There was a time when I didn’t really think much of yoga. As a runner, I’m used to sweating it out, lots of intense movement, burning tons of energy, and actually going places. Yoga seemed like something for those who wanted to relax (never mind that I clearly needed to relax) and stretch. It didn’t seem like something I had time for. And I was sure I’d get bored with holding poses, standing still, breathing deeply.
But then I decided to test out a yoga class at my local gym. And it… was pretty intense. The next day I was sore, but felt relaxed and invigorated. And I could hardly wait to go back and give the Vinyasa class another try.
What I hadn’t realized before was that yoga encompasses a wide variety of styles and methods of practice, each of which is based on the foundation of breathing, balance, mindfulness, and spirituality. And depending on what the needs of your body and mind are whether it be more meditative and restorative, or more physically demanding there’s probably a method of yoga practice that is a good fit for you.
The tricky part is knowing which style that is. Here’s a quick yoga style guide to get you on the right track and to the right class.
What Type Of Yoga Is Right For You? 1 of 11
The purpose of yoga is to connect body and mind and promote greater self-awareness and awareness of other. But are you entirely unaware of the variety of yoga styles?
Hatha 2 of 11
What it is: Expect a slower-paced class, that gently moves you through basic poses combined with meditation and breathing.
What it's good for: While it can help you relax and de-stress at any time during the day, it can also be a good style to practice as you prepare for bed.
Vinyasa 3 of 11
What it is: You'll "flow" from pose to pose in this vigorous style that will likely leave you feeling sore the next day and strong the day after.
What it's good for: Building strength in limbs and core and building up a sweat. Breathing with your movement will help you release tension, stretch farther, and manage discomfort.
Iyengar 4 of 11
What it is: Props like straps, blankets, blocks, and cushions are commonly used in this gentle yoga practice where mastery of the basics are encouraged before students move on to more advanced variations of the poses.
What it's good for: Precise alignment is key in this style, which can help improve posture or recover from injury.
Paddle Board 5 of 11
What it is: Yoga on a paddle board? You better believe it! The gentle rocking makes finding the balance in a pose more of a challenge, but if you fall in, all you get is a bit wet.
What it's good for: Finding balance, relaxing, and enjoying the soothing feeling of being on top of the water.
Restorative 6 of 11
What it is: Lying still can sometimes be hard work. This gentle, meditative practice will help you relax and release tension to bring your body back to a more energized state.
What it's good for: De-stressing, releasing tension, relaxing slowly, gently, and thoroughly.
Bikram 7 of 11
What it is: If striking a pose in a 105-degree yoga studio sounds like what you need, check out Bikram sometimes called "hot" yoga. The practice has 26 poses and is focused on building strength and flexibility from head to toe, while "flushing toxins" through copious sweat.
What it's good for: Increasing flexibility, sweating, recovering from injury, sweating.
Prenatal 8 of 11
What it is: A gentle hatha practice modified to accommodate growing bellies and changing bodies.
What it's good for: Building or maintaining strength, flexibility, and circulation throughout pregnancy without the discomfort of many high-impact activities.
Ashtanga or Power 9 of 11
What it is: Ashtanga is similar to vinyasa in that it "flows" from pose to pose, but poses often require more strength and control to execute. If you have strength, flexibility, and control from other sports and are looking to match it with deep breathing and meditation, look to ashtanga.
What it's good for: Increasing strength, flexibility, and control for those who are already in good shape, or adding a dimension of deep breathing and meditation to an athlete's repertoire.
Kripalu 10 of 11
What it is: Kripalu includes three stages: first, learn the poses and what your body is capable of. Second, hold the poses for longer periods for added strength, concentration, and awareness. Third, flow spontaneously through poses allowing your body to guide you.
What it's good for: Building confidence, flexibility, balance, and strength.
Ananda 11 of 11
What it is: Another gentle practice, ananda is a meditative practice that prepares the brain for meditation by moving energy through the body up to the brain.
What it's good for: Quieting your mind, relaxing your body, improving alignment, and getting in tune with your inner self.
all images via istockphoto.com