You finally made the decision to practice yoga, but which style of yoga is the best one for you? There are many types of yoga, and while they usually have common elements, their focus is often quite different. If you have not been physically active in a long time, then one of the more gentle, slower moving styles may be right for you. If you are an athlete or are very physically fit, you might want to check out some of the more strenuous forms.
The following is a list of the more common yoga classes that you will find.
Hatha Yoga: Almost every style of yoga practiced in the west is some form of Hatha Yoga. It includes asanas, breathing exercises, relaxation, and meditation. Each of the individual forms of yoga has a different emphasis, but classes usually include some combination of these elements.
Ashtanga: This is a very fast paced, intense style of yoga. It follows a series of postures, which are always done in the same order and are connected with the breath. Each posture flows directly into the next one, so it is a very demanding practice. Ashtanga can be a good choice for physically fit individuals who like a challenge.
Iyengar: This type of yoga, which was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, is focused on proper body alignment. Poses are held for long periods of time and the movement from one posture to another is slower than some other styles. Props are often used to help maintain proper alignment, so Iyengar can be a good choice for those who have physical limitations. Since it focuses so much on correct body alignment, it is also a good starting point for beginners before they move into faster paced styles.
Bikram: This style of yoga was created by Bikram Choudhury and is also known as ‘hot yoga.’ Classes are held in rooms heated up to 100 degrees in order to allow your body to stretch without injury and release toxins. Practitioners move through a series of twenty-six postures, with each one being held for a period of time. This is a strenuous style and should be avoided by people with certain health conditions unless they get clearance from their medical professional.
Power Yoga: This is an intense workout that is a hybrid of Ashtanga, because the postures do not necessarily follow a particular sequence every time. Asanas move from one to another and they require a great deal of strength and stamina. Power yoga is best suited for athletic, well-conditioned individuals. It is my favorite type of yoga, and even though I am in excellent physical shape, I find it very challenging.
Kundalini: This type of yoga combines postures with specific breathing. Its purpose is to release the Kundalini energy that is housed at the base of the spine and allow it to move upward. Its ultimate goal is spiritual enlightenment.
Kripalu: This style of yoga is meditation in motion. Its goal is for the individual to gain a deeper inner awareness and to nurture a relationship with his or her body. Classes include gentle yoga postures with coordinated breathing and an emphasis on alignment. They also include an extended period of meditation and relaxation.
Integral: Created by Sri Swami Satchidananda, this type of yoga is very gentle. Classes have a greater emphasis on the meditative rather than the physical aspects of yoga. Integral Yoga is included in Dr. Dean Ornish’s program, which has been shown to reverse heart disease.
Viniyoga: This style was created by T.K.V. Desikachar and is a therapeutic approach to yoga. It focuses on breathing in conjunction with movement. Viniyoga encourages modified postures to meet an individual’s specific needs and abilities. It would be a valuable style for someone who is dealing with an injury or other physical restriction.
Once you’ve chosen a specific type of yoga, it doesn’t mean you have to stay with it forever. You can choose to focus on another style for a while or mix several different types depending on how your mind and body feel. Whichever type you choose, the most important thing is to continue doing it on a regular basis so you can enjoy the rewards that yoga brings.
Della Menechella is a yoga and fitness enthusiast who has been involved in fitness for over thirty years. Her website http://www.beauty-fitness-yoga-source.com/ is filled with practical information about how you can make yoga and fitness a positive part of your life. Visit the site and get your free meditation e-book.