I started practicing yoga when I was a senior in high school. I was under a lot of stress from schoolwork and family drama and those emotions began to represent themselves physically - I had trouble concentrating during the day and I slept fitfully with recurring nightmares almost every night. Someone recommended that I try yoga because it's a form of moving meditation so I went to a class at my local gym. It took time for me to make yoga a habit but even from that very first class, I realized how beneficial yoga was for my mind and my body.
Yoga is really about connecting with the body you have right now - not the body you wish you had or the body you used to have - so yoga is very healing. What I love most about my job is that I get to help other people feel comfortable in their bodies. Yoga can fix your aching lower back or help strengthen weak muscles but the real yoga is when a student accepts themselves completely and learns to respect the body they inhabit. That's where real transformation happens.
A beginning yoga student should look for any yoga class with the following words in the description:
Hatha, beginner (obviously), basic, gentle, restorative, or Iyengar. There are any number of websites that explain the differences between yoga styles and more yoga styles than even I probably know. For a very basic introduction:
Hatha - tradition of yoga most commonly practiced in the U.S. This type of class is usually slower paced, with long holds for each pose.
Vinyasa - means flowing with the breath. These classes can be moderate to difficult in intensity and some are a real cardiovascular workout (Power Vinyasa).
Iyengar - tradition of yoga that focuses on precise alignment. People with injuries or those seeking an extremely knowledgeable instructor look for this type of class.
Restorative - these classes focus on deep relaxation and meditation, appropriate for every body type and athletic ability.
Practicing yoga outside is great fun! It takes a week or two before you stop worrying about other people watching you and then you get to really enjoy it. It's very therapeutic to feel the sun on your back and the wind in your hair during your practice. At the end of class, when you're in final relaxation (savasana) on your back, you feel so connected to the earth and to life.
Right now I have no intention to own a yoga studio - it's too much work! But my ideal space would have wood floors, a lot of natural light and well-insulated, quiet walls. The beauty of yoga is that you don't need a lot to enjoy your practice. The main requirements of yoga are enough space (to lie flat and extend your arms out to the sides) and quiet. Even a yoga mat isn't necessary.
Private lessons are so much more rewarding than group classes for me because I get to be a guide and a witness to my student's experience and transformation. Working one on one with a client allows me to identify their strengths and weaknesses and to define goals for their practice - whether physical (I want to do a handstand) or mental (I want to experience more peace). I highly recommend every yoga student to take at least one private lesson, just to refine their practice and enjoy the individual attention.
Many thanks to my dear friend Laura McCorry for thoughtfully answering my questions. If you are interested in yoga in the San Diego area, please visit her Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/LauraMcCorryYoga