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What's your style?

With so many styles to choose from, you may wonder which one is right for you. Easy answer, the one that helps you develop awareness.

Ok, so that didn’t really answer it for you or did it? Well, finding your style can be like eating your favorite food, but if your favorite food is chocolate ice cream then you might want to rethink things.Here are some things to think about when picking a style:

  • Is it right for your body type? For example, if you are hyper flexible then Yin probably isn’t the best choice because of the focus on stretching fascia and connective tissues. If you are hyper flexible then your connective tissues are already too flexible and an active style of yoga would be better suited for your body type.

Let’s put it this way, if you are healthy then most forms of yoga are suitable, but if you have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), then maybe you should avoid hot yoga because humidity and heat can irritate the nervous system and trigger your RA.

Maybe you have a back injury such as a herniated disk and it might be best to avoid classes with a lot of forward folding, back bends, or sun salutations. Try a class and listen to your body. If you develop pain then you should see the teacher’s advice on how to practice to avoid it. This doesn’t mean quit vinyasa class but it may mean that you need to modify for a while or indefinitely.

  • Does the speed and instruction match your style of learning? You should be able to understand the cues, focus on your breath and keep up with the pace of class.

This is not to say that you should only pick fast flow if you are energetic and bore easily, as sometimes a slower class will challenge your ability to focus and be aware more than one in which you can tune out and glide through using momentum. In other words, just because you are high energy and very athletic does not mean you should always be in a fast flow style class. In fact, to challenge yourself to develop concentration, awareness, and skills that help you meditate you may need to practice more slowly. If you simply do only what you like then you will miss out on the important aspects of well-rounded practice, just like if you eat only chocolate ice cream you’re not eating a balanced diet, though you might end up well rounded in your mid-section.

  • Does it challenge you appropriately? A well rounded practice should challenge you and inspire you to grow. This doesn’t mean that you should be panting or breathless, though it is okay to break a sweat. It means that you should find a class or practice that builds your strength, flexibility, breath control, and concentration over time in a manner that keeps you interested and working attentively because the of yoga is mindfulness. If you glide through class easily and learn nothing about your body and how it feels, moves, breathes, works, and functions together with your mind and spirit and find that you need more challenge in order to stay present, then you may need to move to the next level or ask the instructor for more options or try a style that keeps you more engaged.

  • Does the location, frequency, or price of class match your life? Let’s face it, if you can’t make it to class once a week because of the class schedule or traffic then it doesn’t matter if that style is your favorite. You may need to learn to appreciate a style closer to home with fewer frustrations in order to attend regularly. If price is a problem (and I mean really a problem – not that you don’t want to give up your designer jeans or weekly latte problem but the kind where you can’t put gas in your car, pay your bills, or eat) then talk to the studio owner it. Chances are there are volunteer opportunities or exchanges or time and skills or services that can get you into the classes you desire. Most studios are privately owned and let’s face it, no one’s getting rich teaching yoga. My point here is don’t let cost deter you. Many studio’s and teachers serve the community by offering free or donation based classes. If you don’t live near a studio or your community doesn’t have one check with your community center for classes.

  • Is the teacher a good fit for you? This is definitely personal. Do you like the teacher’s voice, attitude, energy, approach, style, and level of knowledge? You don’t have to love or even like your teacher, but you should be able to respect and appreciate your teacher. If you can’t do that then you should find another teacher. And keep in mind, what you look for in a teacher changes as you change, so don’t be surprised if a teacher you don’t like at first becomes your favorite teacher or vice versa. Remember, one individual can’t please everyone or even you all the time.

The bottom line here is that no one can tell you what classes to take or who to take them from or how often. Only you can decide by sampling the buffet of styles and options that are offered in your community. Try as many as you can, in fact, change it up regularly if you want. That’s part of the joy of yoga.

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