Yoga Styles 101
So everyone is talking about yoga and the wonderful benefits that it brings. Your doctor / chiropractor/ physio tells you how much it will help you with the healing process.
You’re thinking about taking a class and pick up your local yoga studio’s timetable and you are totally bombarded with a whole new language – Vinyassa flow, Ashtanga, Hatha, Yin or Restorative… what does it all mean? You just wanted to start a normal yoga class!
Stepping into a group yoga class is daunting and all this confusion of styles could put you off. So let me break down the crazy language and help you choose the best class for you.
Yoga, as I tell my students, is all about how you feel - not how you look. So, which class you choose is all about what works and what is best for you. Whether it’s a real intense dynamic class or a slow restorative one, the fact that you have stepped into a class and onto your mat, is a big deal and something you should be proud of.
There are so many different styles of yoga and new ones being created all the time. The real practice of yoga is understanding and uniting the mind, body and soul.
Here are 9 styles you may come across:
Hatha refers to the physical postures in a yoga practice (yoga can also be done with no physical movement at all) so all the styles in this blog are essentially all Hatha style. This is a great place to start to explore all the physical postures. This class tends to be gentle and slower paced so great for all ages and abilities.
Vinyassa can be translated to “place things in a special way” so linking the breath to the movement of the body creating a flowing sequence. Viyasssa tends to move from posture to posture which tends to be faster paced getting the heart pumping adding an element of cardio. Eash vinyassa class is different. It can be physically challenging, teachers can add music, different themes and sequences to allow your body to move in different ways. In the west Vinyassa classes tend to be advertised as “flow” classes.
Ashtanga is a dynamic, physically demanding practice. It synchronizes breath and movement to produce an internal heat designed to detox and purify the body. Each class follows a set sequence and series of postures. It always starts with Sun salutations before moving onto standing, seated twists, backbends and inversions. Ashtanga yoga, with its many vinyasas, is great for building core strength and toning the body. Prepare to sweat and twist yourself into a pretzel as you briskly move through a set sequence. Ashtanga is great if you like discipline and to follow a set routine.
This is a blend of the two styles above. I was trained in this style and I love the blend of the discipline of Ashtanga mixed with the freedom to move and get lost in the music. I enjoy creating different sequences for my classes and clients but always come back to the structure of an Ashtanga. This probably comes from the fact that I’m a Taurus and I love a bit of structure and routine in my life but also love to be creative and add my own touch.
Iyenga yoga is heavily based on precision, detail and alignment. Props are used a lot in these classes to help adjust to get into proper alignment in the physical postures. This is a slower based class. Poses tend to be held for a longer period of time and require muscle strength. This is a good class if you are recovering from an injury and looking to rebuild muscle strength. If you are recovering from an injury (and cleared to exercise in an open class) make sure to inform your instructor at the start of class as they will be able to offer different modifications of poses and also know not to put too much pressure on your injury if they help with an adjustment.
Yin yoga is a much more slower paced style of yoga. It applies moderate stress to the connective tissues – the tendons, facia and ligaments to increase circulation in the joints and improve flexibility. Postures are held for longer periods of time and are floor based which is great for beginners as you don’t need a lot of strength or endurance to perform them. This style is really relaxing as you start to go inwards and concentrate on your breathing. This style of yoga is great if you suffer a lot with stress, depression, anxiety or low mood. I enjoy taking Yin classes in the evening. I personally find yin difficult at the start of a class as I am used to more dynamic styles of yoga and exercise (which definitely means I need to incorporate it more into my practice!) but feel so relaxed after the class and energised the next day.
If you live locally Esther Jones has a wonderful Yin class. I went to a Christmas special last year the room was filled with candles and fairy lights it was so special and definitely the highlight of my week if I’m booked in.
Restorative yoga is any style of yoga that is relaxing. If you lead a hectic stressful lifestyle I would definitely recommend restorative. Lots of props, bolsters, lavender eye bags and essential oils anything to help you relax and unwind. Be warned you may tap into the unconscious and drift off in this class! We tend to always be giving our time and energy to others so this class is great to restore the energy and take time for yourself.
Bikram is a set class – wherever you go in the world from Australia to America the class will always be the same. Founded by Bikram Choudhury, and is traditionally a 90 minute class with 26 postures performed in a room heated to 35-42 degrees Celsius and a humidity of 40%. This class starts with standing postures and moves to seated. It is extremely intense with incredible amount of sweating!
I was first introduced to Bikram a few years ago in New Orleans from one of my Australian cast members I was working with on a cruise ship. I had to sit down during the standing postures as I thought I was going to faint during my first class – I found out this is completely normal! I went back every single week and as I loved how invigorated and energised I felt throughout the day and into the week. You really need to know your body and it’s limits to practice Bikram yoga as it could result in injury and illness. Be sure to take a towel (or two) and drink plenty of water before and after to keep the body hydrated.
Hot yoga often tends to be a flowing vinyasa style of practice done in a heated room. This yoga session done at high temperatures makes the body very warm and induces profuse sweating. The heat loosens your muscles and the sweat helps cleanse your body. Hot yoga and Bikram often get confused the difference is Bikram is a set sequence and hot yoga is whatever sequence the instructor has planned for that particular class.
As I mentioned before whichever class you take is what feels and works best for you. A class you enjoy taking might not fit into your schedule so you might want to branch out and try a different style.
Listed below are some of the local yoga studios where have taken classes and would recommend.
I hope this helps with understanding some of the different yoga styles out there. There is a whole load more of different styles however, I will be here all day explaining them and I need to go and get ready to teach my class!!
Whichever style of class you choose to do I hope you enjoy the wonderful benefits yoga brings and wish you well on your yoga journey.
“Do your practice and all is coming.” – K. Pattabhi Jois