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Which Type of Yoga is Right for You? 5 Simple Questions to Work it Out

Which type of yoga is right for you? With so many types of yoga, teachers, and ways to learn, getting started on your yoga journey can be confusing. The good news is that EVERY yogi you see doing fancy stuff on Instagram or in your local class was once where you are right now. Every. Single. One. 

To get to where they are, you need to first work out what type of yoga you want to do and the approach to learning that works best FOR YOU. And these 5 questions will help you work that out. 

The Five Questions 

The questions themselves are pretty simple:

What do you want to achieve?

What do you enjoy?

What is your current state of fitness and flexibility?

What is your background in sport/movement/dance?

What are your available resources: time, money, space?

 

But coming to the answers might not be! Let’s take them one by one....

1. What do you want to achieve?

You are here because you are looking to start a yoga practice in the type of yoga that suits you best. But why

Are you here to recover from an injury? Then a highly trained Iyengar teacher could be perfect. Do you want to add balance to a form of training or exercise you already do? Yoga for runners class on YouTube perhaps. To start to access some of the mindfulness and spirituality that you hear this practice brings? Maybe Kundalini is what you are looking for. To start a journey to a lifelong practice? Then take your pick!

Have a really honest conversation with yourself about this right up front. 

There is no wrong answer. Though I will bet my bottom dollar that if you are fitness focused initially, the answer will change after you develop a practice. 

Yoga is not fitness or exercise or stretching. It is those things and infinitely more. That it is that more that will keep you coming back. It is what will keep you practicing for a lifetime. If fitness/exercise/stretching are the things you enjoy then then there are going to be more efficient ways to spend your time than on a yoga mat (CrossFit and Pilates immediately spring to mind). But if those things are just a part of what you are looking for, because you acknowledge that we must cherish these physical vessels we have all been gifted with, then this will be the most high return investments you ever make. 

The below chart gives my guide to what the key features of some of the main styles/types of yoga contain. What speaks to you when you look at these options?

yoga-styles-final-320

2. What do you enjoy?

Change ONLY happens with consistency and you are only going to be able to achieve consistency in this new yoga habit if you ENJOY it.  

It’s easy to focus on the physical aspects of what you can/can’t do and what you want to be able to achieve through starting a yoga practice. But I would really encourage you to think about what kind of experience you enjoy the most and what kind of yoga fits that experience. 

All of us enjoy different things: some will want to get sweaty or feel the burn (e.g. Rocket or Bikram). Others may love to sing, so finding a class with chanting might be perfect (e.g. Jivamukti). Someone else might prefer practicing without music so they can focus on their breath (e.g. Iyengar). Some might find medication in movement (e.g. Vinyasa or Ashtanga), others might find it in stillness (e.g. Yin or Restorative). Some might immediately know they want to dive deep into the spiritual side of the practice so want to find a type of yoga and teacher who will really honour the lineage of the practice every time. Do you draw energy from being with other people or prefer to work on new things in private? This might dictate your approach to public classes. 

Have a think about what is going to keep bringing you back day after day, month after month, year after year. Because CONSISTENCY IS EVERYTHING. 

Maybe as a result of the answer to this question you end up picking a type of yoga that is not as intense. Perhaps you won't burn a million calories, or push your muscles to shaking point. But you will see greater “results” - physical and otherwise - by turning up again and again over a prolonged period of time than you ever will only making it to a handful classes before you can’t face going again because it makes you feel rubbish about yourself. 

This is especially true when your ultimate goal is to be able to practice on your own.

3. What is your current state of fitness and flexibility?

This in an inherently relative question. You might be the fittest and most flexible you have every been (congrats by the way!). But on the grand scale of human variance, you might be worried that this isn’t “enough”.

The great thing about ALL styles of yoga is that there are no absolutes. There is no level of fitness or flexibility that is required for any particular school of yoga. But the different ones do lend themselves more or less depending on our starting point. 

Very dynamic styles where you are moving quickly from posture to posture (e.g. Vinyasa, Rocket, Ashtanga, Jivamukti) might be exactly what you are looking if you want to lean into your fitness. Or perhaps that is something to save for a few months down the line! Likewise, styles that move more slowly (e.g. Iyengar, Hatha) or focus on long relaxed holds in postures (e.g. Yin, Restorative) might be perfect for those looking to improve their flexibility without the risk of injury.

The above diagram gives a brief introduction to the main different styles of yoga and my personal take on what the key features of each are.

However, it is always worth remembering that most teachers have a huge amount of leeway over how they teach. You may well find a Vinyasa teacher who teaches a set sequence, or a Yin teacher who likes to add a bit of flowing between postures. Try different ones until you find the right fit.

4. What is your background in sport/movement/dance?

The previous question asked you about your current state of fitness and flexibility. This one asks you to delve into your past. Because if you were a high school gymnast or used to dance regularly or spent five years whizzing around the countryside on your bike every day, then picking up the PHYSICAL elements of a yoga practice is likely to be easier for you. Muscle memory is a FACT.

If you totally avoided these activities until whatever happened to bring you to yoga (that’s me by the way!), then it will likely be harder to get going. 

All of this is good to factor into your decision making process. As again, if you don’t enjoy what you are doing you are much much MUCH less likely to keep coming back. Especially at the start. 

5. What are your available resources: time, money, space?

This is where we get really practical. Achingly, boringly practical. Because the reality is we all have to somehow balance the trade-offs of modern life – money, time, convenience, space – with what our goals are, what we enjoy, and what will work for our body.  

Some of us will do better in a group setting, with the extra motivation that brings. Others would rather go away, quietly read and work things out for themselves. Some have the luxury of being able to invest both time and money in their practice, while others have other more pressing priorities and need a more economical solution. Maybe you barely have space at home to roll out a mat, or are guaranteed to get disturbed the moment you do. Perhaps you live in the middle of nowhere, loving the peace that brings but knowing that means no regular trips to a studio for you.

The below chart lays out the myriad options available when it comes to learning yoga. At a VERY general level, there are likely to be trade-offs between monetary investment and level of input from a teacher. And again, at a VERY general level, some investment in an option towards the top right is likely to get to you a place where you can utilize the options in the bottom left both safely and effectively. 

And when you are ready to jump into a yoga self-practice, we have the perfect resources to help: starting with The Book of Yoga Self-Practice.

Yoga-Learning-Chart-with-ogo-320

Conclusion: your type of yoga

Finding the right school with the type of yoga for the version of you that you are at this precise moment in your life is the KEY to falling in love with the practice. And falling in love with the practice is what will mean you stick with it, FOREVER. 

The type of yoga that there is not only doesn’t matter, but it may well change as you and your needs and interests change too. What a gift it is to all of us that this wonderful tradition we call Yoga has so much diversity and flexibility within it!

So let me ask you once again:

What do you want to achieve?

What do you enjoy?

What is your current state of fitness and flexibility?

What is your background in sport/movement/dance?

What are your available resources: time, money, space?

 

Happy practicing!

 

P.s. If you are specifically looking to build a yoga self-practice, we have the perfect resources to help you. The Book of Yoga Self Practice is the ultimate guide for every aspiring yogi or dedicated student who wants to find the magic of an independent yoga practice.

It is a step-by-step guide which will show you how to overcome the challenges of starting, continuing and progressing in a yoga self-practice.

Combining beautiful design with heartfelt writing, it provides 20 unbelievably helpful tools which you can implement in your yoga practice TODAY.

If you found enjoyed reading this blog, I think you'll love reading this book!

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