Originating in the Northern Indian civilization of Indus Sarasvati thousands of years ago, who knew that so many styles of yoga would be created? Who could predict the powerful effect it would have across the world? The brilliant combination of breathwork and movement done in yoga cultivates a more conscious form of exercise that is beneficial for everyone, no matter your age, size, race, belief system, etc. (1).
Since its creation, there have been many types of yoga introduced with varying levels of physical intensity and spiritual focus. When you know the different forms and benefits, you can make a more informed decision based on what your body and mind need on a particular day. The great thing about yoga is that you don’t have to stick to just one type, despite what some people might believe. The types of yoga aren’t cults, as the spiritual and physical practices stem from the same place.
Yoga for Healthy Aging
Yoga is not only a practice that has aged well in our society but is also one that can help us age healthily. The Vedic philosophy will tell us that we need to focus on inner work and self-exploration during the third phase of our life (age 50-75). Because this stage follows the one that is career-focused and/or about cultivating a family, it is believed that it is now time to take care of yourself in order to boost your longevity. Hence, yoga is a much less stressful exercise than the cardio or heavy lifting that you might have done previously, especially on an older body. The added benefit, which makes it the perfect exercise for this phase, is the increased mental awareness and strength you gain (2).
A GOOD, well-educated yoga instructor will offer variations and modifications to suit our levels and needs, which is why you can attend a class at any age. It is especially important to tell the instructor if you suffer from current or prior injuries/physical conditions. This will help the instructor pay extra attention to you when offering modifications and physical adjustments. Every yoga teacher is different, even if the style is the same, so try out different classes and studios to find out what resonates with you.
Yoga can help with the side effects that come from getting older, including poor sleep, physical pain, and anxiety. Especially with females (which you can read more about here: https://mbzen.com/a-holistic-menopause/), hormone imbalance can worsen some of the symptoms of aging. If you find that sleep is an issue for you, then a yoga class that emphasizes slowing down the breath will be beneficial. Controlled breath is linked to less stress and increased melatonin to help sleep by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
Physical pain can also be eased through the right yoga practice. Aging makes our joints, muscles, and bones weaken and, thus, can make us more prone to injuries and physical discomfort. The poses performed in yoga involve full-body movement which lubricates the joints and strengthens the muscles to protect the bones. The stretching aspect of yoga also decreases tension in the body and can improve posture. Poor posture is linked to fatigue and physical pain, which you can learn about here: https://mbzen.com/9-yoga-poses-for-better-posture/). Yoga poses with gentle twists and folds increase the blood flow and internally massage the organs to maximize their function (3).
It is no secret that mindfulness is a powerful tool in taking care of our mental health. One of the worst parts of hormonal fluctuations is the effect it has on our minds. Increased stress, anxiety, and low mood are often a side during perimenopause and menopause, which can be helped with yoga. Choosing a practice that is mindful and spiritual can help with our mental health, as the use of slowed breath is linked to decreasing cortisol and stimulating oxytocin (4). Therefore, you might feel elated, happy, and comforted as a result of yoga – and who doesn’t want that?!
Every yoga teacher is different, even if the style is the same, so try out different classes and studios to find out what resonates with you.
Types of Yoga
Now that you know a bit more about the different ways that yoga can increase your quality AND longevity of your life, it is time to start finding the type that suits you. Remember: you don’t have to commit to one type or even try them all. All of our bodies are different and, depending on the day and phase of life, you might be craving a different type of energy and flow. But first, get yourself a good quality, comfortable yoga mat (https://mbzen.com/product/yoga-mat-non-slip-foldable/).
Created by the “Father of Modern Yoga,” Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, Hatha yoga is famous for its sequence of long-held poses and controlled breath. A lot of physical and mental strength is required here thanks to the long holds in demanding poses.
Although challenging, this type of yoga is great for beginners who are learning the different types of postures, as Hatha sequences tend to keep it simple. Keeping a controlled breath as your muscles are burning and the sweat is dripping makes Hatha yoga great for improved focus and mental clarity. Furthermore, this type of yoga is great for those looking to improve full-body strength for maintaining muscle mass and bone health.
