What Is Yoga?
In today’s world, there are hundreds of styles of yoga. There are types and styles and substyles even cross overs. However, there are major types of yoga that all the other varieties stem from.
The word yoga is Sanskrit for union or unite. There are many ways to practice yoga however most people use the word they are talking about one of the physical practices of yoga. There are 6 main popular types of yoga that people practice on a regular basis.
Not all types are spiritual or meditative based but they all offer loads of benefits physically and mentally. Not everyone is going to like every style of yoga, but you should give each a chance and see what fits best for you or what your body might need.
What are the Main Types of Yoga?
Many studios will offer fun or specialty classes and workshops but these are the main classes that any subset of yoga will have branches off from. These are the styles of yoga that most studios will have dedicated schedules and regular teachers. These styles will teache discipline and most were created by teachers who studied under gurus. Practicing multiple styles of yoga is ideal as you will get the maximum number of benefits it all.
Ashtanga yoga is an active style of yoga that can be very demanding. It is a style of yoga that practices alignment and breath with each pose. A traditional Astanga yoga class will follow the same sequence each and every time. Astanga yoga is made up of 5 series of poses and you have to master each pose in a series before moving onto the next series. The first series starts with sun salutations, 5 sun A’s and 5 sun B’s. After that series is standing poses followed by inversions then seated poses. The order of the series is designed to open up the body in a very specific way. The class is generally taught without music, just some cues here and there from the teacher ad you are encouraged to draw inward to learn more about yourself.
Hot yoga will always be performed in a room that is heated between 92 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit with the humidity high as well. So it is a type of class that you want to prepare for throughout the day by drinking loads of water because you will sweat more than you ever have before.Hot yoga classes are almost always high-intensity classes with a mix of power and vinyasa yoga. There is a heavy focus on linking breath to movement, creating internal fire and “finding your edge”. The sweat and twisting and turning detoxifies your body and renews your skin. Instructors will also encourage you to listen to your body and take rests or breaks if your body needs to. Lovers of hot yoga, myself included, tout its detoxification purposes (mental and physical), easier flexibility and quicker muscle toning. The heat of the classroom lets you get deeper into a pose because your muscles are already warmed up. Hot yoga is not for everyone but it is highly addicting. If you stick to this style, it is important to eat and drink enough throughout the day and after class. It is super easy to get dehydrated during this style of yoga, especially if you practice it several times a week. Special mats and towels are made specifically for hot yoga so that you don’t slip around due to all the sweat, so if you know you like this style, invest in the proper mat.
Power yoga is heavily influenced by Astanga yoga, especially when it comes to the alignment of poses. Power yoga is a fast-paced class that combines holding poses with a vigorous flow. Yoga classes vary from studio to studio where some classes will follow a similar pattern of poses while other studios may be different poses each class. Some power yoga classes may also be taught in a hot yoga room setting, but not always, so it’s important to read the class description. Power yoga burns a lot of calories and builds a lot of muscle. It strengthens and tones your body and most definitely can be considered a whole body workout. Power yoga might be a difficult style to start out with if you are beginning to work out in general.
Restorative yoga involves sitting in passive poses, usually with props, for several minutes at a time. During a restorative class, you will use props like bolsters, blocks, straps, a neck pillow, eye pillows and/or blankets. This style of yoga allows your muscles to get a deep stretch. This is a very mellow class and can be a challenge for people who find it hard to sit still. Restorative yoga deeply relaxes the mind and body by reducing stress, it improves flexibility and teaches patience self-care. It teaches you to slow down and work with your body. It calms your nervous system and may help lower your blood pressure. Restorative yoga can also help people suffering from insomnia, panic disorder, anxiety attacks and depression. It is also great for bringing your body and nervous system back into balance. It is also great for recovering from an injury or illness and it may help reduce chronic pain.
Yin yoga is a slow flow style of yoga that targets your deep tissue, fascia, bones, joints and ligaments. Most poses are held from 2-5 minutes. It also targets pressure points as you stretch. Yin yoga can feel uncomfortable but it helps out bodies age gracefully. It helps prevent our muscles from getting stiff and dense. To get through uncomfortable stretches, the teacher will instruct you on how to use your breath. This style of yoga increases blood flow and circulation, improves flexibility and relieves mental and physical tension. This is a great challenge for people that have trouble sitting for long periods of time but your mind and body benefits greatly. This style is one everyone should incorporate into their normal practice routine, especially for anyone who lives an intense, active lifestyle or suffers from obsessive thought and anxiety.
Vinyasa yoga will primarily focus on connecting breath to movement and you are moving the entire class. It is a high-intensity class where you will surely work up a sweat and burn a lot of calories. Some Vinyasa classes are taught in a hot yoga setting and it is a great way to build long and lean muscles. Breathwork is an important part of this style so teachers may call out-breath cues through a majority of the class. A little trick to remember is knowing that a majority of the time, an upward movement is an inhale and a downward movement is an exhale. A vinyasa class will move through many poses quickly producing long and lean muscles. Vinyasa yoga can also be considered a full-body workout but you can drop into childs pose or down dog at any point if and when you need a rest.
- Many yogis practice multiple styles of yoga. They compliment one another and they also complement many other workouts, sports or fitness classes. For example, many people who run or surf have incorporated yoga into their schedules to help protect joints and muscles that they are repetitively using.
- As stated before, there are way more styles and types of yoga than these mentioned here but these are the most commonly practiced on a regular basis.
- All styles of yoga offer physical and mental benefits and yoga is available for everyone. Try out as many styles as you like and stick with your top two favorite.
- Once you find you favorite styles, it is a great idea to invest in your own gear. A mat, block and a reusable water bottle are pretty much all you need for any yoga class.
- You might not realize how much emotion the body holds and even if you are starting yoga simply as a workout, you may feel a huge emotional shift, and that is normal.
- Breath is very important.
- Wear easy layers to take on and off as your body warms up and cools down.
- Don’t worry about others – they are not worried about you because we are all worrying about ourselves.
- Don’t eat right before class
- Use props!
- You don’t have to already be flexible to do yoga.
- Always leave your phone in the car and shoes in the lobby.
- If you know you have yo leave early, talk to the teacher before class starts and sit in the back of the studio.
- Avoid leaving class unless absolutely necessary.
- When walking around a studio, avoid stepping on peoples mats.
- Try not to wear perfume or scented lotion to class.
- As always, it is a great idea to check in with your doctor if you are changing your health routine in any sort of away, especially if there is a change you are pregnant.