After reading all about why you should be doing yoga in my last post, you must be wondering about the next step. Which yoga style to choose? Yoga exploded in popularity in the recent years and with that, yoga studios have sprouted up throughout the world and many teachers are offering classes. Since there are so many different styles of yoga out there, you might be slightly confused about what to actually do. Therefore, I put together a list with the top 10 most popular styles of yoga out there right now. I hope this is going to help you choose what suits you best to be able to get the most benefit out of your yoga experience.
Code word: Intensity
Asthanga is a more vigorous and fast-paced style of yoga and therefore well suited for athletes. There are 6 established sequences of poses, each increasingly difficult as you move on from the primary sequences. During a class, you will be led non-stop through a series of poses, flowing from one pose to the next with each inhale and exhale. The poses become more challenging as the class progresses.
Code word: Sweat
Bikram yoga is practiced in a very hot room up to 105 degrees and 40% humidity. Bikram is named after it’s inventor Bikram Choudhury and in every class, the same series of 26 basic yoga poses are performed. The postures are meant to stretch and strengthen the muscles as well as compress and rinse the organs. The heat in the room is supposed to facilitate the release of toxins. This style of yoga is both mentally and physically pretty challenging.
Code word: Gentle
‘Hatha yoga’ means the physical practice of yoga, doing the asanas. This classical approach is a good option for beginners. Classes normally start with a warm-up session with sun salutations, followed by a set of basic poses and stretches that are held for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. It will also often include pranayama (breathing exercises) at the beginning or the end of the class. Hatha yoga helps to bring peace to mind and body.
Code word: Precision
Iyengar yoga is known for its intense focus on the precision of each posture. It is named after it’s founder B.K.S. Iyenga, who has become one of the most influential yoga gurus of our time. In a typical iyengar class, poses are held much longer than in other styles of yoga, in an effort to pay close attention to the musculoskeletal alignment within each asana. Also, in this style of yoga many different props, such as blocks, chairs and straps, are used in order to help beginners get into proper alignment. This also helps with injuries, tightness of the muscles and structural imbalances. Iyengar yoga is slow-paced and good for beginners.
Code word: Spirituality
Jivamukti yoga was created by Sharon Gannon and David Life in 1984 and translates to ‘living liberated’. The classes resemble ashtanga yoga with vinyasa flow-style asanas. Each class begins with a standardized warm-up sequence. Often there are themes like meditation, chanting or sanskrit reading. Teachers encourage the students to apply the spiritual elements of yoga into their daily lives.
Code word: Energy
Kundalini yoga was designed to awaken the energy in the spine. Kundalini is a more spiritual and philosophical approach to yoga compared to most other styles. It incorporates repeated movements of exercises, dynamic breathing techniques, chanting, meditation and mantras. Each specific Kundalini exercise, a kriya, is repeated often and synchronised with breathing in order to move energy through the body.
Code word: Challenging
Power yoga is a vigorous style of yoga derivative from vinyasa. It is based on the sequence of poses in ashtanga yoga and builds upper-body strength, flexibility and balance. You flow from one pose into another. The movements are quick and the style depends much on the teacher as it allows for much more freedom in the poses compared to original ashtanga yoga.
This yoga style is designed to restore balance of your body, mind and soul. All the yoga poses in restorative yoga are passive and often held for as long as 20 minutes. There’s no effort needed from your side. Props like pillows, bolsters and straps are often used to put your body in positions that make you feel as relaxed and secured as possible. After a session you’ll feel like new. Great for busy and stressed people who are under a lot of pressure.
Code word: Flow
Vinyasa is a general term that describes many different styles of yoga that are influenced by ashtanga yoga. It means movement synchronised with breath. It is a vigorous style of yoga based on a rapid flow from one posture to the next through sun salutations, without stopping to perfectionize the movements. Students get a good workout as well as a good yoga experience. The sequence is never the same from one session to the next and you won’t need a long attention span for this type of yoga. Teachers often focus on specific goals or body parts during a session. My favorite yoga style as for now!
Code word: Flexibility
Yin yoga is also called Taoist yoga. It’s a meditative form of yoga that focuses on passive, seated poses that target the connective tissues in the hips, pelvis and lower spine. Poses are held for more than 5 minutes. These long holds can make it quite challenging, even if the poses are passive. Yin yoga aims to increase flexibility and encourages a feeling of release and letting go. It’s also a good introduction into meditation. This style of yoga is great for athletes who need to release the tension in overworked muscles and joints and it’s also a great way to relax.
There’s many other yoga styles that might be a good option for you as well. Some more examples are Ansura, kripalu, Sivananda and Viniyoga. Once you’ve got an idea of the type of yoga you want to start practicing, you still need to find out in which setting you’d prefer to practice your yoga. Also here, many options. Find out what feels best for you; practicing at home, in a yoga studio, a class in the gym, outdoor classes or private one-on-one sessions.
Image courtesy of Marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.