I started with the least active - Yin yoga, where you hold each deep stretch for something like 3-10 minutes, which supposedly allows the muscles to release their engagement so the deep connective tissues (tendons, fascia, etc) can release and stretch. This class requires no exertion of muscular energy, but brings up all sorts of not-so-pleasant emotions (anxiety, annoyance, anger, boredom, impatience, panic, to name a few) as you lay in some deep hip opening pose, trying to breath deeply for what feels like forever and trying not to throw something at the teacher (yes I have emotional violence issues). The class builds patience though, and encourages me to practice the concept of surrender.
Then there are the Core and Pilates classes, which are not yoga classes but they strenghten your core muscles to aid with the yoga poses. In my opinion every yoga studio should offer these classes because so many people do not have strong cores, but they mistakenly think that they can't do many yoga poses solely because they are inflexible or have weak arms and/or legs.
Then onto Hatha classes, which basically means any of the physical practices of yoga asanas (including all the Power yoga styles). However, in yoga studios it seems to be a label reserved for yoga classes consisting of beginner asanas, with no full vinyasas, arm balances or inversions.
And then, staring at the scariest description for a yoga class: "A challenging class containing arm balances and inversions in a room heated to ~32ºC", I asked the front desk receptionist how many months should I practice yoga before I would be fit enough to try out a Power yoga class (I could not do inversions or any arm balances, let alone doing them in a heated room only several degrees cooler than hot yoga). She assured me I could give it a try right away, so I gingerly walked into this class, hoping I could make it through the full hour. My downward dog still sucked, but the teacher gave extremely detailed instructions on how to engage muscles in different parts of my body, and assured me that my shoulders and arms will get stronger if I keep practicing this pose (so it's a strengthening pose before it becomes a resting pose?). Half way through class, some students were balancing their body weights on their bent arms, which looked like crazy gymnastics/break dancing moves that I figured I'd never be able to accomplish. At least the teacher didn't make fun of me for not being able to attempt them. I was allowed to just sit and watch these girls do their thing with genuine amazement/admiration.
Seeing that I had survived my first power class without declaring defeat half way through, it was time to go back and conquer Hot yoga. I picked one fine day, brought a 2L water bottle to my office, gradually transferring all that liquid into my body as the day went by. I carefully timed it so that I finished eating 2.5 hours before the class started, and walked into Hot yoga room, ready to take on this feat. With a different teacher guiding the class, the poses seemed nowhere nearly as challenging as I remembered them on my first day. How did that happen? Turns out that, as Murphy's Law would have it, I picked my first hot yoga class with a teacher who likes to combine postures to increase the difficulty of the class (eagle pose straight into airplane pose; Utthita hasta padangusthasana C for ~10 breaths, then directly transition to warrior III, for example). He is now one of my favorite yoga teachers, but for a first yoga class, it was more than a little overwhelming.
I could keep going with the other types of yoga classes I have tried after that: Kundalini, Restorative, Iyengar, Anusara, etc etc etc. I enjoyed them all, and continue to take these classes whenever I can since I am extremely fortunate to have access to truly superb teachers specializing in each of these styles. However, I'm just going to cut this post short and blurt out my favorite yoga style: Ashtanga yoga rocks!!
There, I've said it. It's out. I feel better now.
Next post: why I am absolutely in love with Ashtanga yoga.