There exists a simple truth that if you don’t find your yoga, you won’t find your true self. Yoga is one of the world’s most ancient systems of self-improvement. It has been around for thousands of years, and has been passed down through generations. Yoga was originally written in India, but has now spread throughout the world.
There are many types of yoga, and you may be juggling several at this very moment. If you are new to yoga, then perhaps you are not sure what your goals are. Are you trying to find a way to relieve stress? Are you hoping to discover some balance and control? If so, what are your immediate or long-term goals? Are you a beginner looking for instruction or a yoga teacher interested in learning more about different styles? Or are you someone who has been practicing yoga for years but wants to explore a new path? Whatever your goals, yoga has a large variety of styles to accommodate all of your needs.
Yoga is not just a thing you do for 15 minutes a day to get a better body or lose a few pounds—it is a lifestyle. Yoga is a spiritual practice; it is about finding your true self and unifying your mind, body, and spirit. Yoga gives you the tools to reach your goals in life. Yoga is not the key to your success, but it is the key to your happiness.
Yoga is everywhere and everyone is part of it. Neither do you, or you wouldn’t be reading this. Don’t you think that people who somehow don’t do yoga are in the minority these days? Thanks to the great yoga boom, there are now multiple yoga studios and yoga teachers in every mid-sized city and community. Yoga is easy to find.
But if you’re on the road or just moved to a new area, how do you find your yoga? It’s not that simple, because the word yoga can have completely different meanings for different people. There are many types of yoga, and the yoga community itself is very diverse, to say the least.
Even if we forget the many types of traditional yoga (bhakti, jnana, karma, kriya, mantra, raja, tantra…) and focus only on hatha yoga (the basis of almost all modern styles, known for its series of stretches and poses), there are hundreds of different styles available to students around the world.
As with any other health and/or fitness related activity, it’s pretty simple: Walk into a gym and you’ll find dumbbells and a treadmill – a gym is a gym. But yoga is not like that. The appearance can be totally different depending on what style of yoga it is. For some, it’s exhausting, sweaty exercise in sauna-like temperatures; for others, the term yoga means sitting in silence for hours with your legs crossed in front of a candle. What’s your style?
What is your yoga style?
Don’t take this block diagram too seriously.
Yogis are very respectful of their yoga even after they have chosen their preferred style, and this is not surprising when you consider the differences between classes. Different levels, different teachers, different rooms, number of songs, music, incense, … I know what you’re thinking: This guy seems to be very particular about his yoga. But you don’t go to a restaurant and order something off the menu, do you? Probably not.
As a yogi, you may also be familiar with the personality change that can result from participating in the wrong yoga class: The expected enthusiasm at the first oooommmmmmmm turns into mild irritation by the seventh hour at the latest. Your mind may freeze for a moment in a state of serene disbelief after twenty minutes have passed and you still haven’t done anything that can be called yoga, but eventually it will fall into one of those totally non-yogic states – annoyance or frustration.
In my experience, a yoga class described on the studio calendar as Vinyasa Flow can mean almost any 90-minute class. You can find yourself:
- Sitting on the mat with your eyes closed, slowly move your hands up and down in sync with your breathing as you recite the Sanskrit mantra.
- Harassment by a teacher who won’t let you do a certain pose because of the full moon and orders you to rest in the child pose because your energy is too high.
- powerfully bouncing through the gym, propelled by the electronically amplified voice of the trainer who would much rather be leading a normal aerobics class.
- Resist the urge to engage in aggressive life coaching and pseudo-medical diagnoses from a self-proclaimed twenty-something healer who has his own vision of health.
- You’re trapped, surrounded by a bunch of yogi super athletes who challenge you to the limit of your abilities in a grueling battle, after which the only way you can crawl out of the room is when it’s all over.
- Giggling uncontrollably in an orgasmic yoga class where all the students are doing their ujjayi breathing so groaningly that you suspect you’re being filmed by a hidden camera (or wonder if you’re doing something wrong).
Yes, I have attended all of these classes. And it’s not just vinyasa flow. Yoga, regardless of style, can vary greatly depending on the teacher, location, and student.
So how do you find the right yoga for you? Here are your options:
Option 1: Google
While Google is great for finding lots of other things, it’s pretty useless when it comes to yoga, and this has led me to some very strange yoga classes. Don’t rely on the class descriptions on yoga center websites that Google has given you.
Option 2: Word of mouth
Most people find their yoga teacher and studio based on recommendations from other yogis. Great if you have a lot of friends who do yoga. Not ideal if you’re from out of town (or have no friends – oh no!).
Should we stop people on the street with a yoga mat and ask them where they are going? Well, you can. I would never have found some of these wonderful studios and teachers if I hadn’t heard about them through friendly encounters with strangers. However, this method is not suitable for everyone.
Option 3: Self-activation
Why are you still looking for a yoga class? You can simply take your rug to your favourite spot in your living room – at your own pace, in the style you prefer. The problem is that it won’t work for those of us who don’t have the experience or discipline to put in the necessary time and effort.
Or maybe, like me, you like to learn new things? Yoga alone is not the same as going to a studio, meeting other yogis and taking a class with a good teacher who helps and guides you in a classroom where he can see what you are doing. You know, in an environment where you can ask questions and not feel like….. and, well, alone. For many people, community yoga is an integral part of yoga and a big part of what they enjoy about yoga.
Option 4: YogaTrail
There are many yoga guides on the internet, but most of them are not very useful because they suffer from one of two problems: either they don’t offer more than what you can find on Google (address, short description and a link to the website), or their listings are sparse, and many of them are often outdated or have nothing to do with yoga (i.e. spam). Most of them also miss the most important ingredient, which is the informed opinion of other yogis.
However, as of last month, there is a new baby on the block that promises to be different. YogaTrail is a global yoga directory where you can find profiles and reviews of tens of thousands of yoga teachers and institutes, and follow yoga events near you and around the world. Just launched, it’s quickly filling up with ads for yoga sales.
Each ad is a very detailed profile with lots of descriptions (even with photos and videos). When you search for yoga on YogaTrail, you can also filter the results by various criteria (e.g., yoga style, cost, facilities, etc.) You’ll also see reviews on listings written by yogis who actually know the teacher or facility.
As part of the evaluation process, expertly worded questions are asked that are relevant to yoga practitioners, avoiding judgments of right and wrong as much as possible. For example, there is a measure of the intellectuality of a tutor’s lessons (there are different measures for each type of profile). Since some people seek spirituality in yoga and others just want to stretch, there is no right or wrong answer, and many of the questions on the exam are just that.
Whether it’s finding studios and teachers, finding a yoga retreat or finding the right teacher training: YogaTrail can really help you find your yoga.