I was 26 when I first tried yoga and to tell you the truth, I was a little scared and intimidated when I entered that room in the YMCA. I wasn't sure what to expect or if I was going to be able to do any of the poses. After practicing for 12 years and being a yoga teacher now for the last three years, I thought I could give some insight on how to approach finding a yoga class that works for you.
First, try as many styles of yoga as you can find where you live. I'm not talking about youtube videos, but actually going to a studio. I cannot emphasize this enough! The live yoga teacher will be able to set you up with props and variations of poses to suit your body and level of yoga experience. Depending on your activity level and what other kinds of workouts you do, there is a yoga to complement your fitness routine. Restorative, gentle, beginner Hatha, Iyengar, and Yin are all great places to start. If you like a more athletic type yoga, try a Vinyasa, Bikram, or Ashtanga practice. I've practiced all of these forms of yoga at some point in my practice, except for Bikram. Bikram classes are heated to 105 degrees. According to Ayurvedic medicine, I'm a Pitta, which means I already run hot, therefore more heat would not be good for me. I found that Iyengar yoga, which is an alignment-based practice, was very helpful for when I was attending Vinyasa flow classes (a style that links poses with the breath and moves quickly.) I knew where to position my feet and how to transition from Warrior 1 to Warrior 2 in Vinyasa classes with ease. Each style of yoga, in my opinion, gleans a different facet in the asana limb of yoga.
Second, after you find a style you like, try different teachers of that same style. Say you go to an Iyengar class and the teacher is a villain, (sometimes they are because Iyengar teachers are sticklers on alignment) go to another Iyengar teacher! Don't just give up on the style. Try out a few different teachers and find one you can groove with. You will have an immediate feeling, at least I did, and I would go their classes and sign up for their workshops. I started to get to know my teachers on a personal level by attending their workshops, since it's a little more relaxed and casual. You may even begin a lifelong friendship with your yoga teacher.
Third, don't be discouraged by what you see in the yoga class. In the beginning, your head my be on a swivel as you try to navigate your way through the first hundred yoga classes. You may see people doing all sorts of acrobatic or "advanced" poses. Don't be discouraged, everyone has to start someplace. Don't feel like you need to be able to contort your body in those bendy shapes in the beginning. . . or ever!! That is how most people sustain yoga injuries, gotta watch that ego! Each of our bodies was put together differently and we come to class with different life experiences, range of motion, injuries, and/or prior surgeries. We need to be aware and respect where we are in the practice each day. As long as you are breathing, you are doing your yoga! Breath into the space and shape your body is making, even if it doesn't look like the skinny, white-girl pose on Yoga Journal magazine or instagram. Yoga is for every body; old, young, fat, skinny, black, white, whatever. You are only limited by your mind and what you believe about yourself. So think good thoughts as you move your body in class!
And lastly, once you find your classes, your teachers, keep showing up! The days that you resist the practice are the days that you need it the most. I speak from experience. I never went to a yoga class that I regretted, only the ones I skipped. Once the asana practice has captured your attention, you will begin to open your eyes to the other aspects of yoga; yes, it's more than just asana. Yoga is a lifestyle and a way to live life with less attachment. So, turn off your phone, roll out the mat, and be in the moment.