Did you know that there are more than 20 yoga styles waiting to be practised?
Whoah, that’s a lot of yoga right?! How are we supposed to know which is the right one for us?
Don’t take your leggings off just yet. Choosing a yoga style doesn’t have to be difficult or daunting. After all, that’s exactly the antithesis of what it represents. So with a little bit of research and prep, it’s easy to find the one that resonates with you the most.
Start by asking yourself a few questions to determine what you’re looking for.
What is your level of experience with yoga?
How are your fitness levels?
What is your goal?
How do you want to feel when you leave the class?
Are you looking to include a spiritual aspect to the practice or do you just want a workout?
Do you want to be surprised with each practice or know what postures are next?
Practice makes Perfect
Next, investigate the different types of yoga. Whilst they stem from the same principle – they vary greatly in purpose and practice. I’ve outlined the most popular and widely practised styles below which are available all over the world.
Most yoga studios offer a weekly or monthly introductory offer at a discounted rate – allowing you to practice as many times in that period to decide whether you enjoy the class or not. Take advantage of this before committing to any memberships.
Hatha is considered a great style for beginners. It’s a slow paced class with asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises). It’s designed to familiarise yourself with the postures and maintain the breath. Hatha is a great way to relieve stress and whilst you won’t work up a sweat here, you’ll walk out feeling a little longer and looser.
Vinyasa is one of the most well known and popular styles of yoga. It involves a variety of poses practised in a fluid, movement-intensive way to ensure you stay present. Each class is choreographed by the teacher so no two classes will ever be the same. Music is also frequently played in the background
What will be constant is the natural flow and transition from one pose to the other. This constant flow gives a great cardio workout so if you hate routine and love to test your physical limits, Vinyasa may just be the yoga for you!
This is my favourite style of yoga. You know…the hot one. 40.6 degrees Celsius/105 Fahrenheit to be exact. The rooms are hot to loosen the muscles, promoting greater flexibility and stimulating fat burning rates. Bikram is no walk in the park. It’s one of the toughest yoga styles and a real work out. Expect a lot of sweat – I’m not kidding – you’ll be shvitzing like a pudding at a picnic!
Bikram practices the same 26 postures in the same order each time. The format consists of two purifying breathing exercises (one at the beginning and one at the end), a warm-up routine, standing series, spine series and floor series. You’ll stretch every muscle and walk away feeling detoxed and drained. An hour after class though and you’ll be floating on air.
The goal with Bikram is to create a fit body and mind. Some postures last as long as a minute so it requires full mental concentration. Stick with it and you’ll have a nicely toned bod and the mental sharpness of a hawk.
This smooth and uninterrupted yoga style can be an athletically demanding practice. The goal of Ashtanga is to simply observe anything that arises without accepting or rejecting it, thus achieving purification of the body and mind.
Ashtanga comprises of six different sequences that each focus on a different aspect of the body and each style links every movement to a breath. Students can go through these at their own pace but they must master every pose in the first series before they can move on to the second series, and so on.
This practice has a strong sense of purpose and forces you to focus and grow. Like Bikram, the Ashtanga sequence is identical and it takes most people years to progress to the next series.
If you love structure, this is the yoga for you.
Known as the yoga of awareness, Kundalini aims to awaken the latent energy at the base of the spine that leads to spiritual elevation. Or in other words, woo woo to the max.
In all seriousness, though – it’s a 90-minute class which typically includes a lot of chanting and signing as well as mini-meditations. Vigorous movement-oriented postures, which can be held for minutes at a time coupled with challenging breathing exercises will push you to your limits if you allow them.
If you’ve tried a regular yoga class and want to raise the intensity, you should consider trying Kundalini. Overall, Kundalini yoga is a spiritual and mental activity as much as it is a physical one.
And then there’s the teacher
An important element of your yoga practice is the teacher. Their role is to guide you through the practice, ensuring you feel comfortable and supported. The difference between a good and bad teacher can often make or break your decision to continue.
Listen to their voice, is the dialogue flowing and easy to listen? Are they adjusting their teachings to the skill level of their students? Are they making those alignments to your postures when necessary? Pay attention to how you feel about the teacher next time you’re in class. You should always feel comfortable enough to about ask your teacher a question after class or raise a concern/injury before and during the class.
Let’s wrap it up
Yes, there are many types of yoga, but the one thing they all have in common is the amazing impact they have on your health. Practice regularly and you’ll quickly see improvements in your flexibility, muscle tone and strength, cardio health, energy levels, posture, anxiety, mood etc etc etc etc.
Finally, don’t feel like you have to stick to one style of yoga – if there are several that resonate with you, practice them! After all, yoga isn’t about conforming, but rather exploring what works best for you – your mind and body.