There are many styles of yoga to choose from, So how do you know which style is right for you? Here is a break down of a few of the most prevalent styles. Just keep in mind that each style- although different physically, is based on the same ancient philosophy of leading a happy life and loving yourself and others.
DYNAMIC MOVEMENT STYLES
Ashtanga - Athletic, disciplined & physically challenging.
Ashtanga is a physically demanding set of postures that are repeated each and every time in the same order.
Most shapes are held for 5 loud, oceanic sounding breaths. This breathing style is a powerful means of creating a deep set meditative focus, and as such it is great for sweating up a storm and relieving stress.
Initially taught by Sri Krishnamacharya in Mysore, India, Pattabhi Jois brough this style west in the 1940’s. Nowadays classes are lead in a group setting, or in “Mysore Style.” In the latter, a few shapes are given to a practitioner at a time to repeat over and over on their mat. Each student repeats their physical assignment within the classroom of students, until the teacher sees fit to give them more shapes.
Attaining the next set is not merely about getting the alignment correct and opening or strengthening the body, it is about the teacher seeing the student break through mind blocks as they practice.
Vinyasa - Flow style yoga, for stress relief and a workout
This style of practice is loosely founded on Ashtanga Yoga but every class is different, This means the classes can be given levels “Level one” or “Beginner” all the way through to advanced classes.
Often a class will focus on one or two body parts, like “heart and hip opening” and an introductory talk at the start of class will center around what this means emotionally.
The entire class is sewed together like a dance with one movement assigned to each breath, and occasional long holds in prominent poses.
In these classes everyone is generally moving together to create a dynamic and rich energy within the class as a whole. There is usually light music playing purely as an inspiration to keep moving.
Power - Fiery, fast paced and loud for weight loss
Power Yoga is basically interval training meets hot yoga. It is great for weight loss and creating strength.
Born from Vinyasa, Ashtanga and Bikram Yoga this style is both physically demanding, disciplined and is practiced in heated rooms. Add in loud music, Inspirational talks over a microphone and a sprinkling of conditioning movements like push ups, crunches, burpees and lunges and you have today’s “Power Yoga” classes.
Iyengar Yoga - Alignment based practice for injury rehabilitation
B.K.S Iyengar’s teachings have a very heavy focus on anatomy and injury recovery. Correct alignment is at the center of the class and teachers are very strict about this.
Each shape is held for 5-10 breaths and lots of props are encouraged as framework around injured body parts. This includes wall devices and straps. Teachers study for years to be able to teach Iyengar Yoga classes.
STATIC HOLD STYLES
Restorative Yoga- Recover, rest and digest
This is a subdivision of Iyengar Yoga. It was created by Iyengar himself for his injured students as a form of pain relief.
In Restorative classes you will be given a sleuth of props and encouraged to use every single one of them in the plight to turn our “fight or flight” response off. Each shape is held for a minimum of 8 minutes to encourage the parasympathetic nervous system to engage thoroughly causing a state of “rest and digest” to help encourage pain relief and stress reduction.
Yin Yoga - All floor work, perfect for improving speed in athletes
Yin Yoga is perfect for athletes needing a sharper reflex time.
Classes hold floor shapes for minutes at a time with cold muscles, in order to encourage the flexibility and thus, the reactivity time of the fascia (encasing) of the muscles.
This practice can only truly be done 1-2 times a week as the fascia takes that long to replenish after a significant stretch like that and static holds like this shouldn’t be done before a big workout of any kind.
While there are lots of styles of yoga to choose from they are all founded on the same ancient ideals of happy living, grounded ethics and finding your inner stillness. Depending on where you are in your life, the type of yoga most suited to your needs may change over time. Above all - have fun exploring the many wonderful ways that yoga can be expressed and practised!