That’s it! You’ve finally decided to get your life back on track by bringing in some much needed stress management and relaxation, and you have decided that yoga is the answer. However, for any newcomer to the yoga scene, it can be quite a daunting and intimidating task finding the right yoga class. So how do you figure out which yoga class is right for you? Well, first of all, you should have a clear understanding of what yoga is, what the different types of yoga are, and what it is that you are looking for from your practice.
Yoga is an ancient science that originated in India thousands of years ago, and which is now being practiced by millions of people around the world. Yoga is the science of right living and its goal is to peel away the layers that cloud our ability to see clearly. Its aim is also to bring balance, health and well being back into an individual, so that the individual is then able to feel their deep connection to the infinite energy that we call God or Spirit. This sense of oneness can then be extended towards all beings and enables us to live in a spirit of deep peace, love and harmony.
There are many different types of yoga and it is important that you find the type that is best suited both to your personality and to your needs. The type of yoga that most people are familiar with and which is most commonly practiced today is Hatha Yoga. This is a system of yoga that uses asanas (physical postures), pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation, to bring physical, mental and emotional balance to an individual. There are many different ways to practice Hatha Yoga, and some can be more challenging than others, so make sure to try out a variety of classes so that you find a teacher and a style that you like and connect to. It is also important to find a class that is structured specially for beginners, so that you will not feel intimidated or discouraged and also so that you do not become injured. Check too to make sure that the teacher holds a valid certification from a qualified yoga school.
There are also other types of yoga that can be practiced along with Hatha Yoga, and in fact, this is what is recommended in order to gain the most out of your practice.
Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion and is a means of channeling the pure energy of feeling and emotion for the discovery of the inner self, the pure being. It is a suitable path for those who are emotional and for those who feel an affinity to some form of God or higher being. It is also a counterbalance for those who are overly intellectual or rational, releasing blocked emotions and restrictive thought patterns. Bhakti yoga practices include chanting the names of divinity and surrender to a Higher Being.
Raja Yoga is the path of meditation. It is based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, commonly associated with “the 8 limbs” of Ashtanga Yoga: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dyhana, samadhi. Its aim is to enter into the realm of psychic consciousness in order to discover the dormant areas of the mind and the consciousness.
Karma Yoga is the meditative awareness of activities in everyday life. It is also the yoga of selfless service where one performs work without the expectation of reward.
Gyana yoga is the process of meditative awareness that brings us closer to our inner nature. It is a process of inquiry that results in illumined or intuitive knowledge of this inner nature. The knowledge that is sought in gyana yoga isn’t intellectual knowledge. It is wisdom, or intuitive knowledge of our true nature.
Mantra Yoga is the chanting or repetition of sounds, which have an effect on the mental and psychic consciousness of man.
Ideally, one combines all of these types of yoga, known as Integral Yoga, so as to bring about a perfectly balanced state of being. However, they can all be practiced separately and are all perfectly valid paths in and of themselves.
If however, you are looking to yoga for relief from back pain and injury, or if you have high blood pressure or any other medical issue, then Yoga Therapy may be what you need. This is where a qualified Yoga Therapist gives you a personalized program that specifically addresses your issues. Generalized yoga classes are not recommended if these (among other) issues are present, as many yoga postures can and will aggravate these existing problems.
It is also important to know what it is that you would like to gain from your practice. Whether it is physical, mental, emotional or spiritual health and well being, having some goals in mind will give you the motivation and discipline that you will need to stay committed to your practice. Most of all be patient. The effects of your practice accumulate over time so regularity and consistency are key. Many people report feeling better after only their first yoga class, and that feeling of wellness simply increases the more yoga that you do. Eventually, it becomes something that you cannot live without. Yoga is life and life is yoga.
The divine light in me honors the divine light in you.
Karen Stollmeyer, MA, Yogacharya, Yoga Therapist, Founder/Director , Bliss Yoga, Trinidad, Member of International Yoga Federation’s World Yoga Council, www.omblissyoga.org www.facebook.com/blissyogatrinidad