The various benefits that yoga can deliver to the body, mind, and spirit are extensive: the right practice can reduce anxiety and stress, elevate mood, and even optimize your overall health. Problems only begin to arise when you attempt to figure out where you should begin. Checking out the almost endless styles of yoga available — all with their own corresponding classes — can feel like choosing your meal from a menu written in an unknown language. Heading to the wrong class could leave you feeling frustrated or bored, meaning that you don’t get the advantages you deserve.
All yoga styles are ideal for creating a sense of relaxation, ease and lightness, but different styles of yoga focus on different areas of the body, and achieve different goals, including alignment, breathing coordination and improved balance. Your aim should be to find a teacher and style that suits your needs, and delivers the results you most want to achieve. Following are just some of the most common styles of yoga you might choose from.
1. Iyengar| Ideal for Beginners: Iyengar is a softer style of traditional yoga, making it a great choice for people who haven’t exercised in some time, or are just starting out. Iyengar uses numerous props — such as blocks, pillows, chairs and straps — to compensate for a reduced range of flexibility, making it particularly useful for people in recovery or those with joint problems. The benefits of this form of yoga are endless and include eliminating tension and toning muscles to alleviating chronic pain. What’s more, practicing Iyengar yoga as a beginner will help to open up your knowledge of classical yoga poses, so that you’ll know the fundamentals should you choose to try a different style in the future.
Check out this yoga beginner’s yoga sequence from Kristin McGee:
2. Ananda | Gentle Hatha Yoga: Originally, “Hatha Yoga” defined the physical practice of yoga, focusing on poses, breathing and inner balance. Today, the term refers to a style in which different styles of yoga connect to form a simple range of motions, perfect for those who want to take it easy. Ananda Yoga is a wonderful style of classical hatha yoga that helps individuals to control the subtle energies within themselves — especially in regards to chakras. The focus is on using internal energies to create harmony between emotions, body, and mind, therefore reaching a higher level of awareness. Ananda yoga is an inward, gentle experience — rather than an aerobic or athletic practice.
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3. Bikram | Hot Yoga: “Hot Yoga” is the type of yoga class that takes place within heated rooms between 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot yoga is a flowing practice in which you move through a linked selection of poses. However, Bikram yoga is quite different from Iyengar and Ananda styles, because the aim is to make you sweat. As you might imagine, vigorous yoga at high temperatures will promote a pretty intense reaction. You’ll move through a system of 26 poses over 90 minutes in a practice that either leaves you loving the intensity, or hating the hard-work. If you have any medical conditions that make you sensitive to heat, it’s important to consult your doctor before you start a Bikram class.
>> Read more: Bikram Yoga: Too Hot to Handle?
4. Ashtanga | Athletic Yoga: If you want your yoga to feel like a true workout, then Ashtanga is the perfect choice for you. In Sanskrit, Ashtanga means “eight limbs,” referring to the eight limbs in the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali. Designed to work your muscles and your lungs at the same time, Ashtanga combines breath and movement in a set series of intense and physically trying postures. Often, you’ll start by learning one set at a time, and will practice that set at least three times a week in silent rooms. If you’re new to yoga and like the idea of Ashtanga, don’t be afraid to give it a try — instructors are always happy to work with beginners until they’re ready to go it alone.
Check out our yoga for athletes video below:
5. Kripalu | The Yoga Of Consciousness: Kripalu yoga focuses on ensuring proper alignment, correct breathing practices, and balanced movement. In this style, you work your body according to your own personal limits of strength and flexibility, and students learn to focus on the psychological and physical reactions that each posture provokes. The aim is to develop awareness of the spirit, body and mind, and to this end you will move through three separate stages. The first level involves learning the full abilities of your own body; the second is about holding postures for extended times and developing concentration; and the third regards meditation in motion.
6. Vinyasa | Flow Yoga: Known as flow yoga due to the fluid transitions between each pose, Vinyasa focuses on breathing and synchronized movement. Vinyasa yoga is perfect for individuals who like to explore a wide range of motion, and sweat a little at the same time. In Sanskrit, Vinyasa means “connection,” which describes the link between breath and movement throughout this style.
7. Yin | Restorative Yoga: Yin Yoga is potentially the best option for individuals who spend a lot of time sitting behind their desk every day. This style focuses on stretching out the connective tissue around the joints — rather than extending the muscles. Some yoga enthusiasts consider this to be the best form of yoga, as they believe that connective tissue around the joints may be the door to finding new channels of subtle energy within the body.
Finding your style: These are just some of the types of yoga available, and there are plenty more to choose from, including classes created for specific populations (like prenatal yoga). Yoga is a restorative practice for the body, mind and soul, but if you want to really benefit, you need to find out which style works for you. If you’re new to practicing yoga, then you’ll need to take small steps and figure out what your body is capable of. Remember, yoga is a way of life — not just an exercise that you do to pass the time.
Which style of yoga do you think works best for you? Do you have a particular form that you would like to try? Let us know in the comments!
Jamé Heskett M.D. fights the aging process both inside and out. As a wife, a mother of three children, Dr. Heskett has spent her 24 year career focused on women’s health and longevity issues. She intimately understands the needs of women in their pursuit of wellbeing and preservation of youthful vitality. Today’s woman is looking for health and beauty solutions that are gentle, highly effective, have minimal downtime, and natural results. Through the most advanced proven technologies and 20 years of experience, Dr. Heskett is able to provide her clientele a comprehensive strategy or “Path” to suit their individual needs.