How do I start yoga?
This week I’m going to write about the best way to start doing yoga. Now, because you’re on the Man Flow Yoga website, I’m obviously going to recommend that you start doing yoga by using the videos that I’ve created. Almost all of these videos are available on my YouTube channel, but there are also some available for digital download from gumroad.com. I recommend my videos because I get straight to the physical technique of yoga and I ignore a lot of stuff that I don’t find to be physically beneficial. Yes… cue the moaning from people who want more than just a workout from yoga. But if people want to find the more meditative or spiritual aspects of yoga, I think that they will eventually find it. The focus of Man Flow Yoga is on the physical, and if I am just a gateway for someone to jump into yoga for all of the spiritual, meditative, or other aspects that yoga can potentially offer, then that’s awesome. More power to you. But I won’t compromise my beliefs about yoga as physical exercise to appease you.
Now, the next step, once you’ve gotten confident enough to do the poses and are ready to be in the physical presence of other people doing yoga, or you really want to meet that girl in the Lululemon yoga pants you see on Facebook, then it’s time to take it to the studio. But which studio? My advice is to go to as many studios as possible, and try out as many styles as you can. If you enter Studio A and encounter an instructor who starts chanting in Sanskrit and takes you through a class that barely causes you to sweat, then it might be time to check out another studio. The good thing about yoga studios is that they tend to almost all offer some sort of free class or free trial period. Do your research, test out some different studios and instructors, and find out which one is best for you. Most studios have instructors who do yoga for a plethora of reasons, and they all have their own styles, which means that you may hate and love certain instructors, even if they both teach at the same studio. The reality is that for most yoga instructors, their instruction is a deeply personal thing. Their teaching style reflects their own ideas regarding yoga, their own physical fitness experiences, and the type of experience that they want to give their clients. Very rarely will you encounter a yoga instructor who is “faking” it. Also, don’t be too closed-minded when it comes to selecting a particular type of yoga. You never know which one you will like. Don’t take my suggestions without doing some exploring yourself. There are a few styles of yoga out there, that I will go over according to my own understanding, as an athlete who started yoga for physical fitness.
Bikram Yoga – Holy shit. 90 minutes, 26 poses, and 105 degree weather. This is the hardest workout I have ever done, hands down. If you want to improve the health of your spine and get jacked legs, try this out. Bikram Yoga, however, is the same sequence every time, and can get boring. It also does not work out the upper body too much, so you’ll have to supplement Bikram with upper body work for the complete package. It’s also quite the time commitment – 90 minutes a day, plus the 90 minutes that it will take for you to get ready and then stop sweating makes this quite the ordeal. The instructors are also slightly insane – they don’t allow for variations and will call you out in class if you do so. I usually just end up smirking at them while they passively address me. Also, there’s no music. Namaste, motha fucka.
Ashtanga – Fun stuff. This is a full body workout that really focuses on core. Similar to Bikram, it is a set series of poses. I have had great experiences with this. It is very challenging, yet fun. I highly recommend Ashtanga. The workout can last anywhere from 1.5 – 2 hours, depending on the instructor and your pace.
Vinyasa – The most popular form of yoga. Classes range from 45 minutes to 90 minutes. What differentiates Vinyasa yoga from other forms of yoga is the bottom half of the sun salutation which typically separates sequences of poses; the “vinyasa”, which involves a plank, half push-up, cobra or up dog (a back bend), and then a return to downdog. Downdog is your home base, and from there you transition one from pose to another. I recommend this class because it doesn’t take 90 minutes, and it’s typically much more fun than Ashtanga or Bikram because there is no set format. Vinyasa instructors generally allow their students to take variations and to express themselves as they choose. Sometimes this leads to people doing things outright incorrectly, and many instructors don’t have the balls to correct them a lot of the time, but if you know what you are doing, then Vinyasa is great. I also personally think that you need more than just a 60-minute vinyasa class daily to stay in great shape.
Man Flow Yoga – Obviously the best form of yoga for physical fitness. (Only half joking.) Man Flow Yoga assumes that people are less flexible, and that they need to be properly warmed up before they begin poses that require a significant amount of flexibility. Vinyasas are used sparingly. Poses are held for a longer amount of time so that the practitioner has time to work into the pose, increase their flexibility, focus on proper technique, and increase their strength and endurance. Man Flow Yoga also focuses on efficiency. The idea is to use as many muscle groups as possible and cut down on break time, and to not get caught up on complex poses which are only accessible to people with a significant amount of flexibility. The cons are that you won’t do any meditation, chant, or hear the instructor read a poem at the end of class. Fiddle sticks – I was really looking forward to that.
So, now you know a bit more about some different types of yoga, as described by a lax bro that started a yoga company. If you want to learn more about Man Flow Yoga, I am hosting the Inaugural Man Flow Yoga Retreat in Roatan in the Bay Islands from August 9 – August 16. This is the closest thing to a training program that I have. Consider attending if you want to are interested in what really sets Man Flow Yoga apart. Full details here.