Welcome to the Namaste Series! If you know me or are a friend or family member of mine, it is probably no secret to you that yoga is a big part of my life now. There are so many physical and mental benefits to yoga that I am always raving about it to people. Since this blog is an accumulation of all the things I love, and I love yoga, I knew I was going to write a lot about yoga. I want to create one spot on my site that has all my posts about yoga and the yogic lifestyle. First up in the series is a summary of the popular types of yoga and my tips on how to choose what class is right for you.
There are so many types, so it can be difficult choosing a class or a online video with names of styles you may have never heard before.
I came across this image to help you choose what style you may like based on what you want to get from your practice.
This is from Yoga Trail.
As you can see there are so many types of yoga ranging from prenatal to Bikram. There are also meditation based yoga styles. Yoga is not just about moving your body. It is entirely about becoming more spiritually and mentally sound. Posture is one way to do that, breathing and meditation is another way.
Here are the main types of yoga you may come across in your search for the right yoga class for you
1. Vinyasa Yoga: This is one of my personal favorites. “Vinyasa” means “flow.” You may hear it called Vinyasa flow, and this always makes me laugh because it’s like saying flow flow yoga. There are different levels from beginner and beyond, but for the most part this style is more fast paced and creates a heat in your body. You will sweat. This style incorporates connection of breath to movement, which is one of the reasons I love it. Power yoga is similar to this but reminds me more of Pilates.
2. Hatha Yoga: “Hatha” means “pose” or “posture.” So technically all forms of posture yoga is Hatha yoga. Today though the Hatha yoga style is slower; you focus on individual poses and breathe in them for a while. This style is great for beginners because you learn more about the poses and the teacher has time to adjust you if needed.
3. Restorative yoga: This style is great when you need to relax. You hold each pose for 5-10 minutes. They are usually seated postures and you use lots of props like blocks, straps, bolsters, and blankets. I love doing a restorative session when I have my period. It eases cramps for me and puts me in a less irritated mood. Prenatal yoga is similar to this in that it uses a lot of props too and incorporates more relaxing postures.
4. Ashtanga Yoga: This is a very structured and disciplined style. There are specific series that are done at every class. This style requires a lot of strength and flexibility so this is not a beginners class.
5. Bikram Yoga: This is another disciplined yoga style. Like ashstanga, there are specific sequences and poses that are used in this class. This is a difficult class as well. To add to the difficulty, the room is heated. So you are sweating like crazy. A lot of people love this style but I avoid at all costs. There is a risk of dehydration if you do not properly hydrate through-out the day (most of us do not). Also the heat is bad for your joints; it can mess with your tendons and ligaments. People feel like their muscles are stretching with the heat but it is actually the ligaments stretching. Muscles can looses a little with heat but they mostly lengthen by putting in the time to stretch.
6. Kundalini: This is a common meditation style that uses breathing techniques to calm the mind. Kundalini is a serpent goddess in the Hindu religion that lives in your sacrum or root chakra, asleep. She awakens through breathing practices. As your practice grows, she slowly awakens and reaches each chakra. You reach enlightenment by waking her up enough to shoot through all of the chakras into the crown chakra.
7. Acro Yoga: This is all over Instagram and other social media platforms. This practice involves two or more people, and there is at least 1 base and 1 flyer. I’d suggest a basic individual practice before you go on to try this as it requires a bit of strength from both the flyer and base, as well as a lot of trust.
I don’t just do one type of yoga. I like to incorporate many into my practice based on what my body needs and where I want to improve myself. So my first tip for choosing a class you will enjoy is already done now that you’ve made it to this section: Learn about the different styles.
I do not recommend walking into just any yoga class without doing a little research first. This will give you a little peace of mind and rest any nerves you may have before your first class.
Next I’d suggest looking within to figure out what you would like to get out of the class. Do you want to build strength and get a good workout? Then Bikram, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, or Power yoga may be your best bet. Are you wanting to increase your flexibility? Then maybe lean towards slower classes like in Hatha or Restorative yoga where you will be holding the poses for much longer. If you want to incorporate meditation or breathing practices (Pranayama) into your routine, kundalini and other mediation based styles are for you.
These are the only tips you need before you go to a class. Now here is some advice once you are there and practicing.
Go easy on yourself. There will be people there who are incredibly bendy you will wonder if they were even born with a spine. Or people you are floating their feet gracefully around their mat. You will get there in time. Your practice is your own. You will find that there are things you are better at than others and vice versa. That’s the beautiful thing about yoga: it’s very personal.
If you don’t like your first class, don’t give up on it. Maybe the style wasn’t for you. Maybe you didn’t like the teacher’s voice, or the music they played. There are so many variable to why you didn’t enjoy it, so experiement!