Vinyasa? Hatha? Bikram? Ashtanga? Yin? Yang? Yin Yang?
If you are like me when I first started yoga, you probably looked at a studios offering and whispered to yourself “what the sweet F*** are these?“
While some teachers will, naturally, tell you that the style of yoga that they teach is the best. It’s worth noting what the best style of yoga for you is totally personal preference.
I will give a quick run-down of what I would consider the 5 most popular yoga practices you may be able to find.
Traditionally the original form of yoga. Hatha yoga consists of a sequence of poses which may be held for a few rounds of breath before moving onto the next pose. The sequence of poses is totally determined by the teacher and possibly involve some sort of theme (this could be a physical, philosophical or anything that the teacher deems worth using). This type of class is usually great for beginner but also worth checking what levels the class is for, as some advanced poses could be added into an intermediate and above class.
A form of yoga that is much more fluid and dynamic. Working movements on the inhale and exhale, they tend to be more physical, faster paced, great for working up a sweat. The poses will likely be held for just one breath before moving onto the next pose, and so on. Again this class will be designed by the teacher and will follow whatever sequence or theme that they feel is best for that day.
Created by Bikram Choudhury, Bikram yoga has become a popular form of yoga for those who are looking to really intensify their yoga practice. Done in a hot room (usually around 40C), take a towel because you are going to sweat! This practice has a couple of warnings around it, firstly it can be challenging on the body so it is worth knowing that before you get stuck in.
Secondly Bikram Choudhury has a it of a history around his name (just google it) and so the strictness of the classes really comes out within this form. If you are looking for something to give you are strict routine and push yourself hard then this could be something for you. The classes are done to a certain sequence which means that each class will be the same or very similar.
Again done to a set sequence. Ashtanga is a very strong physical class that has 6 series to it. Each series has set sequence which gets progressively harder the more you work your way up. Very few people are able to ever make it to the 6th series. Usually done with Sanskrit wording. If you are after a more physical and aligned focused class then Ashtanga could be for you.
Yin is a style of yoga that involves holding poses for a much longer period of time. Sometimes between 5-8 minutes, maybe longer in some cases. Over the course of an hour class, you may only do around 6-8 poses. By holding these poses for longer periods of time you allow the muscles to lengthen over a much longer period.
The science is that you are fundamentally able to allow the muscles to fully relax. Most poses are done on the ground and require very little active movement. Usually using props to help make the poses more comfortable so that the body can relax into them far easier by being in a place of comfort as opposed to a state of stress. Personally, I love yin, you feel so stretched and long by the end of it and I’ve had great results of flexibility with this format, plus it’s incredibly relaxing. Pop on a good soundtrack and it’s heaven on earth!
So there you have my five most popular forms of yoga. There are hundreds, if not thousands different forms of yoga that teachers are using.
My advice if you are looking to get into a form of yoga, would be to think about what you want to gain from the practice, but I also would encourage you to consider what is the most safe for you. Some forms of yoga can be detrimental to you if you have never don them before and you suddenly jump in the deep end with a fairly advanced class that pushes your body past its current capabilities.
Personally I look to teach a mix of Vinyasa, Hatha and Yin along with using techniques of functional mobility training and functional conditioning patterns. I love being able to warm the body up with holds to gain strength, balance, control to then lengthen out with nice long holds in stretches.
If you are interested in looking at getting into yoga but may not have the time or don’t want to go to a class start your free 7 day trial of The Sport Yogi at www.thesportyogi.com