Yoga comes in so many different styles and forms, it can be overwhelming at first. There is such a range of classes, from a sweaty, high energy workout, to an incredibly meditative and gentle practice. So, how do you know which one is for you? Ultimately, the kind of yoga that is right for you will depend on what you hope to get out of it. Follow the guide below to help you choose.
You Want to Sweat and Move Your Body:
While yoga may have a reputation for being nothing more than sitting and chanting “Om,” it was actually designed to strengthen the body, and there are many styles of yoga that will give you a whole body workout and help you get your sweat on. For a more intense, sweaty yoga class, try one of the following:
Ashtanga Yoga: This is a traditional style of yoga originating in India. It consists of moving between a set series of postures at somewhat of a fast pace, building heat within the body and strengthening the muscles. The opening postures include the two series of sun salutations, (A and B), which together move and work every major muscle group in the body and are designed to get the heart rate up.
Vinyasas Yoga. Vinyasa yoga is based on the idea that you move between postures with the breath. A Vinyasa class will typically involve a series of both seated and standing postures. It can vary from more gentle to more intense poses and from slower to faster pace, but you will be moving constantly throughout the class.
Power Yoga: This is a newer form of yoga, which is great for those who want to get a strong workout. It is similar to Vinyasa yoga, but faster and often with some very advanced poses. The focus is on strengthening the body and improving cardiovascular fitness. There is no set sequence, so the classes will vary every time.
You Want a Slow, Relaxing Class:
Sometimes, you just need to relax and be with your body, to get a long, gentle stretch and to let stress melt away. The following styles of yoga are especially great if you are a beginner, an athlete, like a runner or cyclist, or injured. That said they are also incredibly beneficial to all people, regardless of their yoga experience or physical ability.
Yin Yoga: This style of yoga blends yoga with martial arts. It is based on getting deep into the connective tissue to release stored up tension. Poses are completely passive and props, such as blocks and blankets, are used to help the body relax into the posture. A key facet of yin yoga is that the poses are held for 3-5 minutes each, in order to allow the body to go deep into the pose.
Restorative Yoga: Restorative yoga is similar to yin, in that it is slow paced, relaxing and focuses on gentle release of muscles. The main difference is that restorative has a specific aim to restore the body. It helps to heal an injured or unhealthy body.
Gentle Yoga: This is an umbrella term and can encapsulate any style of yoga that is slower paced. It can involve long held poses, but also could include some gentle poses that flow with the breath.
You Want to Focus on Alignment and Build Body Awareness:
One of the many benefits of yoga is that it helps build the mind/body connection. These days, we often find ourselves so separated from our bodies, spending all day inside our heads. The following styles of yoga are a great way to counteract this, by building a strong mind/body connection. This, in turn, can reduce stress, improve physical performance and increase mindfulness, amongst many other things.
Iyengar Yoga: This style of yoga has a very strong focus on correct alignment with the use of props to help you move correctly into and out of each pose. It is based on yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar, who is largely credited with bringing yoga to the west and making it popular.
Hatha Yoga: This is the most traditional form of yoga upon which all other yoga is based. It involves careful teaching of each posture and generally does not involve flowing between poses, but rather focusing on the integrity of each pose.
You want to get spiritual:
All yoga does have a spiritual component, this is what distinguishes it from many other forms of exercise. However, if your main aim is to develop your spirituality and connect with something spiritual inside of yourself, some forms of yoga are better than others. Try the following to focus on the spiritual side of yoga.
Kundalini Yoga: This yoga is based on trying to achieve a Kundalini awakening, a spiritual enlightenment and release of energy. Postures and sequences are designed to clear the chakras and allow for the energy to rise.
Jivamukti Yoga: This is both a physical and spiritual practice. Classes are vinyasa-based in style and there is a strong focus on spirituality through meditation, chanting and adherence to the central tenets of yoga.
You Want to Try Something a Bit Different
Gone are the days when yoga is something on the fringe and strictly a traditional practice. Now, there is a hybrid of yoga to suit everyone. Try one of the following for something a bit different.
Hip Hop Yoga: This is a dance-based yoga done to hip hop music. It’s a great workout, blending dance with yoga and lots of fun!
Laughing Yoga: This is as quirky as it sounds. Basically you try different postures while laughing, with the idea that you can release endorphins and release tension.
Yoga with Animals: This is one for all animal lovers, practicing yoga surrounded by animals. Popular classes include yoga with cats, yoga with goats, and yoga with horses.
There are so many different styles of yoga, there really is something for everyone. So if you haven’t tried yoga yet, or haven’t found the style for you, try using this guide to help you find your best fit. And if you are an experienced yogi from way back, why not try a new style of yoga to mix it up? There may be a different type of yoga that suits your needs better at this moment in time.
Medical Disclaimer: The information provided here in my “Soulful Yoga” column at SoulfulLiving.com is not intended to be a substitute for the professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by your own Medical Provider. You agree and acknowledge that I am not providing medical advice. All matters regarding your health require supervision by a personal physician or other appropriate health care professional familiar with your current health status. You must not rely on the information in this column as an alternative to medical advice from your own doctor or other professional healthcare provider. Always consult a qualified personal health care provider before making any dietary or exercise changes. As with all situations, there are sometimes unknown individual risks and circumstances that can arise that cannot be foreseen that can influence or reduce results. You understand that any mention of any suggestion or recommendation in this column is to be taken at your own risk, with no liability on my part or that of SoulfulLiving.com, recognizing that there is a rare chance that illness, injury or even death could result, and you agree to assume all risks.
Stephanie Johnson is an elementary school teacher, yoga teacher, meditation student and writer. She is looking for ways to explore this beautiful, crazy life that we have been gifted and to live it with meaning. Stephanie fell in love with yoga as a teenager and has since travelled across the globe in search of knowledge and experiences to deepen her understanding of yoga, from her home country of Australia, to India and across Asia, to Chile, and the USA.
For Stephanie, yoga is life. It starts on the mat where we strengthen our physical bodies and relax our minds through pranayama and meditation, and moves into our everyday lives, so we are present for every single moment, living with mental flexibility and spiritual curiosity. Stephanie is passionate about sharing this practice with others through her teaching, writing and daily life, so that others can share in this beautiful and ancient wisdom.