getting there, then fist-bump power to you. If it makes you even more intense as part of your intense life agenda, then perhaps take a detour via something else. Go find that satisfaction feeling in an activity you know well and replicate the feeling in your new yoga class.
In my heady yoga days I got to a point of such dissatisfaction that I quit for a bit and found myself going to a tai chi class. Just because it was walking distance and I liked the dragon outside. The teacher was funny. He was easy going. There were regulars that were fun and easy going.
And I became a bit more fun and easy going. And when I eventually returned to my yoga, so did my practise. And I went deeper than I ever had.
Maybe the road to bliss is just bliss.
If the opposite of dis-ease is ease, then it would stand to reason that getting to yoga should be on par with the class itself. If traffic has the tendency to make you mad as hell, then choosing a class that is not way across town is a good idea. If the class gives you the feeling that you might need to spend more money than you've got on an outfit to fit in, then perhaps it doesn't fit your current capacity.
A way to think of yoga is as a part of everything you do. Does it work with my lifestyle? Does it fit my way of seeing the world? Does it fit my aesthetic? Can I easily get a parking spot or take public transport to it? Is it close to where I drop the kids off to school? Do the classes work around my meal times?
Putting yoga in the perspective of your life creates the setting for a sustainable practise. Once you're hooked you might travel further and buy whatever you like to buy because the feeling may sustain you so much that the day to day operations of life no longer seem a hindrance. But in the beginning, it's important to see the work as part of where you're at.
Ayurveda and Yoga
I'm going to pick up on the last comment I made - Do the classes work around my meal times? It's where Ayurveda comes into play. We ask you to find consistency to harness your appetite and then it may be that your classes are at odd times. What to do? In this case, I suggest doing the classes in the early evening, where dinner is a light affair as a generality. Each body type is different in how many meals/day it requires but all body types can move the greater part of the food to the day time and leave the evenings a little lighter.
Your practise will work better when your digestion and elimination are working well. Ideally eliminate before you start your class. It allows attention to go deeper into the tissues rather than moving expired faeces around. Yoga shouldn't be what it takes to stimulate the bowel movement. Use a walk around the block if you've got Kapha dosha going on that requires circulation to move. An Ayurvedic morning routine is a great addition to ensure you're 'prepared' for your class. Yoga is not a workout, it's moving prana around in a calm consistent manner to open up the channels of the body and vitalise the organs with energy. Doing a self massage and having a warm shower will help to circulate the blood to give you more flexibility. You also become more receptive to moving prana to stuck spots by self massaging the area and 'waking it up' before you attend class.
Foods propagated by the yoga industry considered pure and wholesome may be so, but it may not be for your body type in a particular season. Dramatic vegetarianism can also be harmful when the body is suddenly thrust into a sense of lack from ideology and not right timing. Information is helpful when taken in at the right time. Novices may be prone to believe ideas that come from strong minded yoga practitioners with an agenda.
When you learn about your body type, and you know what works, then information is simply something to consider, digest, contemplate and then possibly activate, or discard. When you fall in love all is possible and all is healed, but until then, focus on feeling a sense of satisfaction.
It has to be fun.