Hatha yoga great for improved focus and mental clarity.
This type of yoga was introduced in the 1970s by BKS Iyengar, one of the greatest teachers of yoga. A student of T. Krishnamacharya, Iyengar emphasizes achieving proper alignment and form during the practice by incorporating a multitude of props. He believed that with differently-abled bodies, props would help all types of practitioners get into any given pose correctly. (Get your eco-friendly props here: https://www.amazon.com/Dakini-Wellness-Cork-Block-Strap/dp/B08HXS3SM8/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=yoga+props&qid=1620110585&sr=8-4).
This type of yoga is great for beginners because it’s adaptable to people of all levels and teaches you proper form in the poses. It is also relevant to all of us, as it emphasizes improving posture and alignment. In this modern world, our posture weakens as we spend a lot of time in front of screens or in cars. On the plus side, the Iyengar yoga instructors are known as the physiotherapists of yoga, as they have to go through a more meticulous training program to become experts on anatomy and moving the body correctly.
The Iyengar yoga instructors are known as the physiotherapists of yoga.
“Vinyasa,” meaning variation, is a dynamic yoga flow that is inspired by, but much less rigid than Ashtanga. Still emphasizing linking breath to movement, vinyasa yoga can be completely different depending on the yoga instructor and studio.
Because this yoga is more fluid than Ashtanga, it is more adaptable for beginners and advanced students within the same class. This type of yoga, however, is still physically demanding and faster-paced than a traditional Hatha flow. Make sure that you are familiar with the foundations before jumping into a vinyasa class. The great thing about a vinyasa class is that it can be more creative and fun, while also giving heat and mobility to the joints and muscles.
Make sure that you are familiar with the foundations before jumping into a Vinyasa class.
This type of yoga is a relaxing flow, with more focus on the mindful and spiritual benefits of yoga. It was introduced in the 1970s by Paulie Zink, a martial artist and yogi, for helping in muscle recovery and mental clarity. A traditional yin yoga sequence has very few poses that are then held for several minutes each.
The long holds in a yin sequence give the muscles and joints the time to lengthen and strengthen their elasticity. It is ideal for those looking for a more gentle and meditative practice that also relaxes the muscles. The soothing nature of the twists and folds is good for the organs as well.
A traditional yin yoga sequence has very few poses that are then held for several minutes each.
As the name suggests, restorative yoga aims to relax the body and mind from day-to-day stresses. It is inspired by Iyengar yoga with its heavy use of props, such as pillows, blankets, bolsters, and blocks in order to maximize comfort. For example, you could be doing “child’s pose” with a pillow underneath you to avoid feeling any sort of tension in the pose.
While it sounds “easy,” this type of yoga is ideal for us all. From beginners to advanced practitioners and athletes, everyone needs this type of yoga in their life. It cleanses the mind and eases the body, which promotes calmness that can improve your sleep and overall quality of life. It a regular occurrence that people actually do fall asleep during this class!
From beginners to advanced practitioners and athletes, everyone needs RESTORATIVE YOGA in their life.
There are still many more types of yoga to explore. Other more modern types that could be fun to try include Aerial yoga, hot yoga, and kundalini yoga. Ashtanga yoga, however, while being a classic style, is a physically tough practice that isn’t always recommended to those entering their 40s and 50s. Finding the right yoga for you can be an incredible tool in improving your health more holistically. If you truly allow yourself to open up to it and be consistent, yoga will help your mind, body, and spirit. It is the best form of exercise for healthy aging, as it is more physically gentle and encourages you to do the inner work that is imperative while entering this stage of life. Aging is not easy on one’s mental health, as there are many changes going on with the hormones and body – much like when we enter puberty! Therefore, yoga encourages us to appreciate and love our body in a beautiful way that can help us age with grace and optimism.
Hi, I’m Amanda! I’m a singer/actress as well as a yoga instructor, who is super passionate about holistic wellness. Having suffered mental and physical stresses due to the hectic life of a performer, I have regained strength through practicing yoga, mindfulness, and healthy eating. I am a firm believer in the power of holistic health to navigate this crazy world we live in, and I hope to help and inspire others on their journeys to a healthier, happier self.