Find The Yoga Style That’s Right For You

Find The Yoga Style That’s Right For You

Think yoga’s only for bendy young bunnies in skin tight lycra or for dreadlocked, tie-dyed hippies?

Ever done a class in a freezing, dusty church hall and thought, ‘this ain’t for me’? Or found a swanky new yoga studio, but the teacher got on your nerves? Was your class too challenging? Not demanding enough? Did the chanting freak you out?

You’re not alone. Having been to hundreds (maybe thousands!) of yoga classes, I’ve had my fair share of weird and whacky experiences. Not all yoga classes are created equal.

As a yoga teacher for the past 10 years I’ve focused on my true yoga love: Vinyasa Flow. I love the variety, creativity and the fun of it. Most of all I love the way it makes me feel so damn good!

There’s a type and teacher to suit everyone. It’s just a matter of finding your yoga style and a teacher you resonate with.

Here’s my guide to finding the yoga that’s right for you.

Hatha

This one often confuses people. Hatha is an umbrella term for any kind of yoga that uses the physical poses – all the types of yoga described below are forms of Hatha yoga. It’ll generally mean gentle yoga in a slow to medium paced class that includes posture work with the emphasis on the breath, a final relaxation and maybe a little chanting or meditation.

For you: You’re a beginner and want a general introduction to yoga.

Maybe not: You’re a practised yogi looking for an upbeat challenging class.

Ashtanga

One of the more traditional Indian heritage styles. Expect a physical focus – a vigorous, dynamic class with the same poses all linked together in the same sequence in a continuous flow. If you’re new to yoga you’ll definitely need to start with a beginner’s course.

For you: You enjoy a good sweat, want a lean toned body and are happy to repeat the same sequence class on class.

Maybe not:  If you like variety or if you’re not particularly fit. (You’d be better to start with a slower form of yoga.)

*You might see the term ‘Mysore’ in connection with Ashtanga yoga. (This has nothing to do with how sore your limbs might feel afterwards!)  It means that once you know the sequence well you can practice on your own, at your own pace with the encouragement and advice of a teacher, as needed.

Bikram/Hot

Hot yoga is done in a hot room (heated to around 95-100F / 35-38C) – usually in front of a mirror. It tends to be a flow style class where you link one pose to the next.

Bikram follows a set sequence of 24 poses and two breathing exercises repeated twice in each class. Expect a flowing practice with relatively little spiritual emphasis.

For you: You want a super sweaty workout, a good detox and to ogle buff guys in tiny pants!

Maybe not: Repetition and sauna-like conditions don’t appeal or you want a meditative aspect to your class.

Iyengar

Very precise with detailed instruction. (The teacher may ask you to focus on the placement of your pinky toe.) Expect to hold each pose for a long time and use props (blankets, blocks, belts) to help achieve and hold the correct alignment. Easily adapted for all levels – good for beginners, improving posture or helping with specific health issues.

For you: You have a fascination for the details of a pose and like everything ‘just so’. You’ve been advised to do yoga for your back or health issues.

Maybe not: You want to focus on more than just body mechanics – there’s not much emphasis on spirituality, breath work or meditation.

Jivamukti

Jivamukti means ‘liberation while living’. Popular with celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow and Christy Turlington – it’s a flow style practice which is physically intense and great fun. Each class has a theme which is explored through postures, breathwork, music, meditation and chanting.

For you: You like cool tunes in your class, want a good workout and more (you’ll get plenty of philosophising).

Maybe not: You want a quiet class – Jivamukti teachers use present day examples to explain spiritual yoga teachings (so there can be a lot of talking).

Kundalini

One of the more spiritual types of yoga – you’ll find more focus on breathing, meditation, mudras (hand gestures) and chanting than in other types of yoga. Classes often end with meditation and a closing song. Kundalini teachers often wear white flowing robes and head wraps but it’s not compulsory for students!

For you: You’re up for a mental as well as a physical challenge.

