How to Choose a Yoga Style

Women practicing downward facing dog in yoga class
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The best way to start doing yoga is to take a class for beginners.

But what kind of class should you take? Choosing one off the schedule at your local gym or yoga studio can be baffling, given that there are so many different styles of yoga available. Rather that take a stab in the dark, use the following criteria to narrow your decision to the classes that are most likely to work for you. However, please remember that if you don't like your first class, it doesn't mean that you and yoga aren't meant to be. Sometimes your body wants something different from your mind, so be open to its suggestions. Sometimes it just comes down to not jibing with the teacher's personality. Give it another try or two before calling the whole thing off.

Hatha vs. Vinyasa

Hatha and vinyasa are two very broad categories of yoga. Deciding which of them sounds more appealing to you is the first step toward finding the yoga for your dreams. Hatha tends to be gentle and slow paced, making it an excellent place to dip your toes in and start to learn the basic poses.

However, if you're the kind of person who likes to be more active and move around, hatha could be a big turn off. For a more dynamic, vigorous yoga class, try vinyasa (also called flow). It's going to move a lot faster, so you may have trouble keeping up at first, but in a beginning level class everyone will be in more or less the same situation.

If one of these descriptions made you feel a bit panicky, try the other one.

Hatha and vinyasa are just the beginning when it comes to different types of yoga. Under their umbrellas fall many, many more kinds of yoga classes, each with their own particular slant. Our yoga style cheat sheet gives you a quick rundown of some of the most popular kinds of yoga and makes it easy to compare styles.

How to Be a Beginner

Don't get overwhelmed at this point! You really will be just fine in a beginners' class of just about any kind of yoga. They are used to welcoming newcomers and won't expect you to know anything ahead of time. If you are going to a big yoga studio, ask them at the front desk which teacher they like for beginners. This is a great way to effectively narrow your options.

Even if you are already in great shape, take a few beginners' classes to learn the poses and ease yourself in. You can always move on to something more physically challenging after a few sessions. The first class you try doesn't represent any kind of commitment to a particular teacher, studio, or style. There are so many options that you are sure to find something you like if you keep trying. 

For fun, you can also try to identify your yoga type or figure out what your Yoga Personality is. You might just find the answers you need.