What style of yoga is right for you?
One of the beautiful things about yoga is that there is so much variety, no matter what your taste, ability level or goals are, there is bound to be a style that speaks to you.
However, with so much choice there is often confusion about how to choose a style to practice. It really comes down to a few questions to ask yourself before you start to shop around for a class:
1. What are your goals – why do you want to practice yoga in the first place?
Someone who wants to reduce stress would benefit from a very different class than a new mum that wants to get back into shape. We all have our own reasons that draw us to the practice, getting clear on yours will help you make a more informed choice.
2. What are your limitations?
Do you have an injury or illness that will affect your ability to move in a certain way, or do you have medical concerns that you need to consider?
3. What is your skill level?
Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced? (side note – even if your body knows the practice, it is always best to keep a beginners mind)
If you are new to yoga I hope this post dispels some of the uncertainty or trepidation you may feel about yoga, and allows your to join a new class with confidence.
If you have been practicing for a while, I challenge you to try a new style, something out of your comfort zone, and keep an open mind!
One of the more classical style of yoga, and can be taught in at a range of difficulty levels. Great for beginners as it will help you learn proper alignment. Also suitable for people who like to move a bit more slowly.
Named after Indian yoga master B. K. S. Iyengar, this style uses lots of props and focuses on longer holds and detailed alignment. Iyengar yoga is tailored to the individual, so if you have an injury or limited range of motion, it could be a good option to find a great teacher to work with.
A faster moving style, that links each movement with the breath. Vinyasa classes will be dynamic, and often physically challenging. The sequence of poses will usually change each class, which is great if you like a lot of variety. Vinyasa classes will help you build overall strength and flexibility. Great for getting out of your head, and into your breath and body.
A slow, passive and meditative style of yoga that builds flexibly in the muscles, connective tissue and joints. In a typical Yin class, the poses are held for several minutes each, with a focus on stillness. Great for flexibility, and people who do a lot of active exercise, like crossfit, running or weights – it’s the perfect balance.
Similar to yin, in the fact the poses are static, and passive – but much more gentle. There is usually extensive use of props. This is the practice for you if you want to relax, reduce stress and be nurtured. Great for people suffering from anxiety, burn out or exhaustion.
Ashatanga Vinyasa Yoga is a set sequence of poses that was created by Shri K Pattabhi Jois. It is a highly athletic practice that focuses on asana, breath and drishti (gazing point). Ashtanga yoga is great if you like a classical style class that is physical challenge, without a lot of philosophy.
Bikram is a set series of 26 postures practiced in a room heated to 40 degrees. It is physically challenging, and is excellent at detoxing the system through the skin and organs.
Power yoga originally came from Ashtanga yoga, but has been adapted by modern yogis to allow for a more fluid and dynamic practice. You will often see arm balances, and other challenging poses. In some forms of power yoga, the room is heated to about 32 degrees. Very similar to vinyasa yoga. Great for people who like a highly physical practice, that will often teach philosophical yogic themes in class.
An active and challenging style of yoga that was brought to the west by Yogi Bhajan. Kundalini yoga uses kriya’s (rapid repetitive movements) combined with breath-work to form the foundation of the class. It can be quite a spiritual practice and often incorporates chanting, meditation and mudras (hand positions). Kundalini is great for people who want both a physical and mental challenge.
A relatively new form of yoga that uses a silk hammock suspended from the ceiling as a prop throughout the class. This style can build strength as well as flexibility, while going easy on the joints. It is great for practicing inversions without putting pressure on the neck, head and shoulders.
Is another highly physical practice that blends elements of yoga and acrobatics together while working with a partner. Partnering can help you learn trust and communication. If you like your personal space on the mat, then this is not the style for you. However, acroyoga is gaining popularity very quickly, and if you like to have fun – give it a go!
There are no doubt, many more styles of yoga than I haven’t listed above – and the best advice I can give is to get out there any try a style that intrigues you.
If at first you don’t have any luck, try again with a different style – there is so much variety, you are bound to find a style that works for you. Communicate with your teacher if you are working with an injury, and remember, even though yoga is a spiritual practice – don’t be too serious, enjoy yourself!