Yoga enthusiast, Eleanor Coales explains the benefits of five different types of yoga you should add to your life.
Navigating the world of yoga can be tricky even for a seasoned student, let alone as a total newbie (yoga virgin? Yirgin? Hmm). With so many styles of classes, schools and studios to choose from, working out which is which can be a yogic minefield. It is an extremely broad field, with styles of yoga growing massively as the practice has expanded globally. Whether you fancy alignment-focused Iyengar, fusion fitness Fierce Grace or DJ-accompanied Fat Buddha yoga, there really is something for everyone. To help you navigate, here are five of the most popular forms of yoga that you may wish to try. When trying new yoga classes, aim to attend at least three classes with an open mind before you form an opinion, but don’t be afraid to shop around either. Namaste.
Hatha – for beginners
Most popular styles of yoga in the west have derived from Hatha yoga. Coming from traditional forms of yoga, Hatha is the yoga of physical movement and balance. Although technically, any yoga that involves movement can be described as Hatha. However, as the field has become diverse, Hatha yoga generally refers to a gentle yoga class. These classes are often good for beginners as they tend to be mixed ability and very accessible. Each pose is focused on individually, without the requirement of flow between asanas. It will introduce you to the basic poses, pranayama (breathing) and some meditation. It is useful to have some experience of Hatha if you are looking to further your understanding of yoga, even if you are a little more experienced.
Vinyasa – for fitness fans
Vinyasa yoga is quickly becoming very popular, especially with those that have at least a basic level of fitness. This style is focused on flowing movements that generate heat and get your heart rate up. Meaning “connection”, Vinyasa can be more challenging, but is really beautiful to watch. Poses are done in time with the breath, so the practice is very meditative. Classes tend to start with Sun Salutations, or include them early on in the class. You will also often be asked to flow through a Vinyasa, which is a series of three poses –plank, chaturanga and cobra/upward dog before moving into downward dog pose. This is also known as a half Sun Salutation as it is based on part of the sequence that characterises this style of yoga. Look out for power yoga as well, a form of Vinyasa-style classes that aims to make Ashtanga more accessible to the wider public. This form is a little trickier again, often employing a faster flow and getting you to work your core and arm muscles.
Ashtanga – for focus
Ashtanga is a powerful yoga class that follows several set poses or series. It starts with five rounds each of Sun Salutation A and B, like that of Vinyasa yoga, and is followed by the primary, secondary and advanced series. Most classes will focus on taking students through the Sun Salutations and primary series, as this in itself takes up to 90 minutes, and a student is required to have mastered each series before moving on to the next. It is a challenging form of yoga, and the set sequence may not appeal to everyone. However, others love the discipline of Ashtanga and with regular practice, students can become very strong, flexible and advanced yogis. There are some good condensed and beginner classes online, such as by Leslie Fightmaster that may appeal to those who wish to try Ashtanga. Having a set order of asanas makes Ashtanga very convenient for home practice, particularly with some of the beautiful posters that you can purchase online at the moment.
Yin – for relaxation
Commonly overlooked as an easy class, You can reap some serious benefits from Yin yoga . In a society where we are encouraged to go-go-go, Yin is the perfect antidote. Centred on holding poses for between 90 seconds and 5 minutes, there is no room for ego, as you get comfortably uncomfortable on your mat. The poses slowly release connective tissues and fascia and really relax the body and mind –so much so that the term “yoga high” has been coined! It has been recommended for athletes and gym devotees as much as it has for Vinyasa converts, providing the much-needed release from yang lifestyles. Come into a class with an open mind, really listen to your body for niggles and aches and be prepared to become hooked.
Hot and Bikram –for sweat and flexibility junkies
All Bikram is hot yoga, but not all hot yoga is Bikram is the best way to explain the two. Bikram Choudhury came up with the idea of practicing yoga in heated rooms (up to 40°C) after finding that cooler countries inhibited his practice. He set up a class based around 26 poses performed in these hot rooms for 90 minutes. However, due to the high cost of training under Bikram, and some students struggling under the strict class conditions, hot yoga classes branched out into wider styles. The heat helps to improve flexibility, although this can lead to over-stretching and injury. Whilst the high temperatures can be a shock to the system, many swear by it and quickly become hooked. The heat increases your heart rate, making the body work harder. It is also thought to clear out your skin (dare I use the word detox?!) so long as you cleanse afterwards. A key tip is to embrace the sweat and enjoy the challenge!