Hatha, vinyasa, restorative—there are so many types and styles of yoga that for the new yogi, it can seem overwhelming. How do you know which is the best to benefit your mind and body? Even within the various styles, every studio and teacher is different. You might love one vinyasa class but despise another. It also depends on you and where you are in your life. The trick to figuring it out is trial and error. Fortunately, many yoga studios offer free or low-cost trial sessions, so you can sample your way around town.
Another avenue is trying out various yoga styles with online videos. However, it can be risky even for seasoned yogis to solely practice alone. Part of the benefit of having a certified yoga teacher in the studio is they can help you with modifications and see if you’re heading in the direction of an injury. Watching the various videos, however, can give you a glimpse into what that style entails without having to sign up (and stick around for) an entire class.
Here are some of the most commonly offered styles of yoga, and how they might benefit your mind and body:
Vinyasa is one of the most common styles, especially in trendy and boutique clubs and studios. It’s a “flow” style of yoga that links breath with movement. It’s known for the chaturanga dandasana, the well-known sequence that includes downward facing dog, plank, and upward dog. It can also be cardio-centric, and the flowing movements can help your mind “zen out” while giving your body a great workout, blending strength with balance, flexibility, and cardio.
Hatha is more of a “foundations” class for the asana series. Asana means posture, and is the most well-known aspect of yoga in the West. However, yoga actually entails much more than movement, such as breath control (pranayama) and meditation. Hatha can be a bit slower and gentler than vinyasa, but not necessarily. It has become a bit of a catch-phrase for asana yoga. It largely depends on the studio and teacher, but you will definitely enjoy some movement.
This can mean many things, but usually, it's a very gentle practice designed to restore the whole body. You will have a lot of props, and the teacher may be more hands-on than in other types of classes. You can always request that you not be touched, and a good teacher will ask before class. These classes can be slow moving, which some people love but may leave others feeling antsy. It’s an indulgence for many, and a chance to tap into your breath, your inner body, and provides time for self love.
Bikram is the original hot yoga, and consists of 26 asanas repeated twice in the same sequence and with the same cues. However, there are other types of hot yoga studios, too. Some are basically Bikram, but without the same language, while others can include any style of yoga featured in a hot room. The heat can range from “warm” to 105 degrees (Bikram is 105.) The postures aren’t usually exceptionally demanding in and of themselves, but they can certainly feel like it when you’re standing in the 105-degree heat. These classes are usually 90 minutes, and in Bikram, you're discouraged from leaving the room. It can be physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding. Some people love it because it can feel like a detoxing experience with all of the sweat lost, but others can become frustrated and uncomfortable. Hot yoga is something you simply have to experience to see if it’s right for you.
This type of yoga blends the physical asanas with dynamic breathing, meditation, and spiritual practices. There’s often chanting in an effort to treat the holistic body. Kundalini requires that all participants wear all white, and in many studios, you'll be turned away if you don't abide by this rule. For the new yogi, Kundalini can feel a bit "out there," but others quickly fall in love with it. It can be a fantastic treat for the mind and body equally, but only for those who are open to such an experience. In terms of the physical demands, it’s relatively moderate but depends on the studio and instructor.
There is likely a specialty yoga course that suits your needs, from goat yoga to yoga specifically for LGBTQI folks and those in recovery. Yoga has continuously shown that it can help recovering addicts, so it’s no surprise that there are courses designed just for this demographic. By tapping into the power of the mind and body, yoga can be a powerful tool in maintaining sobriety and finding other forms of release beyond dangerous vices.
From aerial yoga to a traditional hatha practice, there’s a yoga style, studio, and teacher that will give you exactly what you’re looking for. Ask for recommendations, check out reviews online, and take advantage of introductory offers and donation-based classes. It will take some trial and error to find the right fit, but the process itself is indicative of how yoga works. It’s through the challenges and the fails that we get stronger, more resilient, and more committed to achieving success.