Reminder: Make sure you check out my anti-bullying picture book review & giveaway!
It turns out, like most fitness activities, there are MANY levels and styles to yoga. My brief introduction had been to basic relaxation yoga, but that's really just the beginning. Two of the most common styles of yoga (at least that I'm familiar with--remember, I'm no expert!) are hatha and vinyasa, variations on these being things like bikram/hot yoga and ashtanga yoga. My absolute favorite is vinyasa yoga, which flows with the breath through series of poses(vinyasas or "flows") stemming from the traditional Sun Salutation. You might think it would get boring going through the same series of poses over and over, but there are about a billion and a half variations on the sun salutation. It starts simple, but you can add in many different, challenging poses to flows that greatly increase the difficulty of practice. Hatha yoga typically involves holding traditional poses with less "flow" than vinyasa. (I made the mistake of going to an ashtanga class once when I was just starting out...I was sore for like four days. After consistent practice for the past several months, I think I *might* be ready to try it again, but that is for sure a challenging class!) I love vinyasa yoga best because it is fast paced (I get antsy with anything too slow!!), a great strength workout for your whole body (I can see a noticeable difference in my shoulders and arms since I started consistently doing yoga!), and an amazing stretch.
I was super intimidated when I first started taking yoga classes, but the great thing is that almost all of them are multi-level. That means instructors will provide variations throughout the class that give you a chance to modify or challenge yourself. If you get lost or have a hard time during your first class, don't worry!! It happens to absolutely everyone. Give yourself permission to take lots of breaks in child's pose, permission to lose your balance and fall (more than once), and come back for another class. You will be absolutely amazed at how quickly your body adapts and how you are able to do more and more challenging poses with less and less difficulty.
|Child's Pose (source)|
If you are new to yoga and interested in trying it out, dvds, podcasts, and online videos are a great place to start! I know Comcast also has some on demand yoga workouts, and hulu plus and netflix both have a few. Also, most gyms or yoga studios will let you do a free trial if you're curious and would like to try out a class. I actually learned a lot of basic yoga poses on my parents' Wii Fit! Practicing individual poses at home was a great way to get comfortable with them outside of yoga class so that when I was at class I could better follow along with the flows. Another great way to familiarize yourself with poses is youtube! I actually plan to look for a video on youtube of an arm balance pose I was struggling with tonight when I finish writing this post. (Some good poses for beginners: downward dog, cobra, warrior 1, warrior 2, triangle pose, tree pose [<--my FAVORITE], and the Sun Salutation sequence.)
Forgive me for this terrible photo. You have no idea how long it took me to even get this passably decent one. Taking pictures of yourself in yoga poses ain't easy when you live alone, yo!
Another nice thing about yoga is that you need almost no gear to practice. Most gyms/studios will provide mats and props, but trust me when I say that if you have ANY interest in doing yoga you should treat yourself to a mat. I am DRIPPING with sweat after most vinyasa and hot yoga classes, and there is NO WAY I'd want to lay my face flat on a mat covered with someone else's old sweat...and foot germs...gross. The good news is that you can pick a pretty mat up at target for a reasonable price. That's about it! No fancy shoes or random gadgets, maybe just a block and strap if you need the help of props, but like I said most classes will provide those.
If one of your new year's resolutions is to try a new type of cross training, give yoga a shot! I hope you love it as much as I do!