5 Types of Yoga: Find the Right Class for You
From my first down dog of the day to my last savasana, I'm a yoga believer. I find yoga to be the perfect blend of relaxation and rejuvenation, and the health benefits of practicing yoga are phenomenal.
Lengthened and strengthened muscles, improved flexibility, better posture, healthier joints, stronger bones, lower blood pressure and blood sugar, stronger mind, better mood, and better attitude are just the tip of the iceberg.
The only problem is knowing where to start. Three months ago, I decided to walk into a yoga class in my gym. I chose which class to start with based on the time it was offered rather than the kind of yoga it was. Just like any other type of exercise, there is a place to start — and there's definitely a place not to.
There is a ridiculous number of kinds of yoga classes, and while they all offer incredible benefits to the mind and body, they really are different, and where you begin makes a huge difference in whether or not you'll love and stick with yoga.
Here are the five main types of yoga offered in the States, how they work, what they focus on, and what the people who practice — and teach — love about them.
Christine Yu, certified yoga instructor, freelance writer, and author of the blog Love,Life,Surf, explains how to decide where to start. “I would recommend starting with a Beginner's Workshop if your local studio offers one,” she said. “It's a GREAT place to start because you will get a lot of attention, and the teacher will break down the practice and pose with you. Now, as a teacher and looking back at my own experience, I can't stress enough how important it is to start with a solid foundation. I wish that I did!”
But if a Beginner's Workshop isn't available to you, or you'd like to jump into a class offered at your gym, take a look at the title of the class. Although unfamiliar, it will tell you exactly what you need to know. “Most studios offer a Basics class which is typically a Hatha style class,” Christine explained. “It's a great place to start because you typically hold a pose for a few breaths, which allows you to work on your alignment in the pose and explore each pose. I would NOT start with Vinyasa right away.”
Does that help or confuse you? Don't worry, we'll have you claiming the yogi name in no time!
“While most yoga classes are a form of Hatha yoga, you will also see classes specifically labeled as Hatha,” Christine said. “Generally, Hatha yoga classes offer a great introduction to basic yoga postures.”
About the benefits of Hatha yoga, Christine said, “Hatha yoga is a wonderful place to start yoga practice. … You learn the foundation of poses, movement, and breath that you can then take and experiment with in other styles and classes.”
“The Iyengar method emphasizes the precise alignment of the body as well as breath work,” Christine said. “The Iyengar method uses a number of different props to help find proper alignment. Poses are typically held for a longer period of time. While it might not work up a sweat in the same way as a Vinyasa yoga class, these classes ensure that you are structurally sound in your yoga practice.
“The best thing about Iyengar classes is that you have to pay attention to the details of each yoga pose, and you discover nuances in the pose, your body, and [your] breath in ways that you don't experience in other styles of practice.”
Alison McLean, DPT, HHP, is the blogger behind Berry Happy Bodies, where she shares tips to help you live a “berry” happy life.
About the benefits of Iyengar yoga, Alison said, “I would say that, personally, practicing Iyengar yoga slowed down and strengthened my practice. With Iyengar, I'm able to hold a pose with improved alignment, ultimately opening the muscles and joints that need opening and strengthening the ones that need strengthening.”
Christine said, “Restorative yoga classes might be my favorite. They are a great way to relax and restore your body. You use props to help support you in various yoga poses so that you do not have to exert any effort, but [you are still] able to experience the effects of the practice.”
About the benefits of Restorative yoga, Alison said, “With Restorative yoga, I am able to settle into a pose and let go of the mind, and then the pose (or asana) just happens. The opening and releasing occur with minimal effort, and the after effects are just a profound calmness with some beautifully opened joints.”
Christine said, “Bikram yoga was created by Bikram Choudhury. You move through a series of 26 poses in a heated room, and each Bikram class always follows the same sequence, so you know what to expect when you walk into a studio.”
About the benefits of Bikram yoga, Lindsay said, “Bikram provides a deep stretch, but [it's] also a great workout, as the poses increase my heart rate while simultaneously working on balance, flexibility, and strength.
“It's ALWAYS challenging, no matter how often or how seldom I attend, and there's always room for improvement. No one is ‘perfect,' as it's a practice, but the Bikram community is constantly welcoming and encouraging. Everyone is a yogi in that room.”
Christine said, “Vinyasa yoga is a practice of yoga, in which movement and breath are aligned and linked, creating a dynamic flow from posture to posture. Breath is central to the yoga practice. There are a number of different Vinyasa-style yoga classes, including Ashtanga, Power Yoga, and Jivamukti.”
About the benefits of Vinyasa yoga, Christine said, “What I love about Vinyasa yoga is that it's like moving meditation — a carefully choreographed dance of movement and breath that lets me get out of my own head. One breath. One movement.” Christine does add that Vinyasa is not the best place to start your practice, but rather that it's a style to move into once you have the basics down!
Have you tried any of these types of yoga? Which is your favorite?Read More