How to Find Your Yoga Style Soulmate (Part One)

Ali Washington
How to Find Your Yoga Style Soulmate (Part One)

As you are most likely well aware, there are a plethora of yoga styles to choose from. You can find everything from Yin yoga to Power yoga—and all of this choice may make you stop and wonder, what is really the right style for you?

You may be practicing at a particular studio right now and wondering if the grass is greener somewhere else, or you may be wanting to start a yoga practice without knowing where would be the right place for you.

In this week’s article, I am going to share with you the benefits of Ashtanga, Iyengar, Flow, and Yin yoga, and then next week we will take a look at a few other styles.

1. Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga yoga was developed by Pattabhi Jois originally as a practice to offer physically able and mentally active teenage boys.

Comprised of four set series of postures, this practice begins with the primary series, which is composed of a warm up, a section of seated and standing postures (most of which are forward folds) and a finishing series.

Practitioners practice the same series each day, until they are permitted by a teacher to move forward to the next series.

Benefits: This method of yoga is extremely physically demanding, and can also be quite meditative—due to the repetition and deep focus on breathing. It is great for opening your body to pretty well all postures and will help instill a deep sense of discipline into your life.

Is Ashtanga for me? Ashtanga yoga is awesome for anyone who is in moderately good shape, who desires to have yoga be more than just a ‘workout.’

If you crave structure and consistency in your practice and your life, Ashtanga can be something that offers guiding principles for your entire life! If you are serious about practicing yoga and are looking for the more meditative qualities that can be found in asana, then Ashtanga is for you.

2. Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar yoga was invented by B.K.S Iyengar. Iyengar was a sickly child who was unable to practice the more physically demanding forms of yoga that his teacher Krishnamacharya was offering at the time.

This style of yoga relies heavily on props and is very much focused on proper alignment and long holds within asana. B.K.S Iyengar developed his distinctive style of yoga due to his illnesses and discovered that his long holds and prop supported postures helped heal him.

Benefits: Iyengar develops a keen and acute body awareness, helps you locate and utilize muscles you most likely have never accessed before, teaches awesome alignment, creates a safe space for practice, and will help develop the discipline of mind needed to hold postures for long periods of time.

Iyengar said “a pose begins when you wish to exit it”—if that gives you an idea of how much he likes holding postures.

Is Iyengar for me? Iyengar yoga is great for all fitness levels—but offers special benefit to anyone dealing with injuries or illnesses. This practice is for you if you want something with a slower pace, that is focused on proper body placement in poses, and that teaches you the nitty gritty of asana.

3. Flow or Power Yoga

Flow or Power yoga is really an offshoot of many of the other more traditional styles of yoga. Most Flow-based practices have their roots in Ashtanga, and then have added flair and nuance. Some of these more modern styles of practice are practices like Anusara Yoga and Jivamukti yoga.

All different styles of Power yoga have their own unique points of emphasis, so if Power yoga is your thing, you may need to do some even deeper exploring to find your best style match!

Benefits: Power yoga practices are awesome workouts, will get you sweating while still teaching you the foundations for a healthy practice. These types of classes will help you develop strength as well as endurance.

Is Power yoga for me? Power yoga is your thing if you are looking for a place to just get on your mat and move. These classes are awesome if you are an athlete or an active person in general, and want to add a lovely balancing element to your current fitness routine.

These classes might not be all that great for those who are very new to yoga, because I find that going to some slower, more traditionally-based classes is an element that is needed for learning basic alignment and terminology that will make you more comfortable in a Flow-based class.

4. Yin Yoga

Yin yoga is all about release. This practice focuses upon long holds of stretches, which are done in a cold room without ‘warming up’ the body in any traditional sense. This practice is very much designed to release tensions held within the muscles and connective tissue through static stretching.

Benefits: This practice is amazing for releasing deeply held tensions in the fascia and muscle tissue. It is also deeply relaxing and grounding.

Is Yin yoga for me? Yin yoga is awesome for you if you are a runner, biker, walker, weight lifter, swimmer, hiker or otherwise active person who does not take the time to thoroughly stretch on a regular basis.

This practice is also perfect for those who sit at a desk or behind the wheel of a car all day, as it will help to open up all those overly tight muscles of the front body. This practice is really for anyone who could use some concentrated stretching time, and a space to slow down and relax the mind.

If you have not found your yoga sweet spot with the styles mentioned here, stay tuned for next week when we will look at Kundalini, Hot, and Restorative yoga.