It's Not What You Think...
We have a lot of first-time yogis coming to our studio, many may come with the impression that yoga will be easy. This results in a little bit of a surprise when they find themselves in what might be a more challenging and dynamic practice. This misunderstanding of how easy a beginners yoga class will be is likely affected by the style of class the yogi attends. We have found that a lot of people think yoga is just laying on the floor and relaxing (and although sometimes it can be), it's understandable how these people may be a little shocked and upset when they're in their first class sweaty and tired! What we're trying to say is just because a class is labelled beginners does not make it easy. A beginners class is designed to challenge you, to teach you the fundamentals of yoga, the basic asanas (postures) and flows and very importantly, it strengthens your muscles and assists your flexibility so that later down the line in your yoga journey you can master more challenging and advanced poses!
What Beginner Friendly Actually Means
So as we have established, beginner does not mean easy, but what does it actually mean? A beginner friendly class will mean it is accessible for complete novices, this means someone with no experience should be able to do the class and modifications and adjustments will be given to support the student at their level of strength and flexibility. Each pose in a beginners class should be attainable with modifications if needed and the flow should be clear and easy to follow. Of course, not all bodies are built the same and so naturally some poses will just not be comfortable or wise to practice for some individuals. In all yoga classes, not just beginners, it is completely okay (and in fact totally encouraged!) to come out of a pose and take a more comfortable position, such as child's pose, if this is the case. Just because you can hold a pose does not mean it will not be challenging and just because most bodies can move through a beginner friendly vinyasa flow does not mean it will not be a workout.
In summary, a beginners class will teach you the fundamentals of yoga, the correct alignment for the pose and will build strength and improve flexibility. Whilst doing so it may still challenge you physically and psychologically, allowing you to grow as yogi and as a person.
Although most people should be able to follow along, the class style may mean they do not get the most out of their class. This is where our introduction to class styles comes in!
How Different Class Styles Affect The Level Of The Class
There are so many different styles of yoga and each one is different in how challenging you will find it. Different people love different styles and what works for one may not work for another. Not only will your enjoyment of a class vary with each style, but so will its difficulty for you. Some people love an active, dynamic and physically challenging Vinyasa or Ashtanga class but do not at all enjoy a more gentle Restorative or Yin Class and actually find it really hard to find stillness in each pose, or vice versa. This is why it is recommended to have some idea of what the class you are attending will involve. It's great to try all the different class styles on offer so you can see what actually works for you. Although you may have an idea of the type of class you're looking for, you never know what will work for your body until you try it.
We think people get confused when they see 'beginner' in the class name and assume it will be gentle and slow but are in fact actually attending an active Vinyasa Flow. That is why we have created this really simple guide to the different basic and beginner friendly class styles to clear up any misunderstanding!
Vinyasa: This style is probably the most common class you will come across, generally quite fast paced and dynamic, the focus is often on the flow, the movements between the asanas as well as the breath. This class is a more physically exerting workout class. Great for flexibility, mobility, strength and weight loss.
Ashtanga: The focus of ashtanga is to build strength and flexibility as well as detoxify the body through a set sequence of postures that do not change. This style has a huge following and is both loved and hated for it’s repetition and strict order. Classes are normally 90 minutes and as you are working the same muscles from following the same sequence, they will tire. These classes can be beginner friendly but it may be worth speaking to your teacher prior to attending.
Restorative: This class aims to restore, refresh and renew a tired body and mind. The class will transition into a series of restorative poses throughout the class. It is the ultimate class for slowing down and treating yourself in a calming and relaxing environment. This class is ideal for all people, including those dealing with injuries. All levels and beginner-friendly. Restorative is a slow and gentle style and you may only hold a few poses throughout the class. This class is great for helping with stress and restoring a tired body.
Yin: This style focuses on intense deep stretching of the body’s connective tissues and around the joints. It is a slow-paced meditative and profound practice and focuses on the energy channels within the body. With the focus on improving flexibility over strength, most postures are seated and can feel quite challenging at times. You will hold postures for up to 5-7 minutes to discover how your body is storing and releasing tension. This is a great complimentary class for those who run, attend the gym or practice sports or more dynamic yoga styles.
There are many other styles of yoga but these are the most common beginner friendly classes and often are the inspiration of other class styles.
Depending on what you want from your class, the style you choose will vary and we hope this has helped clearing up any confusion as to what a beginner friendly yoga class actually means!
By: Katrina Scales