By Inner Fire Luminary: Vanessa Kump
If you're new to yoga, you have a lot of options. With so many varieties offered, how do you know which practice is right for you? To get the most benefit, you should choose a yoga style that matches your current fitness level, as well as your personality and goals for practicing yoga. Here are some common styles and who they are best suited for.
What it's like: Gentle. An emphasis on proper alignment and catering the pose to the student. Props are used often, and partner work is common. Students are encouraged to get in touch with their emotions. Expect plenty of heart-opening poses and more talking than in other classes.
Good for: Those looking to use yoga as therapy or who want an emotional yoga experience and those who want to focus on alignment.
Avoid if: You don't want to talk about your feelings or you don't want to be in contact with your fellow students.
What it's like: Challenging. You do a nonstop series of yoga poses. Ashtanga yoga also uses a special breathing technique that's said to help focus the mind and control the flow of breath through the body.
Good for: Anyone interested in yoga. Anyone who wants to learn a set series they can do at home.
Avoid if: You want a slow, gentle yoga class; you have a current injury, or if you are a beginner. (Advanced or intermediate yogis will feel comfortable adjusting as needed.) Also, avoid if you have a shoulder injury because there are a lot of low push ups.
What it's like: Hot and challenging. A rigid 90-minute classes consisting of 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises each held for a minute and repeated twice in a very hot room (above 100 degrees). Check with your doctor if you have any medical conditions including hypertension or diabetes before starting this "hot" style of yoga.
Good for: Competitive types (Bikram yoga embraces the "yoga as a sport" movement).
Avoid if: You are pregnant, have circulation issues, hate to sweat, like classes with music or less instruction, or have high blood pressure.
What it's like: Hot and challenging. This style of hot practice is a derivative of the Bikram style with its own sequence, but is taught with less of a focus on scripted dialogue. The temperature is less hot and instructors can add slight variance on the poses. Check with your doctor if you have any medical conditions including hypertension or diabetes before starting this "hot" style of yoga.
Good for: Anyone interested in a challenging yet mindful yoga practice.
Avoid if: You are pregnant, have circulation issues, hate to sweat, or have high blood pressure.
What it's like: Gentle. Hatha yoga refers to any form of yoga that's gentle and slow-paced, usually well-suited for beginners. The term now is often used when a few different yoga styles are combined to create a simple class that's good for beginners learning to do basic poses.
Good for: Anyone with mobility issues, beginners, seniors, or pregnant women (with modifications).
Avoid if: You are someone looking for a rigorous practice.
What it's like: Gentle. Detail-oriented and slow-paced, Iyengar yoga is good for beginners. You may use props, (belts, blocks, and pillow-like bolsters), to get into poses with correct alignment. Similar styles include Anusara yoga and Viniyoga.
Good for: Anyone interested in learning more about yoga, especially anatomy and alignment. Great for beginners, those recovering from injuries, and anyone with mobility issues. Appropriate for the young and old.
Avoid if: You prefer a fast-paced flowy class or one with music. Also avoid if you prefer your classes to be less serious or prefer a more meditative environment.
What it's like: Gentle. Kripalu yoga begins with slow movements that barely cause a sweat, and progresses through three levels of deeper mind-body awareness. The practice focuses on physical healing, meditation, and spiritual transformation both on the mat and off.
Good for: Anyone with mobility issues . Great for beginners . Suitable for those looking for an individualized practice.
Avoid if: You are looking for a more rigorous practice.
What it's like: Kundalini yoga is more spiritual and philosophical in approach than other styles of yoga. Kundalini yoga classes include meditation, breathing techniques, and chanting as well as kriyas and yoga postures.
Good for: Anyone looking for a "deeper" spiritual connection to their yoga practice.
Avoid if: You feel that this practice would conflict with their spiritual beliefs or if you are looking for a purely physical experience. Also avoid if fast repetitive movements are contra-indicative for you.
What it's like: Challenging. Power yoga is one of the most athletic forms of yoga. Based on the sequence of poses in Ashtanga yoga, power yoga builds upper-body strength as well as flexibility and balance. You flow from one pose to another using your breath and movement as one.
Good for: Those who want a rigorous practice or those looking for a challenge.
Avoid if: You prefer a gentle yoga practice, you are a beginner, you have limited mobility or if you have a shoulder injury (lots of low push ups).
What it's like:Gentle and stretchy. Yin Yoga comprises of long holds of stretches for 3-5 minutes. The goal is to increase flexibility through slowly moving to new 'edges' of sensation with deep breathing a visualization work. The feelings can be quite intense. Props are often used.
Good for: Those who want to increase their flexibility and prefer slower moving practices.
Avoid if: You are hypermobile (which sometimes occurs during pregnancy).
What it's like:Super gentle and relaxing. Unlike Yin Yoga, Restorative Yoga is not necessarily about stretching. Although stretching may occur, this therapeutic style is about creating an environment for the body to find the most ease and comfort. Poses are held for longer periods of time and lots of props such as blankets and bolsters are used to support the body. Visualization and meditations usually accompany the poses.
Good for: Those who are recovering from injury or need therapeutic healing.
Avoid if: You are looking for a more vigorous form of practice.
Whatever the style you choose, be sure to talk to your teacher or instructor beforehand about any questions or concerns you might have. Many studios offer low-fee trials and free first classes where you can check out some classes with minimal investment. You can also check out resources like Passport to Prana and do a yoga tour around your city. Have fun!