I’ll have the Kundalini for Breakfast

How to Choose a Yoga Style

I imagine when you first start looking for a yoga class it’s like looking at a menu in Japanese.
“What did we have last time, Dear?”, “Oh, I think it was the Ashtanga Yoga with a side of Kundalini.”
There are as many different styles of yoga as there are types of bodies. Choosing the right style of yoga
for yourself can prevent injury while improving your health.

I can’t tell you how many students come to me and say, “my doctor recommended I start doing
yoga.” “Great!” I say. I’m grateful Doctors are not only recognizing the benefits of yoga but prescribing
it as well. New students who are unfamiliar with yoga may think all yoga classes are the same with
varying degrees of difficulty. The truth is each style has it’s own benefits and difficulties.

My problem is when someone with a shoulder injury ends up in an Ashtanga or Power yoga
class where they practice Plank pose, Downward dog and Inversions until their shoulder is worse. The
ironic thing here is that practice is know for strengthening shoulders! People within the community
including teachers, studio owners and yoga practitioners take for granted that they understand these
subtleties.

One of my missions as a yoga teacher is getting as many people to practice yoga as I can. I’m
biased of course! What I worry about is a new student picking the wrong class, not enjoying the
practice and not returning. Or even worse severely injuring themselves. Yoga classes are not
standardized. Every studios version of Hatha yoga may be different. Not to mention every teacher has a
different background and different influences. In an open yoga class a teacher may blend several
different styles. It’s this melting pot that makes yoga practice beautiful and original.

Often, if you have an injury, the yoga teacher will say something like, “do as much as you can
and skip anything that doesn’t feel right.” I know because I’ve said those same words myself. I have
also been on the other side. When you are in the moment you will follow along with the class
regardless of your injury. I’m not sure if it’s the social pressure or if it is simply because it feels good in
the moment. Inevitably, you end up over doing it and irritating your injury.

The last issue I’d like to address is our human nature. It’s natural for us to run away from things
that we dislike and run towards things that feel good. Yoga students who are highly active and practice
sports have told me they find most classes boring. For this group I recommend they try a more vigorous
fast paced practice like Ashtanga, Bikram, Power Vinyasa or something. With one caveat, those of you
who have difficulty slowing down, keep in mind that is probably what you need the most.

Tips for choosing a yoga class. If you are fully healthy body and mind try as many styles as you can
and be open to new styles. You never know when you will find your favourite style or teacher. If you
are injured. Please stay home and rest your injury! When you are ready to practice again start slow
below your ability. If you experience pain after that class, again, rest your injury. Do not work through
the pain. Lastly, investigate, ask the studio or teacher to explain exactly what you will be doing in class
and what you can expect from a teacher’s style. This goes double if the teacher is a substitute. Check
out our interactive schedule. You can get a detailed a description by clicking on the class name.

Happy Practicing!

Yoga Acharya, Amrita

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