As yoga becomes a more popular activity in the West, the number of places holding Yoga classes is on the rise and there are a plethora of different styles and types of Yoga. When you are starting out with yoga it can be difficult to find which style suits you. Yoga is about finding what works best for you as you develop your relationship with your own body, so it is important to consider which style you chose. It is this decision that will encourage you to continue on your journey of self-discovery.
Below is a list of the 5 most common yoga styles with explanations that will give you a foundation to further explore and make your decision. You may want to try out more than one style to see which you enjoy most, and which benefits you the most.
Hatha Yoga – in Sanskrit (an ancient classical language of India) “Ha” means “sun” and “tha” means “moon”. This type of Yoga is relatively slow paced, gentle type of Yoga and is a good place to start if you are completely new to Yoga and don’t know any of the asanas (poses). Like all types of Yoga, Hatha Yoga aims to unite the mind, body and spirit.
Ashtanga Yoga – this is the type of Yoga that I practice on a regular basis and means “eight limbs” in Sanskrit. It’s a fast moving, intense style of Yoga practice and is based on a progressive set sequence of asanas, synchronized with the breath. Based on the ancient yoga teachings, Ashtanga was made more popular when it travelled to the West, brought by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in the 1970s. The difference with Ashtanga is that you practice the exact same poses in the exact same order. This means that your body and muscles can get used to the pattern, memorizing it so that your movements flow smooth and fast. Ashtanga Yoga can be physically demanding as you constantly move from one asana to the next, so you’ll find that it will improve your stamina as well as, your flexibility and strength.
Power Yoga – this is a western interpretation of Yoga and is based on Ashtanga Yoga. A Power Yoga class may not necessarily stick to the exact sequence of poses like Ashtanga Yoga does, but it does involve practicing a series of poses without stopping and starting.
Iyengar Yoga – This type of Yoga is based on teachings by B.K.S Igengar and concentrates on the correct alignment and form of the body. Unlike Ashtanga Yoga, there is an emphasis on holding each pose for a long period of time rather than moving constantly from one pose to the next. Iyengar Yoga uses props such as blocks and straps to help align the body into the different poses.
Vinyasa Yoga – Vinyasa means breath synchronized movement and is another fast paced type of Yoga, with an emphasis on breathing. A practice typically starts with sun salutations and moves on to more intense stretching. Throughout the practice each pose is balanced with a counter pose.
Bikram Yoga – otherwise known as “Hot Yoga”, is practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees, with a humidity of around 40%. Generally a sequence of 26 different poses is practiced during a Bikram Yoga class and the hot temperature helps to loosen muscles. Due to the high temperature most people sweat a lot during the class and this helps to cleanse the body of toxins.
This is just a short list of the many styles of yoga practiced today. If you’re just starting out or have never practiced any Yoga before, I recommend trying a few different styles to find out which you like best. Remember, there’s no rule that says you have to stick to one type of Yoga. After all, variety is the spice of life!
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