Ask the Yogi: What Yoga Class is Best for Me?

Q: I am new to yoga and not sure what class would be best for me.  I have not been exercising for some time because I have some lower back pain.  I hear that yoga is good for your lower back.  What kind of class would be best for me to start with?

A: That is a good question for you to ask.  Not all yoga classes are the same and not all yoga classes would be as helpful to you as one that is more geared towards your issues.  Many beginners end up in what are called beginner classes, but the physical activity in the class is actually somewhat advanced.

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You have two situations equally important.  First of all, you have no experience with yoga and need a class that will teach you proper alignment and form in a simplified way.  No one wants to be in a class where everyone else seems to know what is going on while they can’t figure out what to do.  So, you definitely need a beginning styled class.  Equally important, in fact perhaps more important to your health is that you have been inactive due to a lower back issue.  While yoga can be of great benefit in helping us with low back problems, too much activity and the wrong type of activity can make a back issue worse.  You need a class that is specifically designed for those with physical issues therefore a typical beginning yoga class will not likely be the best for you.

Due to your history of back problems you need a gentle class that will guide you toward recovery and strength.  Poses will need to be modified for your condition and you will need plenty of feedback from your instructor to keep you working in a way that is beneficial to you.  Luckily, some yoga classes are designed to help those with physical issues.  You can tell by the title of some classes, such as ‘Yoga for Bad Backs’ but most are going to be more subtle such as ‘Gentle Recuperative Yoga‘.  Your best bet is to find out who is teaching the class and contact them to ask what type of class they offer.  Ask them if they have experience working with people with back problems.  Ask if there are other people in the class that have injuries or issues.  Once you get confirmation that a class is designed to offer you appropriate options for your condition then you can feel more confident in attending.  However, be careful.  Nothing in a yoga class should make you feel discomfort if you are doing it as you should.  You may feel somewhat awkward, maybe a little confused at times and eventually fatigued, however it is not okay to feel discomfort or pain from yoga movements.

So, look around for a specialized class, ask the instructor if they are experienced with your type of issue and take it slow and easy.  Soon, with the right class you will be learning the beginning stages of yoga and at the same time benefiting your back.

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