For those new to Yoga, knowing which class to invest time, energy and hard-earned cash into, can be something of a challenge to figure out which one is right for you.
The benefit of such a variety is that it means there is literally something for everyone, but the downfall is the confusion it can cause when shopping around to find the right fit for your wants and needs.
It can be true that it is as much about what you bring to Yoga as what Yoga brings to you. So, in order to get the most benefit, enjoyment and satisfaction, it is recommended that you find the right style, class, and often, the right instructor to suit you.
This may seem like something of a mission, but consider the viewpoint that this can be part of the fun and enjoyment as you start your journey with Yoga. Time spent shopping around for the right type of yoga for your needs is absolutely time well invested.
So, to help you on your way, we have compiled a brief description of some of the more common styles of Yoga available – from the more relaxing to the very physically demanding.
We would recommend that with all classes you should try before you buy. Most, if not all, studios offer trial sessions of one form or another, and any decent studio will welcome discussion about your needs, ambitions as well as any physical issues you may have prior to joining up. And, it goes without saying, when starting any new physical exercise program, if you have any concerns, always consult your Doctor/Physician before undertaking any strenuous exercise activity.
Here is a summary of seven of the more popular, dare we say it (?) mainstream styles we at For All Our Wellbeing have tried over the past few years;
Ashtanga (or Astanga) Yoga
One of the more vigorous and energetic styles of yoga. Ashtanga is a serious undertaking and physically demanding. Linking asanas (poses) with flowing movements that tie in with the breath, the pace is fast and non-stop; it is recommended for those who are relatively fit, healthy and up for a challenge.
Due to the limited time each pose is held, it is also recommended that more basic classes are attended in order to master this style.
The brainchild of Bikram Choudry. This is, fundamentally, derived from Hatha yoga, with a series of 26 asanas and two breathing exercises, performed in each and every class.
Each 90-minute session is performed in studios heated to 105°F/40°C, challenging and strengthening the cardiovascular system by increasing the heart rate, improving blood flow and flexibility of the muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as to promote sweating, helping to cleanse the body of toxins.
For further information, go to: https://www.bikramyoga.com/
Hatha is described as having its roots in ancient Yoga practice and in more recent times, has been the foundation of a number of the more modern styles so common today, such as Bikram and Iyengar Yoga. Today, Hatha Yoga has come be to a generic term that has come to mean the physical practice of Yoga, and describes a style of yoga with physical movements involved - a basic, more gentle class with little or no flow in between asanas.
Named after its creator BKS Iyengar, it is a derivation of Hatha Yoga with over 200 classical poses and 14 pranayamas (breath control exercises).
This version of Yoga is methodical, progressive and meticulous with great emphasis placed on precision in the performance of postures, alignment and breath control
In pursuing perfect form, props are readily used (such as blocks, straps, bolsters etc) and there isn’t a lot of fast-paced movement to get the heart-rate up, but it is not without its challenges.
Iyengar Yoga is a very popular style which is excellent for beginners to gain a solid knowledge and understanding of poses and the correct alignment.
For further information, go to: http://bksiyengar.com/
Vinyasa yoga integrates synchronised, rhythmic breathing with conscious movement transforming this style of yoga into a high energy, moving meditation.
Described by William J Broad, in his book, The Science of Yoga as ‘Yoga Ballet’, Vinyasa Yoga is a movement-intensive practice, with emphasis on fluidity and smooth transition from pose to pose. Similar to Ashtanga yoga in its intensity and pace, yet with a more intuitive and creative style of delivery as no two classes are the same.
You may also see this touted as power-yoga, flow-yoga, dynamic yoga or vinyasa flow.
Yin is slow and more restorative in its focus. In the practice of Yin, postures are mostly seated or lying down and are held for much longer than they would in the more typical Yoga styles (2-6 minutes, sometimes even longer).
This in turn works to release the deeper connective tissues; ligaments, tendons, muscles and fascia; improving flexibility and energy flow.
As well as this, due to the slow nature of the classes and the holding of poses for longer periods of time, the practice goes hand in hand with meditation and mindfulness. This facilitates tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system (the ‘rest and digest’ nervous system) which offers a raft of both physical, as well as mental benefits
For further information, go to: http://www.yinyoga.com/
The literal translation means ‘yogic sleep’ and is a century’s old form of guided relaxation which takes participants to a state between sleeping and waking to offer a form of meditation and mind-body therapy.
This makes it an excellent antidote to today’s fast-paced and stressful lifestyle and to those new to Yoga, it has the added bonus of needing little, if any knowledge of Yoga and the various poses as for the most part, Yoga Nidra is practised lying down. Nor do you have to be practiced in meditation as practitioners are guided through the various stages of the class by the teacher.
Highly accessible, it offers a form of meditation that with regular practice can help achieve a profound sense of peace and the deepest levels of relaxation.
What with the wealth of benefits yoga offers EVERYONE, no matter what their age, gender or physical condition, it should be a no-brainer to hit the mat. But the pervasive dogma around yoga still creates a barrier to entry for some, many even, and this is not helped by the myriad of classes out there confusing beginners. Yoga is designed to improve the quality of your physical, spiritual (if you want it to) as well as your mental health: NOT to confuse, baffle and turn people off.
But the reality is, in cities such as London, yoga is not a cheap investment by any stretch of the imagination, so we reiterate what we said at the beginning. TRY BEFORE YOU BUY. Any decent club will offer you this.
The reality is there is a yoga style and class to suit everyone. You may also find that there is more than one style of yoga you can get different benefits from, and again, many studios offer numerous styles/classes under one roof and membership.
So, the best advice we can give is this, give as many of the above styles a go as possible, and always, always, always keep an open mind. I, personally, went to my first yoga class with a raft of preconceptions – all of which were totally blown out of the water within less than a month, and I never looked back – and that’s a Northern blokey bloke talking!!
So, ditch the excuses, ditch the concerns and get yourself to a yoga studio near you. You may wonder how you ever managed without it!
Beirne, G., (2014) Yoga: a beginner's guide to the different styles [online] in The Guardian, 10th January, 2014 at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jan/10/yoga-beginners-guide-different-styles
Beirne, G., (2015) Yin yoga: be part of the yin crowd [online] in The Guardian, 5th January 2015 at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jan/05/yin-yoga-calm-mind-stretch-body-slow
Griffin, K., (2012) Discover the Peaceful Practice of Yoga Nidra [online] in Yoga Journal, 2nd March 2012 at: http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/reflections-of-peace/
Freedman, F.B., (2006) The practical encyclopaedia of Yoga and Pilates Lorenz Books: London
Lee, C., (2014) Yoga 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Practice, Meditation, and the Sutras [online] in Yoga Journal; 7th October, 2014 at: http://www.yogajournal.com/article/beginners/yoga-questions-answered/
Miller, R., (2013) 10 Steps of Yoga Nidra [online] in Yoga Journal, 27th January 2013, at: http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/10-steps-of-yoga-nidra/