Yoga essentials: A simple guide to the different styles
Thinking of starting yoga but confused by the descriptions on the timetable? Or are you tempted to try a new style but not sure what to expect? Then read on!
Yoga has a rich and varied menu; from relaxing to invigorating, spiritual to sweat-inducing, there is something for everyone. But choosing where to start can be daunting. This is my take on the many styles:
Hatha: The catch-all term for a generic and gentle style of yoga, this is usually great place to start if you're a complete beginner.
Vinyasa flow: Fluid and flowing, different every week, and often with a theme and music. Creative in nature, vinyasa flow classes focus on adapting the pose for your body, rather than vice versa , so there are many variations for all levels. (p.s. this is the style I teach).
Iyengar: Precise and alignment based, with the use of props (blocks, straps etc) to help each student get the most from each pose. Developed by B.K.S Iyengar, this is one of the more classical and traditional styles. Iyengar can be helpful in managing injury or chronic conditions.
Ashtanga: Love routine? Try Ashtanga! A highly structured style that focuses on the physical poses of yoga (the 'asana') (warning: it will be a challenging, fast moving class!).
Jivamukti: A hybrid style of yoga developed in the 80's which combines methodology and philosophy from different yoga gurus. Vinyasa flow in style, with music and chanting, it has a lively atmosphere! Wearing all white is common practice in Jivamukti. Yoga principles are at the core of this practice - with non-violence being one of the most prevalent. There is usually a presentation of the theme at the beginning of class and a re-emphasis of it throughout.
Power: A more gym based style, often with lots of core work. Less traditional, it focuses on the physical aspect. Expect to sweat a lot with a work-out based style.
Bikram: The original 'hot' yoga created by the controversial Mr Bikram Choudhury. An intense style made up of a specific set of 26 poses in a very hot room (40 degrees Celsius and the same humidity). (p.s. Read more on Bikram yoga in my related blog here).
Hot: Similar to Bikram, but without the trademark label, hot yoga classes may explore more flowing sequences and may be slightly cooler in temperature. With both types of hot yoga classes, please be aware of any medical conditions (such as high blood pressure) and let the teacher know to check it's suitable for you.
Yin: A much slower, passive, and floor-based practice where seated or lying poses are held for up to 5 mins at a time using props for support. Yin yoga promotes cooling and nurturing energies; allowing our bodies and minds to move out of "fight or flight" and drop into "rest and digest" You're unlikely to find a downward dog in sight in this class, but for a deep stretch, this is your class! Find out more about Yin Yoga in my related blog.
Restorative: Gentler than Yin, this is the most nurturing of the styles. Expect the deepest relaxation and a feeling of "being held". Perfect for anyone, anytime, but especially if you're feeling burnt out, or recovering from illness, this style provides a deep rest and promotes recovery.
However, despite the labels on the above, there is a lot of variation, and it will be completely dependent on the teacher's personal style. There are many more to add to the mix such as Forrest yoga (created by Ana Forrest) and Anusara. My advice would be to try as many as you fancy, and find a teacher and style you click with. The perfect class for one person will be completely different for someone else :)
If you would like to find out more about any of the styles above, do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org