Maybe not: Chanting freaks you out or you’re less interested in the spiritual side of yoga.

Power

A high energy fitness based approach to Vinyasa Flow yoga (see below). It’s similar to Ashtanga but offers more variety. It tends to emphasise strength and flexibility over spirituality and philosophy, but that varies from teacher to teacher.

For you: You want maximum physical workout, minimal chanting and meditation.

Maybe not: You prefer a nurturing, relaxing class that doesn’t push you to your limit.

Restorative

Super relaxing, nurturing and a lot of lying around – but in a positive, constructive way! Props – including bolsters and blankets – will support you so you can hold the poses for longer, letting your body open in a passive way. You’ll still get the stretch and will feel open and refreshed afterwards. Should be compulsory for busy mothers!

For you: You’re feeling burnt out or exhausted.

Maybe not: You feel the cold. Be sure to wear enough layers and take an extra blanket as you won’t be warming up your body as you would in other yoga classes.

Sivananada

A traditional form of yoga based on five principles – proper exercise, breathing, relaxation, diet and thinking. The slow paced, often gentle, classes include breath work, a warm up with Sun Salutations and then mastering 12 basic poses.

For you: You want a rounded practice with a mental and spiritual as well as physical focus. You’ve always wanted to stand on your head.

Maybe not: You’re looking for physical variety or aren’t into the spiritual side of things.

Vinyasa Flow

Sometimes called Flow yoga because of the way the poses run together and become like a dance. Expect movement synchronised with breathing and a lot of variety. Whether the class is fast, slow, includes meditation or chanting, or focuses on alignment depends very much on the individual teacher. There’s a lot of room for personality and individuality in this style, so if your first Vinyasa class doesn’t do it for you, try a different teacher.

For you: You like diversity and feeling free. You like things being unpredictable.

Maybe not: You like routine and prefer to hold poses rather than keep moving.

Yoga is SO good for you on many levels and I could write a whole separate piece on the mental and physical benefits.

Experiment, try different classes until you’ll find one you love.

I’m on a mission to turn people on to yoga – one student at a time. If everyone did yoga the world would be a better place!

In the comments below, tell us if you love yoga or have never tried it. Do you have a favourite style? Do you feel inspired to try one of the above? Let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to hear from you!

 

photo credit: random letters via photopin cc

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24 Responses to Find The Yoga Style That’s Right For You

  1. Mariah says:

    Suzie,

    I loved, loved, LOVED this. I find it difficult to wrap your ‘head’ around all the different types of yoga, unless you’re an expert in it. Thanks for breaking it all down in an easy-to-understand way :)

    As a physical therapist and health coach, I know how important maintaining your mobility is. Yoga is one of the best ways to accomplish that!

    Suzie, do you have any recommendations for home yoga DVD programs? I live in a small town—no yoga studios :( I’m looking for one that will give you a good workout.

    P.S. LOVE your new weekly fitness planner action sheet. I always tell my clients their workouts MUST be scheduled into their day, or they won’t get done. Will definitely be passing this along :)

    • Thanks Mariah. Yes mobility is the key to youth – there’s a saying in yoga that ‘you’re only as young as your spine is healthy’ and it’s so true. It’s impossible to feel youthful without free easy movement. As far as yoga classes to do at home are concerned I love http://www.yogaglo.com – you can have a trial sign up and there’s all kinds of styles and durations of class. For vinyasa flow Shiva Rea is hard to beat in my opinion – Shakti Rhythms has a matrix where you can pick and chose different sections to compile a variety of classes. Give those a try and let me know how you get on!

  2. Stacey says:

    I heart yoga so much! I love Vinyasa flow, but also like Ashtanga and Hatha. Vinyasa’s my fav.

  3. Alicia says:

    I have been doing Bikram on/off for 20 years and LOVE it for the mental and physical demands needed to finish a class. The heat, rigid sequence and strict rules are not for everyone but for me it’s meditation in motion. At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve recently got into Vinyasa flow. A totally different experience – I love the variety and freedom of this style and it’s opened my eyes to the broad range of styles on offer. Something for everyone.

