Which yoga style is best for me?
In today’s fast-paced, high-pressure world, what better way to relaxation and unwind than with yoga! Its uber accessible and enhances wellbeing.
No matter what style of yoga you choose, it will boost your sense of calm, resilience and focus, through breathwork and greater focus on the body. If practiced regularly, yoga can help to reduce stress and improve mobility.
the word yoga in Sanskrit means; “the union of the soul with its higher self”. So along with the physical and mental health benefits of practicing yoga, it can provide students with a spiritual benefit and antidote to modern-day busyness.
It can be tricky and often confusing to know where to start with so many different yoga styles on offer. Here is a good starting place for newbies, with a list of the top ten most popular styles.
Different Types of Yoga
Hatha yoga is a good style for beginners as its generally performed at a slow pace, making it easy to follow. Students can tune their focus on the breath and align it with movement as they progress through the poses. Hatha Yoga is offered in many gyms and includes gentle movement, breathwork and a meditation element, and aims to reduce overall stress, improve balance and mental focus.
Iyengar is a gentle form of yoga and is suitable for beginners or those with injures. The pace of movement is gloriously slow, with each pose held for at least a minute. Its main focus is to improve spine alignment through low-intensity poses. Props such as blocks, bands or blankets can be used to help support the body as it strengthens. Iyengar Yoga aims to improve complete body posture, physical strength and balance.
Anusara Yoga has been adapted from Iyengar Yoga, but with more challenging Vinyasa flow sequences. During these flow sequences, students are encouraged to focus on the mind-body-heart connection and approach their practice light-heartedly.
Vinyasa literally means “breath-synchronized movement” and is a practice that has a much quicker pace, with a continuous flow sequence. As there are typically no breaks between poses, it is more suited to more experienced yogis, and those with high fitness levels or who like a challenge. Vinyasa has similar benefits to Hatha yoga, and in addition helps improve cardiovascular health, physical strength and weight loss.
Kundalini Yoga is a gentle, spiritual practice with simple poses aimed at helping people find inner peace and calm a busy mind. The main goal is to activate the “shakti” or Kundalini energy that’s found at the base of the spine. This form of yoga is for students who wish to connect with their inner self and involves repetitive poses, breathwork, chanting and singing. The benefits of Kundalini yoga include, lower blood pressure, improved digestion and metabolism. It also assists in easing tension and mood, and is a sought-after practice for women who wish to realign their feminine energy.
Ashtanga Yoga is one of the most physically challenging forms of yoga and is known as the yoga of “warriors”. Those who like a challenge and have good fitness levels or are looking to build their fitness would be well-suited to this practice. Students are instructed to move through a series of poses at their own pace, with limited guidance. The focus is on physical endurance and control of the body, while clearing their mind. The benefits of Ashtanga Yoga include stress reduction, physical strength and flexibility, and weight loss.
Power Yoga is a modern yoga style that has been adapted from Ashtanga Yoga traditions. It is a popular fitness-based style and is fairly energetic, with students sure to sweat as they move, while maintaining focus on the breath.
Bikram Yoga is commonly known as “hot yoga” and can be fairly intense. It is practiced in a heated room (40 degrees C) where students generally flow through a series of 26 poses. Its ideal for yoginis wishing to lose weight and detoxify their system, but is certainly not for everyone. It’s a challenging practice and students are recommended to attend well hydrated prior to taking a class and also wear light clothing. If heat is your thing, Bikram yoga can have many benefits, but the main ones are complete body and organ detoxification, along with skin rejuvenation.
Yin Yoga uses the principles of Yin and Yang from the Traditional Chinese Medicine. The poses are held at length, giving students a very meditative experience. Using gravity, each posture may be held for up to five minutes at a time, which can be challenging for beginners. The main goals of Yin are to develop a deep state of calm and open connective tissues. Yin Yoga is beneficial for releasing tension in the body’s subtle energy centres or chakras.
Restorative Yoga is delivered at a slow pace, giving students a chance to calm and settle into each posture. The benefits are to de-stress the body and mind through stillness and low levels of movement. Fewer postures are done, with props such as blankets, belts, bolsters and eye pillows, used for comfort and relaxation. In our busy lives, Restorative Yoga can ease stress and tension in the body and mind and provide a renewed sense of wellbeing.
Trauma Sensitive Yoga
Trauma Sensitive Yoga, or TCTSY, is a practical clinical therapy for complex trauma or PTSD, for wholistic healing of mind and body. It originated from hatha yoga, and combines neuroscience, trauma and attachment theory. TCTSY recognises the importance yoga movements along with breathwork as a pathway to healing. Historical trauma treatments have focused on healing the mind, but TCTSY is a valuable tool for working through trauma held in the body, either in groups or one-on-one.
Prenatal Yoga is a customised style of yoga for expecting mothers, and can be practiced safely throughout pregnancy. Gentle stretches have been tailored to the needs of the pregnant body, as not all yoga postures are suitable for pregnant women. Yoga stretches and movement help release bodily tension, while providing enhanced wellbeing. In addition, breathwork can make labour easier to tolerate, when the time comes.
Other yoga styles such as Aerial, Acro and Jivanmukti Yoga, are less common. Aerial yoga is a blend of Pilates, gymnastics, calisthenics and acrobatic methods, where students are suspended above the ground in a type of hammock to build core and upper-body strength. Similarly, Acro yoga originated from gymnastics and circus performance, with the practice focused on doing inversions and partner work, to go deeper into postures. Jivanmukti literally means “the freedom of the individual soul” and is a Vinyasa flow-style of yoga. It integrates Ashtanga, Hatha, Restorative and Prenatal Yoga.
So go forth and give back to yourself with a spot of yoga. Why not experiment with something new and see how it benefits your body and overall wellbeing!