“What yoga is best for me?” is a very common question and a difficult one to answer considering yoga is a practice as old as time. Considered both an art form and science, yoga promotes a healthy life and a positive headspace. In general terms, yoga is a discipline that puts an emphasis on concentration and unity, a peaceful harmony within yourself and the world around you.
An article written by the Director of Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga takes a close look at Yoga scripture. He indicates that the practice of yoga brings together individual consciousness with universal consciousness, man with nature. Thus, the purpose of yoga is to achieve self-realization, and to reach “Moksha”, a state of liberation. Dating all the way back to 2700 B.C., yoga continues to nurture and heal our bodies and free our minds. Whether it’s practiced for exercise, meditation, or mindfulness, there is a type of yoga suited for all of us.
In this article, we are going to review several different types of yoga, all with their own approaches, philosophies and benefits.
How To Discover Your Yoga Style
It’s clear that yoga has powerful benefits, but the term “yoga” is quite broad. In actuality, “yoga” is an umbrella to a plethora of different types of yoga and practices. If you’re just beginning to embark on your yoga journey, it can be overwhelming determining the best type for you. With all the different types of yoga, comes different techniques, philosophies, and benefits so there is no “one size fits all” practice. Hundreds of variations of yoga have emerged in studios around the world, so how do we choose the style for us? Here’s a good place to start:
There are hundreds of variations of yoga emerged in studios around the world.
Reflect On Your “Why”
First, think about why you want to practice yoga and consider your reasons for engaging in the practice. Are your reasons purely for exercise, staying active, and working up a sweat? Are you looking to build strength and relieve muscle and joint pain? Or perhaps you’re looking to manage your anxiety and depression with mindfulness? Whether your reason is physical, mental, spiritual, or a mix of them, take some time to reflect on why you want to practice. This will provide you a clear narrative and guidance on which different types of yoga can help you fulfill your purpose.
Think About Your Personal Needs
Next, take time to consider your own personal needs and preferences. A good question to ask yourself is: what are my physical, financial, and time limitations? Evaluate what your body can handle, your budget on classes and equipment, and the time you can carve out in your week.
In addition, ask yourself if you value the sense of community in group classes, or prefer solo practice with personalized attention. Would you practice better with a disciplinary and strict approach, or do you prefer a gentle and compassionate approach? These are all things to consider when deciding the right type of yoga for you.
There are a few things you need to consider before deciding the right type of yoga for you.
Trial And Error
Moreover, the most obvious way to find your fit is through trial and error. You probably won’t know which type of yoga is best for you until you try it out. When exploring different yoga classes and styles, be mindful of how you’re feeling during and after the class. Did the practice feel challenging but manageable or was it too taxing? Was it welcoming and supportive or did you feel judged and overwhelmed? Did you feel relaxed or stressed? Did you feel inspired throughout the practice or did you mentally check out? Pay close attention to how your mind and body feel during the class and listen closely. The right class should inspire you to want to come back again and continue your yoga journey.
Exploring The Different Types Of Yoga
Let’s take a closer look at some of the popular styles of yoga and explore the different approaches, philosophies and benefits.
Hatha Yoga: For The Beginners – Back To Basics
Arguably one of the most common kinds of yoga, Hatha refers to any type of yoga that focuses on physical postures. In the west, you’ll often see lots of Hatha yoga classes, which are typically slower, gentler and more relaxing. Therefore, Hatha yoga is great for beginners and for those who want an introduction to basic yoga postures. There is a strong focus on individual poses and alignment with deep breathing exercises. However, if you are looking to break a sweat and are more goal-oriented, this is probably not the style for you. Hatha yoga is your best bet if you’re a beginner or looking to improve your flexibility and balance, or just like its vibe. Beyond this, its approach aims to increase your self-awareness and reduce negativity in the mind.
You can improve your flexibility and balance with Hatha Yoga.
Vinyasa Yoga – For The Athletes – More Freedom, More Flow
“Vinyasa” is a Sanskrit word meaning “to place in a special way”, referring to the focus on a sequence of poses. Similarly to Ashtanga, this style is also rooted in flowing through a sequence of “asanas” that connect with the movement of breath. This style is also more dynamic and physically challenging, and great for building body strength and flexibility. On the contrary, Vinyasa classes are less structured and place less emphasis on the same routine. Instead, every class is different and moves through new and creative sequences, often done to lively and upbeat music. So, if Ashtanga sounded appealing but you don’t love the idea of routine, Vinyasa might be the style for you. This is a great choice for those who love to work up a sweat and enjoy spontaneity.
Bikram Yoga – For The Hot Yoga Fanatics – Sweat & Sculpt
A popular practice developed by founder Bikram Choudhury, where classes take place in artificially heated rooms. This style comprises of 26 asanas that follow the same sequence, done in a humid room heated to about 40°C (104°F). In fact, all official classes are taught by certified instructors trained at a Bikram-endorsed facility. Hence, you’ll notice that every class will be extremely consistent – the same 26 poses, 90 minutes, set at 40°C (104°F) and 40% humidity. According to Bikram, the heat serves to accelerate the natural detoxifying process, the perfect practice if you’re looking to sweat excessively. In addition, the heat softens tense muscles, increasing flexibility, and promotes further focus on each asana. Other benefits of Bikram include improved blood circulation, increased flexibility and mobility, and sharpened focus. Strongly recommended for those who prefer a disciplined and structured practice that will make you sweat a lot.
Kundalini Yoga – For The Spiritual and Creative – Meditation & Mantras
The ancient practice of Kundalini is coined “the Yoga of Awareness”. The term Kundalini means “coiled”, and refers to the “coiled snake” at the base of our spines. The practice intends to uncoil this snake and release the tension and energy held in our spine. In particular, it comprises of asanas, meditation, and mantras – classes will typically start with an opening chant and end in meditation. The Kundalini approach includes challenging breathing exercises and vigorous movement, aimed to “awaken” your inner energy. With this, individuals who are looking for a more spiritual and unconventional practice should give this style a try. Along with improved fitness, Kundalini can help you expand consciousness, fuel creative energy, and achieve a higher state of happiness.
Kundalini comprises of asanas, meditation, and mantras.
Iyengar Yoga – For The Detail-Oriented – Perfecting Posture and Practice
Iyengar yoga involves a wide range of yoga tools – such as blocks, chairs, straps and bolsters. This practice is all about precision and proper alignment, placing focused attention on asana technique. As opposed to quick movement and flow between poses, Iyengar is designed to systematically build stability and flexibility. Classes will concentrate on holding poses for longer periods of time, where props are used to master proper alignment. Thus, Iyengar is ideal for those who are detail-oriented and want to perfect all their poses to increase physical awareness. In addition, Iyengar is a helpful practice if you’re looking to relieve soreness in your body, or if you have physical limitations.
Your Next Yoga Class
Discovering the different types of yoga and finding the best style for you will take time. There is no right or wrong approach, and your preferences and needs will constantly change and evolve. There are also several yoga quizzes online that can help you assess your needs and preferences, which is another good place to start.
Which practice resonates the most with you? Stay open-minded and try a new yoga class – you may surprise yourself with a new favourite hobby!
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Christine Xin is a social and digital marketer with focused experience in social media strategy and management. She works with Enterprise brands in Canada to help grow their presence within the digital space, and is also a Food and Travel blogger in her free time. She has a strong passion for content creation and writing, and is inspired by a wide range of topics. She has recently taken an interest in yoga and meditation, and is actively exploring both the physical and mental benefits mindfulness has on her daily life.