The Basics to Becoming a Yogi

| Fitness

So, you've made the decision to become a full fledged 'yoga person'? Well to transition from novice to yogi, you'll need to find the right fit for you. Yoga instructors like Laurance Gilliot enjoy working with newbies and enjoy being able to help people find their yoga awareness. Before you can find that awareness, however, you need to know where to start. Greatist has come up with three steps to help you find the right yoga fit for you.

yoga studio

Step 1: Feel Out Different Studios

Before you commit to a studio, drop in for an introductory class, or even just stop by and talk with the people hanging around. Just as gyms can run the gamut from Planet Fitness to a CrossFit box, there are lots of variety when it comes to yoga studios, so it’s best to get a feel for your options in person. Yoga instructor Melissa Smith likens yoga studios to a buffet. “Sample as many recommended teachers, styles, and studios as you can,” she says.

Here are three things to consider when selecting a studio:

Location and Price: This might seem like a no-brainer, but the most important part of yoga class is attendance. It doesn’t matter if you sign up for the best studio in town. If the location is inconvenient or cost prohibitive, it'll be difficult to establish a daily yoga habit.

Community: A studio with a good community can deepen your experience. “Practicing with others is a wonderful part of yoga,” says instructor Rob Williams. “A part of this process is about engaging in your life, and life for most of us would be much emptier without a community.”

Here are some important questions to ask yourself to figure out the best kind of yoga community for you:

  • How social do you want to be? Do you want to chat with people from your class, or do you want to run in when you have the time, take the class, and then leave? Studios with a restaurant or coffee shop attached tend to be more social, while studios advertising short lunch-hour classes are more businesslike.
  • Are you interested in learning more about things like meditation, body work, nutrition, or natural health? If you aren’t, and you want to take traditional fitness classes too, you might be better off taking classes at a gym than at a dedicated yoga studio.
  • Do you want spirituality to be part of your practice? Some instructors only teach asana (the physical postures for exercise), while others include chanting and reflections on ancient yogic texts.

Classes Offered: I found accessibility and community to be the most important factors for me to consider when choosing a studio. But if you want to keep your long-term yoga future in mind, make sure to also choose a studio that offers a wide range of classes. As your practice grows, you’ll eventually want to try more challenging classes or target parts of your practice you feel are lacking.

woman yoga pose

No Studios Nearby? 

Google Helpouts are a great option. Using Google Hangouts, the company’s video chat platform, you can virtually connect with a yoga instructor for a one-on-one session. It’s pretty much the next best thing to an in-person class. In a Helpout you can request demo postures, ask for adjustments of specific poses, and get help developing your own routine. If you have specialized needs, such as a serious injury, a Helpout might be better than a large in-person class because you’ll have the teacher’s full attention and none of the urges to compare yourself to the other people.

>>Read more: 10 Yoga Apps to Help You Find Your Zen

What’s with Yoga and Spirituality, Anyway?

You probably wouldn’t be asking yourself this question during a Pilates or a cycling class. That’s part of what makes yoga different. Even though many yoga classes today only teach physical postures, the practice is not just an exercise methodology.

>>Read more: Yoga vs. Pilates: Which is right for you?

Physical postures, known as asana, are just one of the eight limbs of yoga. The other limbs encompass a holistic system with roots in Hindu and Buddhist traditions that govern things like ethics and behavior, self-discipline and faith, breathing, awareness, and meditation.

There’s not enough space here to go deeply into the holistic side of the practice, but there’s a reason that many yoga teachers don’t stick to just telling you how to stretch. Historically, asana was intended to prepare the body for greater spiritual discipline, growth, and union with the divine. Some further disciplines include breathing exercises (called pranayama) and meditation practices. Some teachers also reflect on sacred texts, such as the "Yoga Sutras of Patanjali," or spiritual teachings from many faiths.

This might sound heavy, but a spiritually-oriented yoga class isn't like a religious meeting or service. Instead, it’s an environment where people discuss spirituality. B.K.S. Iyengar's book "Light on Yoga" is a great resource to learn more about yoga and spirituality (Fair warning: It’s not a quick read.).

Step 2: Choose an Instructor You Connect With

Going to your first class should be about finding a teacher you connect with, regardless of the style. Smith advised looking for a teacher who will listen to you and offer feedback on your practice. “Look for a teacher that speaks to you, challenges you,” she says.  “And one that offers you a practice that meets you where you are, not where you want to be.”

Gilliot stressed the importance of finding a yoga instructor who you connect with as a person first, not just as a teacher. “You should like how you feel around them, in their presence, even outside of the class,” she says. “Whatever teacher you have, if you practice a long time with them, in a way, you’ll become a little like them.”

Want to learn more about becoming a yogi? Click here to be taken to the original story on Greatist.

>>Read more: Simple Yoga for People Who Sit Too Much