When looking for a yoga class, you’re likely to be confronted by a long list of options. So many names and seemingly different types of yoga. How are you supposed to choose? As yoga’s popularity grew, the boom of new teachers and studios meant several of them started to put their own spin on the practice. Over time, this resulted in many new techniques and interpretations. The good news is that it’s possible to cut through the overwhelm—and in so doing, to find something just right for your body, specific preferences, injuries, fitness levels, and more. 

Keep reading for how to narrow your choices and take the right class: 

If you’re new to yoga, then try a Basics, Level 1/2, or Alignment class.

These classes will help you acquire an understanding of what yoga asana (or postures) are, and to learn the basics of the practice. If you are seeking to improve flexibility, mobility and strength and are unsure where to begin, start here!

If you’ve been practicing yoga for at least a year, have knowledge of yoga postures, and a basic understanding of their Sanskrit names, then try classes labeled Int/Adv, Level 2/3, Vinyasa Flow, Athletic, Hatha, Ashtanga.

These are suitable if you are relatively pain and injury free, and are comfortable holding a plank and bearing weight in your upper body. You should be able to keep a slow, steady breath throughout your movement while maintaining body awareness and using props. These classes are more rigorous, so be ready to work up a sweat!

If you are looking to add more intensity to your practice, try hot yoga or heated vinyasa.

Most offer a flow style of yoga (see the first style mentioned above in this article) in a room that is over 85 degrees and up to 105 degrees. Think quick-paced yoga flow in a sauna! It’s recommended that you have experience with yoga before joining one of these classes, are generally healthy, and do not have any conditions that heat or sauna like temperatures would aggravate.

If you’re looking for a non-sweaty, low level, chilled out and grounded practice—or if you’re working with an injury, feeling lower on energy, or seeking an oasis to relieve stress & tension—try Restorative Yoga.

Restorative classes often use a handful of props to make the body comfortable on the ground, promoting deep rest and release of muscular tension and stress. Expect to be in several comfortable and supported postures for more than 5 minutes. Restorative yoga promotes healing, relaxation, and states of peace and calm—and the restful nature of the class will allow you to tune into your breath and body in a holistic way. 

If you’ve taken a few yoga classes and are looking for a more mellow practice that is close to the ground, but still incorporates an element of flow, then check out Slow Flow or Gentle Yoga classes.

These styles incorporate more elements of passive stretching, mindful movement, and relaxation practices. Try them if you’re looking for a soothing flow, are working with an injury and would like time and space to learn more about your body, are curious about modifications that are best for you, or are wanting to get back into yoga after a break away from it.

If you’re interested in other aspects of yoga that are not asana (posture) based, or are looking for help with stress and anxiety, then try Meditation, Yoga Nidra, Pranayama classes.

These will consist of breath work, mantras (short positive phrases), and other techniques aimed to downregulate the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system and promote peace, calm, and quiet. These types of classes focus on training the mind and toning the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system. Meditation, Yoga Nidra and Pranayama classes are accessible for everyone, no matter their age, mobility, lifestyle, etc.

If you’re someone who typically practices more Yang (fire, energetic, active) styles of yoga, like Vinyasa or Hatha, a Yin class (earthy, slower, grounded, spacious) can provide a great balance.

Yin Yoga is focused on passive stretching and holding various poses for longer durations of time. This creates flexibility in the body and an energetic balance between body and mind. Yin yoga can also improve your ability to sit longer or more comfortably during a mediation practice. Passive stretching has a temporary analgesic effect on the nervous system, which can produce a greater range of motion for a short period of time. 

If you feel you need a more tailored approach to a yoga practice, try a specialty class!

You can find Yoga For Runners, Yoga for Athletes, Yoga for Scoliosis, Yoga Therapy, Yoga Sculpt, Yoga with Resistance Bands, Pre- and Postnatal Yoga, Yoga for Cancer, Yoga for Parkinson’s, and so much more. These classes are for those looking for a more tailored approach to a yoga practice, have a specific condition, or train for a particular sport. They often combine yoga and other movement types, as well as strength exercises, specific themes, mediation, breathing techniques, etc.

If you're not a fan of group classes, try setting up a private lesson with an instructor who teaches the style you want to explore.

Group classes often consist of general cues and information, while in a private lesson the instructor can offer you specific cues, movements, and poses that best suit your needs and goals.

When it comes to what’s available, the examples above are just the tip of the iceberg. Ideally, as you dig in and explore further, the grouping technique we’ve laid out—starting with your need, moving to bigger categories that fit, and then continuing to explore within those—should help you hone in on what could work from you. From there, you can always read the description of the class before signing up—and then dive in! If it’s not what you expected, you may discover something new you enjoy. 

Giulia began studying and practicing yoga to supplement her dance training during her time as a B.F.A Dance major at The Boston Conservatory. Yoga became a natural extension of dance for Giulia, providing a different path to discover more about herself. A few years and injuries later, she expanded how she views and teaches yoga through her pursuit of extensive studies in movement and kinesiology, anatomy, physiology and biomechanics. She left the dance and performing world behind, but its knowledge, detail, body awareness, and passion still infuses in her work.

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