Choosing a yoga class or style that’s right for you is important and requires a little self-assessment and some trial and error. You will likely find two or three different types of classes that you can combine to create your own weekly routine. Whether you are brand new to yoga or perhaps need to reenergize your practice, finding the right kinds of classes to meet your needs is the key to a long-term healthy practice.
There are three important steps in finding your perfect routine. First, consider your overall energy level, second consider your goals for practice or the reason you are coming to yoga, and third, try out different combinations of styles and teachers to find what’s right for you.
Styles of practice were traditionally discussed in terms of a particular time or stage of life. When you are young you are building, during middle age you maintain what you’ve built, then as you age you work to protect and maintain.
It’s easier to understand this concept as energy levels rather than stages of life. You may be young, but your body reflects something very different due to a sedentary or stressful lifestyle. As a result of many lifestyle factors in our modern world, ‘diseases of aging’ are increasingly impacting people at much younger ages and stages of life.
On the other hand, you may be older in age but have maintained healthy habits and a regular movement practice, so you have a lot of energy to grow. So, when you consider the kinds of classes you want to try, take an honest look at where you are at right now in terms of both mental and physical energy. But also understand your energy levels are not absolute and change over time and even from day to day.
This more youthful energy will find a way to manifest itself and your consideration should be how to best direct it. Learning how to spend and conserve energy is one of the most profound benefits of yoga. Spending your energy on the right things at the right time and learning to not waste energy on the things that don’t serve you, will help you lead a healthy, happy, and productive life. For selecting a class, your high energy needs a stronger practice outlet such as power, vinyasa, sculpt, yogalates or ashtanga.
But you may also find your mind or body is taking that energy and using it in the form of stress. In that case some meditative practices might be added in to harness and redirect your energy away from stress, making it available for more productive things.
Medium energy levels are sort of the sweet spot. This can indicate that your energy is well spent in all the aspects of your life, and you are devoting more time to maintaining what you have already built. This doesn’t mean a lower energy practice is right for you all the time, but it does mean that you might want to have a mix of classes that feel just right in your body. Maybe you look for a strong, power, or intermediate level class a few days per week and alternate with yin to keep your joints open or meditation practices to focus your mind.
Lower energy levels may be a result of being overcommitted in other aspects of your life or it could be that you’re recovering from injury or just getting older and enjoy feeling more grounded. Lower energy levels hit all of us from time to time regardless of age. And in those moments, you might consider a slower flow practice like yoga basics, or a more static practice like Yin, or Iyengar.
Meditative practices such as breath, sound bath, or acupuncture and meditation may be a good lower energy fit and can help boost your energy and overall feelings of wellbeing. All these practices are great ways to balance a high energy practice for finding that perfect middle ground.
In the practice of Yoga one can emphasize the body, the mind or the self and hence the effort can never be fruitless-T. Krishnamacharya
Now that you have considered your overall energy level, let’s look at goals for your practice.
I practice to build strength, flexibility, and balance.
This is most popular reason people come to yoga. If you are looking for your six pack, or yoga arms, you must put in the work and that requires a youthful energy. That means a more rigorous practice 4-6 days a week.
Building strength for balance and flexibility require the frequency of practice but the intensity doesn’t have to be the same as larger muscle development and definition goals. For example, if your goal is to be flexible to touch your toes or improve your golf swing, then you can certainly accomplish this in lower intensity practices such as yin or dynamic deep stretch. You will of course get there faster in more intense classes like Ashtanga or Power but if you have lower to moderate energy levels you will be a lot happier reaching your goal at a more comfortable pace.
Yoga Sculpt, Yogalates, Power Yoga, Ashtanga, and intermediate flow are all examples of a high energy practice for building.
I want to maintain the strength, flexibility, and balance that I have built.
In the west, this is probably the least popular reason for starting a practice. We tend to be too driven to allow ourselves to be satisfied with the condition of our mind and body and to seek to maintain it. In this moderate intensity mode, you might want to do some higher-level classes where you can continue to grow your skill level utilizing the foundation you have already built. Intermediate flow, Strong flow and Iyengar classes are great examples of this practice intensity.
But don’t forget the mental maintenance as well, a regular meditation practice is important over the long haul and group meditation whether in Acupuncture, Sound Bath, or Breath classes can be an amazing compliment to your movement practice.
I need a little mental or physical restoration.
Turning to a yoga practice in order to fix something ranks up there with building strength as the primary reason for starting yoga. This is generally associated with older age but again since we tend to skip maintenance, we end up with more repair needs when we are young. In our modern world we are encouraged to burn the candle at both ends, pushing the edge of our energy levels with our busy schedules and so issues like stress can create problems regardless of our age. We often focus on mental stress but also physical stress on our muscles and joints from overtraining or from training in a single fitness modality can cause. Healing and recovery is a lower energy practice that focuses on slowly working problem areas. Classes like yoga basics, Iyengar, Yin Yoga, dynamic deep stretch, breathwork, and meditation are all on your list for finding tools to help restore certain aspects of your wellbeing. If you are in an overall lower energy phase, mix in more of these kinds of practices.
You will usually have goals that may be both mental and physical; for example, you may want to calm and relax your mind while also improving your strength. Or maybe you want to work on mental focus or problem-solving skills, which seems more geared to a breath or meditation practice but both depend on your body/mind connection, so you need to work on both. To achieve balance in your life, you need to have a balanced practice.
Yoga is a lifelong practice, each day you come to the mat with different physical or energetic requirements and being flexible to give your body what it needs is important. Even if you love your sweaty sculpt classes, you might have days where a gentle dynamic deep stretch class serves you better. We offer a range of classes to provide options and alternatives to meet you where you are at. This is the concept of Viniyoga in the sutras, which (at the risk of oversimplification), can be summed up as the right yoga offering, in the right place, for the right person at the right time.
What’s right for you today?
That’s a question to ask yourself each day you come to your mat.
Now it’s time to find your perfect routine and instructors that you enjoy! Try out different classes and styles, you will quickly find what feels best for you. This is the last step but very important. Even in the same yoga style, each teacher has a unique personality and each class has its own vibe. You can achieve all the amazing benefits of yoga when you commit to a regular practice and that means finding classes, teachers and a community that feel comfortable to you.
See you on your mat!