One of the common misconceptions about yoga (at least here in Finland) is that it is only a relaxing experience. Now this is partly true, since the ultimate aim of any kind of yoga is to relax the body and through that achieve a quiet and relaxed state of mind. But there are certainly many types of yoga which offer a real physical challenge for those of you who (like me) are sometimes too stressed out to be able to let go of tension without first tiring the body.
When people come to class for the first time, I often hear comments like “Well, I never knew yoga could be like this” or “Pheeuw, that was tough”. This is because they’ve come to a class of Ashtanga or Dynamic Hatha Yoga, which both certainly can offer a challenge for those who crave one. Then again, if those people go to Yin Yoga or a restorative Hatha Yoga class, they’ll have a totally different experience, since the aim of these types of yoga is to stretch the body, increase mobility in muscles and joints and above all: to achieve a calm and balanced mind through relaxing and quieting down.
So when you’re choosing a yoga class, just think about what you need the most and what kind of person you are. What is your natural energy level and basic temperament? Do you want to relax, quiet down and stretch out or do you need a physical challenge first and then relaxation?
If you happen to stumble on the “wrong” kind of class, don’t give up, since there are a myriad of varieties to choose from. And remember that any kind of yoga will be good for you, but some varieties might be easier to start with. Usually, if you stick with it, your appetite for yoga will increase, and you’ll probably end up widening your repertoire with time.
Also: all yoga teachers have their own distinctive style and if it doesn’t match yours, you can always try another class. But if you have one bad experience, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Keep at it, and you’ll surely find a variety that suits both your temperament and lifestyle.