    • Absolutely! I’ve tried Bikram a few times and loved all the thing you love about it EXCEPT the heat which just doesn’t work for me. It’s a great thing that we’re all different and with so many styles so widely available now – as you say, there’s something for everyone!

  4. Seana Turner says:

    I’m a Vinyasa girl… love it! Very interesting to see all the different kinds:)

  5. Helen Butler says:

    Great article Suzie! I am a *big* yoga fan. I started in that draughty church hall close to 20 years ago and have done nearly every type of yoga you’ve mentioned here.

    BUT – I’ve fallen off the yoga wagon since moving back from a very cosmopolitan city (where I did both Bikram and Iyengar each week) to one less vibrant … thus I’ve found it harder to find a yoga studio/class/teacher I like. I’ve kind of given up as I feel like all I do is try a class and don’t like it. Maybe I’m too fussy?

    That said, I’m definitely going to look for a Vinyasa Flow class near me. It sounds exactly like what I need! Helen <3

    • Thanks Helen. I really hope you’re able to find a class you love in your new home town. In the meantime, check out http://www.yogaglo.com – it’s got a huge variety of online classes taught by some amazing teachers. Classes range from 10 – 120 minutes across all kinds of styles – there really is something for everyone! Give it a try and let me know if you like it.

  6. Suzie It’s funny to think that we met through yoga when we both did the same yoga teacher training course and shared a ride every week to class. How many years ago was that?? Then I became a yoga school drop-out and you went on to SHINE as a Vinyasa Flow teacher!

    I really miss doing your Monday evening yoga classes since I moved away 4 years ago. I used to float home and sleep like a log!

    I’ve tried every one of the yoga types above and agree that in addition to style of yoga, the variations between teachers and actual location/atmosphere means you really need to find the right combo that works for you. Experimenting is the fun part!

  7. Karyn Gorman says:

    Great piece! I have done yoga in various forms before but have been confused by the different types and names. Thanks for giving exactly what I needed Project Me!

  8. Kristy says:

    I’m a power yoga girl…and I LOVE it.

    I was so hesitant to try yoga, but am so glad that one of my friends pestered me until I did it! So worthwhile.

    My next mission is to try Bikram Yoga. I’ve heard so many good things about it. And now I have a couple of others to look out for, now that I’ve read this post.

  9. Oh Wow Suzie, I didn’t even realize there were so many different styles – this is a great reference and I love the summary of whether it’s for me or not.

    It seems by your descriptions that I am pretty lucky and I have managed to find my yoga style. It’s a combo between Vinyasa Flow and Kundalini.

    Love it thank you for a great post. Sharing with my Yoga Tribe right now.

  10. I have tried yoga {even more than once}. I still can’t get the hang of it. Although the Hatha yoga would likely be the most suitable for me. I have a hard time turning my head off. I can’t pronounce half of the types of yoga listed, so that right there says “warning” LOL Thanks for the great info in this post :)

    • That’s too bad! I’d encourage you to keep trying though. Turning your head off is a big challenge for all of us (I still struggle with it some days) so don’t be too hard on yourself and expect instant karma! It builds with practice and that’s one of the greatest rewards of yoga. Give it another go!

  11. Amy says:

    This is such a fantastic wrap up! I wish everyone could read through this before they head off to a yoga class, find it’s not their ‘thing’, then give up all together. As a devotee of Jivamukti and Kundalini yoga, I think you’ve nailed the explanation of what these two amazing yoga styles give to me. x

  12. I am interested to try Bikram yoga sometime; I hear you feel amazing afterwards… however, it terrifies me… LOL.

  13. Jan Morrison says:

    Great article thanks! I used to love ashtanga yoga and have tried a few other types but miss the flow of ashtanga. I am finding at the moment that I am getting a lot of shoulder pain whenever I do yoga (downwards dogs?) so am currently doing other exercise (hiit30, weights) but missing yoga.

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