Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice dating back over 5000 years. But which style is right for you? Most people do yoga for exercise and soon realise that yoga is more than just a great way to keep in shape. Yoga basically enables you to navigate through life more easily, by making you physically fit while calming your mind and balancing your body systemically. The intention of this article is to give you an idea of each of the more popular different styles and what to expect on your yogic journey.
Almost all physical yoga styles stem from Hatha. Hatha is slower-paced than other styles and is great for beginners. In a Hatha yoga class, you will get familiar with the physical postures, their names, and breathing techniques, which is ideal for beginners.
Vinyasa yoga is the connection between movement and breath. This style uses the same postures as Hatha, although it is more energetic and the postures flow into each other, hence the name “Vinyasa flow”. If you like to constantly move, Vinyasa is the one for you. In Vinyasa, it helps to be familiar with the postures so that you enjoy the benefits of the practice without stumbling around, wondering if you’re doing the postures correctly.
Ashtanga is a sequence of physically demanding postures. This style was developed for adolescent males to help them release energy and balance their hormones. Ashtanga generally follows a series of postures in sequence. Due to the physically demanding nature, it’s not recommended for beginners. You may be up to the challenge so it wouldn’t hurt to drop into a class and see for yourself. Thankfully yoga isn’t a competitive sport and classes are welcoming and non-judgemental.
Yin is a slower paced style and postures are held for long periods of time. Yin yoga is great for relaxation and stretching deep into the connective tissue in your joints. It’s a very relaxing style and has a great capacity for therapeutic benefits to the body and mind.
Iyengar was created by B. K. S. Iyengar and focuses on correct alignment of postures. B. K. S. Iyengar developed this style to heal ailments in the body using a series of postures and props. He enjoyed the challenge of healing people through yoga. For me, Iyengar is one of the hardest forms of yoga as it focuses heavily on getting the postures perfect and holding them for a long time.
Restorative yoga is a nice gentle and relaxing style that uses props such as bolsters and straps to aid with postures. This will not exert you physically but will relax your very core.
Bikram or hot yoga is done in a heated room and will make you sweat, and I mean a lot. The room is heated to 40 degrees and the class focuses on 26 postures. Thus to say Bikram isn’t for the faint-hearted and is a great challenge. It’s also good for detoxing due to all the sweating involved. I wouldn’t recommend this style for newbies as it may turn you off Yoga unless of course you’re physically fit.
Regardless of which style you choose, there are some important things to be mindful of when first delving into yoga.
Listen to your body
What does that even mean? It means don’t cause yourself an injury by attempting a posture that your body isn’t ready for, even if the teacher is instructing you to do so. Like any profession, there are good and bad teachers. And don’t try to compete with other people in your class. If you look across and see someone nailing a difficult posture, chances are they have been practicing longer than you. A good yoga teacher will recognise the different skill levels of their students and give variations of each posture for beginners to advanced.
Inform your teacher of injuries or pre-existing conditions
Inform your teacher of any injuries you may have or if you are pregnant or menstruating. Some postures can cause more harm than good if you have any pre-existing ailments. A good teacher will ask if anyone has any injuries before the class.
Yoga as a tool for a brighter life
Yoga is a great tool and technology to help you have a happy healthy life. After doing yoga three times a week for two weeks you should start feeling positive changes in your body and mental state. Don’t get me wrong, you will feel great after each class, although it may be short-lived. Regular practice will maintain that feeling of physical fitness and bliss.
Think of your body as a car and your yoga practice as taking it for a service. And don’t worry if you’re not flexible or you think you’re not very good. Yoga is about taking the time to nurture your body and mind. Be careful, Yoga is addictive. I started 6 years ago and I’m still practicing regularly. Once you realise the benefits of yoga and how good it makes you feel, you want to maintain that feeling.
It’s easy to get started, all you need is a mat. I’m always banging on about yoga to my friends because of the positive impact it’s had on my life and I will continue to do so. The best way to get started is to front up to a studio and take a class. Try as many classes as you can until you find a style and teacher that you like.