Styles of yoga
There are more options for students than ever of different types of yoga classes available, this is a great thing but can be daunting trying to decipher what class is best suited to you. Nowadays it seems almost any type of yoga you can imagine there is a class for everyone ranging from your traditional types -Hatha, Iyenger, and Yin etc. to the less traditional – Anti-gravity, naked yoga and even Doga – yoga for dogs (anyone else think this is taking Downward Dog too literally?)
What we in the west know as yoga is Hatha yoga, Originating in India over 5000 years ago, Yoga means union between body, mind and spirit. Yoga relieves stress and promotes a deeper relaxation while still providing physical exercise. Almost every other style of yoga derives from the traditional principles of Hatha yoga (although I can’t vouch for how true to traditional teaching the canine classes are!) The basic principles of the asanas (poses), relaxation techniques and terminology are the same in almost every style of yoga but have been adapted.
So with an endless selection of yoga types how do you know which one is for you? Here is a brief summary of the main styles of yoga:
Made up of six series of vigorous postures, this is one of the oldest forms of yoga and is the foundation of much of the yoga we see today in the west.
Anti – Gravity: Acrobatic yoga in a hammock.
The class is done using a hammock; by allowing the hammock to carry your body weight gravity does the work of deepening your stretch. This class can be scary for some; you need to trust and have very little fear for this. (If for no other reason to try this style I cannot recommend it enough for the most amazing meditation experience – suspended in the air wrapped in a cocoon by the hammock!!)
Bikram: Not for the faint hearted!
You are going to sweat like you would not believe is humanly possible! Bikram yoga consists of 26 postures and breathing exercises repeated twice for 90 minutes in a room heated to 40 degrees with humidity of 60%. Intense workout favoured by athletes such as David Beckham and Andy Murray
Hatha yoga is a sequence of asanas designed to open up your spine, increase flexibility and bring balance to your body and mind. The gentle pace and simple breathing exercises of this discipline allow students to learn basic poses and become comfortable with their practice. Intensity varies depending on teacher/studio.
Hot yoga: Bikram without the rules.
Hot yoga is similar to Bikram the only difference being that the series of asana’s are not always in the same order and can be modified depending on the teacher/student. Improves your cardiovascular system, loosens muscles, heals injuries and aids weight loss.
The focus of Iyenger is on healing. The emphasis of the class is alignment and props are used to ensure proper posture and alignment. Suitable for all levels!
Kundalini: Breath and movement.
One of the most spiritual styles of yoga, the focus is on your breath and movement and chanting the aim of this class is to release energy located at the base of your spine awakening each of the seven chakras. This class is not for everyone!
Similar to Ashtanga, this is great if you want to push your boundaries and advance your practice. Challenging for beginners but great for those who like a challenge and feel they’ve got a good workout in while reaping all the benefits and feel good qualities of a yoga class.
In a Vinyasa class (also known as flow yoga) you are focusing on synchronizing your breath with the movement into the asana’s (poses) in a rhythmical flow combined with music to match the speed of the class. Classes vary in intensity, can be challenging for beginners.
The Focus here is on targeting the connective tissues that we don’t usually exercise, mainly the connective tissues of the and lower spine, hips and pelvis. Yin yoga has a reputation for being quite boring and easy but don’t dismiss it as it can be quite a challenge given the long duration you hold the poses for (can be held anywhere from one minute to 20 minutes.)