What Kind of Yoga Should I Do?

A yoga practice should complement your physical health, emotional temperament, and intellectual interests. Yoga can be practiced by reading books, or volunteering, or meditating, but the physical exercises are a popular place to start. Here are a few aspects to consider.

Consider the pace of the class. If you’re injured, or have never practiced athletics, start slowly. Restorative classes might spend 20 minutes in each pose. Forrest, Iyengar, and Anusara poses last a few minutes each. Vinyasa classes might spend only one breath per pose. The slower you go, the more details you’ll be able to pick up. The faster you go, the more focused you’ll have to be.

Consider the tone. Some studios are very religious, some are quite cheeky, some are both. Kundalini classes include a lot of chanting. Power Yoga is more like athletic cross-training. Are you open to devotional language? Or do you prefer the technical aspects of practice?

Consider your habits. Do you like surprises, or plans? Set sequences, such as Bikram, Ashtanga, or Atmananda, provide a predictable routine that’s eventually memorized. Other teachers will design a sequence for the season, or the moment.

Consider your safety. Yoga poses can be quite intense and even wearing on the body. Schools like Iyengar and Anusara are quite strict and detail-oriented about alignment. Styles like Vinyasa will weave instructions into a faster flow. Traditional styles like Hatha or Sivananda might not address anatomy at all. Think about the level of detail you need.

A practice that’s roughly 80% what we like, and 20% what we need, will address our weaknesses but keep us motivated to come back.

I’ve written more about the various styles of yoga here:
http://yogoer.com/yoga/styles.php

And there’s a great reading list on the Anusara website:
http://anusara.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=69&Itemid=183