Finding Your Yoga Style

It seems like yoga is everywhere these days. There are yoga classes in gyms, high schools, senior citizen centers, and strip malls, each with a different spin: gentle yoga, hot yoga, restorative yoga, pre- and post-natal yoga, power yoga, and mommy and me yoga, just to name a few.

Why is yoga experiencing such popularity? It might be because of the health benefits yoga practitioners say they experience, and the fact that yoga can be tailored to their specific needs.

A Guide to the Types of Yoga

Not sure where to begin? Here are brief descriptions of some of the different types of yoga available in our area:

VINYASA FLOW – “Vinyasa” means “to move with the breath.” In some vinyasa-style yoga classes you will flow in and out of postures without having to hold one pose for very long. In others, the teacher may instruct you to stay in the posture longer, which may be more challenging. Anusara, Ashtanga, Jivamukti and Power Yoga are all vinyasa style practices.

ANUSARA – Founded in 1997 by John Friend, Anusara is a vinyasa-style practice that emphasizes heart-opening through backbending and alignment and includes the use of props. Anusara means “flowing with Grace” and the practice aims to look for the good in all things. This class is good for students of all levels.

ASHTANGA – This system, passed on by Pattabhi Jois, involves linking movement to breath in a series of postures designed to detoxify, align and strengthen the body. In this type of yoga, the room in usually heated to 85 degrees. Many people find this a challenging practice.

JIVAMUKTI – Jivamukti means “liberation while living.” This type of yoga was founded by David Life and Sharon Gannon and incorporates chanting, yoga philosophy and meditation along with postures and breath.

POWER YOGA – Similar to Ashtanga, power yoga synchronizes breath and movement. These classes are designed to build strength and flexibility and can be quite challenging.

BIKRAM YOGA (or HOT YOGA) – Named after its founder, Bikram Choudhury, this type of yoga is practiced in a room heated to 100 degrees or more. Prepare to sweat. A lot! This method consists of a set series of 26 postures with each posture repeated twice in 90 minutes. Wear light clothing, bring a water bottle and a very big towel.

HATHA – A hatha yoga class is a good place for beginners to learn the basic standing, seated and balancing postures of yoga. These classes generally move at a slower pace.

KUNDALINI – Kundalini yoga is designed to free energy in the lower body, allowing it to move upwards, awakening the seven charkas. This class consists of rapid, repetitive movements done with breath or holding a pose while breathing in a particular way. Classes include chanting and can be physically intense.

IYENGAR – This style is named after its originator, BKS Iyengar, and is characterized by precise attention to alignment in each posture. You will more than likely hear the teacher direct your attention to your feet, knees, hips, spine, sternum, neck, head, and other body parts in just about every pose. The use of props such as blocks, straps, bolsters, and blankets is encouraged.

RESTORATIVE – These classes focus on relaxing the body in postures that are comfortable, usually using props such as bolsters and blankets.