What Kind of Yoga Will Work for You?
Yoga is an ancient practice that dates back more than 5000 years. Yoga practices, originally recorded in sanskrit means “to connect or unify the body, mind, breath, and spirit”. The practice focuses on threading together the physical practice (asana), breathing practice (pranayama), meditation (quieting the mind), mantra (repeated words), mudra (seals of energy) and philosophy.
There are numerous styles of yoga, many different types of teachers and a million different studios. Selecting the right yoga class can be a daunting task. If you are new to yoga or even a seasoned yogi, knowing all of the different styles of yoga can be confusing. First and foremost, yoga is for everyone. It’s for men and women and it is for the young, old, flexible, inflexible, muscular and puny. Yoga doesn’t discriminate. With that said, it can be incredibly intimidating to attend a yoga class without knowing much about it. Perhaps your goals are to get strong and flexible or learn to stand on your head. Maybe you would like to go to yoga to release stress and anxiety, becoming more calm and centred. Or you are seeking the opportunity to feel more connected to those around you, to something bigger than you. Whatever your reason, there is a style of yoga that will fit your preferences and objectives.
Of the many styles of yoga, some date back thousands of years and some are very new, recently developed by Western culture. Popularity of each style varies by region, age and goals. These descriptions offer a window into each style so that you can choose one that fits you.
- Anusara: Yoga that focuses heavily on alignment, community and a celebration of the divine in all.
- Ashtanga: Rigorous and challenging style of yoga that links movement to breath and follows a specific sequence of poses. They are the same poses in the same order every class.
- Bikram: Hot yoga with a 26 set posture sequence. Normally the room is around 38-40 C (100-104 F.)
- Forrest: Vigorous yoga to strengthen and purify the mind and body from physical or emotional tension and/or pain.
- Hatha: A generic term that describes any yoga that combines postures and breath to bring mind and body into balance. Typically Hatha classes are a blend of traditional basic postures and breath.
- Iyengar: Slow paced yoga that focuses on alignment and precision with prop use.
- Jivamukti: Vigorous yoga with a flowing sequence of postures and an emphasis on chanting, mediation and spiritual teachings.
- Kundalini: Constantly moving and invigorating yoga that focuses on the spiritual and philosophical side of yoga through postures, breathing, mantra and meditation.
- Power: Challenging style of yoga based on the Ashtanga series. A more cardiovascular workout that does not stick to the set series of poses but has a different sequence from class to class.
- Restorative: Calm relaxing yoga that uses props such as blankets, bolsters and blocks to hold passive poses for longer periods of time.
- Viniyoga: Highly individualized yoga in which the teacher adapts the practice of asana, pranayama, chanting and meditation to the individual needs of each student.
- Vinyasa: Intense yoga that combines postures and breathing in a creative flowing sequence.
- Yin: Quiet meditative yoga where passive postures are held for several minutes to stretch the connective tissue. This is meant to be a compliment to other more rigorous styles of yoga.
You have to start somewhere. Once you have familiarized yourself with the styles of yoga, the studios in your area and the teachers available, give it a try. You should attend two or three different classes as it you may not find the right style of yoga, class and teacher on the first attempt. However, with a little bit of time, you will find yourself at home on the mat and in your new found surroundings. You may be surprised to see your practice evolve in many directions, practicing different classes and different styles to compliment each other and to give you a well-rounded yoga practice. The most important thing is that you find what is right for you, your style and objectives. Embrace the journey and enjoy the evolution of your yoga practice.