SO MANY STYLES, SO MANY FANCY NAMES!
Which one is right for you?
Yoga IS for everyone, and there IS a perfect class out there for you. Yoga can be called many different things and when you are starting out, it can be really intimidating!
Some classes are full of uplifting music, meditation and chanting (‘ommmm’)…..some are all about movement, body heat and sweating and some are about laying on your back and relaxing (‘ahhh’)
Here is a rough guide to the different varieties of Yoga you may encounter, and some simple categories and descriptions for them. The fundamentals of Yoga are shared across all these varieties, and that is a combination of positions, breathing and meditation. The order and emphasis on each is typically what varies in each different ‘type’.
- Ashtanga A physically demanding, intense form of Hatha, this type of yoga consists of 240 postures broken in 6 sequences. Most studios will just teach the first series called the “Primary Series”, so you should get quickly used to the order of the positions which may help you. This type of Yoga is a constant flow (called a ‘vinyasa’) the purpose of which is to create a heat in your body, focusing on building strength and flexibility. A reasonable level of fitness and a willingness to sweat is required! Postures are held for a relatively short time before flowing onto the next position. Ashtanga yoga is quite traditional, both in it’s postures and it’s format and classes typically start and close with a chant.
- Power A vinyasa styled yoga, meaning you do a sun salute between most positions, this is definitely a vigorous energetic form of yoga. Similar in some ways to the Ashtanga style, you often follow a series of set postures, often holding each posture for 5 breaths building and requiring strength. Power Yoga classes can vary widely from teacher to teacher, however in general they are good if you are fit (or want to get fit quick!) with only a minimal amount of chanting or meditation.
- Bikram Bikram is a strict sequence of 26 postures plus two breathing exercise done in a studio heated to 40 degrees. The heat is to make the muscles more flexible and there is a lot of sweating and you are encouraged to drink water throughout the class
- AcroYoga As the name suggests, this is a blend of acrobatics, yoga and thai massage. This class often involves a lot of partner work, with an emphasis of building trust and playfulness. You may have seen a picture of people doing AcroYoga – where one is laying down and the other is balancing on their feet ‘flying’. This is a signature AcroYoga position. Given the partner activities and balance, core strength is key
- Hatha A commonly used term, which many different forms of yoga technically fall into. For this reason, it is often used by studios to represent a ‘general’ class of yoga, so you should expect a combination of physical postures, breathing techniques and some meditation. Variations are offered to the physical positions to accomodate all levels from beginner to advanced. Hatha Classes vary significantly from teacher to teacher, due to the broad nature of this term, and even the ‘style’ of sun salute will be different from class to class. For this reason, this can be a great general class that suits most people.
- Dynamic Again, more of a general term than a specific style, a dynamic class is often similar to a vinyasa class in that it is full of flowing sequences moving from position to position reasonably quickly. Variations are typically offered meaning this style can suit most levels, unless otherwise specified.
- Vinyasa Similar to the Dynamic description above, with a strong emphasis on breathing at the right time.
- Iyengar This is a form of Hatha yoga with a heavy focus on alignment and correct positioning of the body. It builds strength and mobility through holding positions for a longer time and through the use of props such as a block, belt, bolster, blanket. Iyengar is great for practising with injuries, as the teacher can help you use the props to ensure you can participate within the bounds of your body at that time. Iyengar classes often comprise of less positions (asanas) than other forms of yoga, with great attention to the detail and movement of each position.
- Restorative As the name suggests this class often focuses on rejuvenation through holding positions for a long time in a relaxing way, such as lying n the floor. Props are used to assist ensuring your body is relaxed and safe. Typical props are bolsters, blankets, eye masks, straps.
- Yin Yoga Not always a relaxing class, but certainly about stretching, this class challenges your muscles to release their tension through holding positions for a long period of time. Often a challenging class, as the length of time in each position means that you also work hard on breathing and the mind. The focus on the breathing is to encourage the muscles to release, increasing your flexibility over time. This class may leave you feeling stiff and sore, but it can be an extremely beneficial class for active exercisers.
Remember that ALL yoga classes can be tailored to your individual situation, strength and energy on that day, so don’t be afraid to have a quick chat to the teacher at the beginning of the class. Teachers love it when you let them know if you are new, nervous, have any injuries or just want a special eye kept on you. And, they can do this without everyone in the class having to know 🙂
Have some more to add? We’d love to hear about them. New Yoga variations are popping up all the time and we’d love your input!
Simply email the information to email@example.com and we will add to our the website (and let you know when it’s published).