What Are The Different Types Of Yoga?
Where to start?
Yoga is a fantastic way of keeping fit, lean and healthy but starting off in the yoga world can be unnerving, especially when faced with various different styles.
The benefits of yoga are endless, in particular flexibility, strength and relaxation, however finding the right class, pace and teaching style is vital if you are to get the most enjoyment out of your practice.
In this article, I'll cover four different and relatively common yoga styles, Hatha, Iyengar, Bikram, and Vinyasa Flow, outlining their characteristics.
Genrally, Hatha yoga defines the physical practices found in yoga. To clarify, where yoga can accommodate many different characteristics including breathing, meditation and chanting, Hatha concentrates on the physical movements made during a practice.
Considered a relatively gentle and basic form of yoga, Hatha doesn't follow a flow i.e. the poses won't necessarily run into each other, rather concentrating on the practice of individual moves.
Often slow paced, Hatha is considered a general form of yoga, easy to introduce oneself to and a good place to 'start off' in the yoga world. Be prepared to learn mainly basic moves and stretches and occasionally encounter breathing exercises and short meditations.
In contrast to Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, as the name suggests, flows from one pose to another in quick succession, meaning one has less time to concentrate on the finer points of their posture and style, moving quickly between poses to create a workout. Linked with your breathing and concentration on inhalation and exhalation in time with your quick succession poses, Vinyasa Flow is seen as a faster paced form of yoga.
If you are only just entering the yoga world, Vinyasa Flow may not be the best place to start. A lot of poses require practice to gain balance and strength. Vinyasa Flow doesn't allow this in the same way that Hatha yoga may, meaning beginners may be left feeling behind in class, confused and without a grasp of the benefits of the moves they're making.
In Vinyasa Flow, yoga poses will be strung together to create a continuous stream. For example, you may start in basic mountain pose, moving down into a standing forward bend before stepping back into downward dog, forward into a lunge and then down into cobra.
In a similar fashion to Hatha, Iyengar yoga concentrates on the poses and correct alignment of the body. Where less time is spent in Vinyasa Flow on the intricacies of the moves being made, Iyengar will often incorporate props to promote correct posture.
Props often include blocks, belts, chairs and boulders, encouraging you to concentrate on how your body is moving whist also supporting increased movement e.g. using a chair to perform a gentle twist.
Breath is used to make one aware of their ability to both lengthen the body on inhalation and extend poses on exhalation. This can create a valuable insight into your bodies ability to work further into poses by using the breath.
Iyengar can often seem far removed from e.g. Vinyasa Flow, due to the time and concentration given to individual moves and physical alignment.
In a different fashion to the previously mentioned styles of yoga, Bikram yoga is practised in a heated, high temperature room. You sweat from everywhere, even in places you never knew you could sweat. The room, usually above body temperature, is believed to allow you to stretch further than you would normally be able.
Bikram consists of 26 postures ordered to stretch muscles in a defined fashion and is widely claimed to improve and encourage healing. Lady Gaga has been said to practice Bikram yoga every day...
Sweating out out toxins whilst following these postures can promote great benefits, however Bikram can be a daunting concept to the newly fledged yoga bunny. Be sure to stay hydrated throughout your practice and you should enhance great flexibility with low risk of injury.