Yoga styles explained: which one is for me?

Ok so you’ve had at least one person in your life tell you (maybe even preach AT you) the myriad benefits of yoga – including lower blood pressure, increased strength and bone density and reduced anxiety blah blah – and yes it sounds great and should be enough to get anyone on the mat. However, as a yoga teacher I meet many people who do not wish to embrace this ancient form of fitness due to many reasons and often their own beliefs of yoga – it’s too slow and boring; it’s practised in stuffy, incense-filled rooms – or in 90C heat; it’s just for girls and people who are into Omming and chanting or my favourite one of all yoga is only for the skinny and super flexible.

The truth is that there is a class to suit you whatever your body type, temperament or desired outcome from the “yoga” be it health benefit, mindful, fitness or yes flexibility.

Yoga develops strength and balance AS WELL AS flexibility – the latter is a consequence of practising yoga, not a prerequisite. No one has turned up to their first yoga class (unless they were a dancer or a gymnast) able to execute advanced yoga poses.

All yoga styles should create a feeling of lightness, ease and relaxation, even the sweaty classes should leave you feeling this by the end. But to get the most benefit and the most enjoyment, you need to find a yoga style and a teacher that suits you. See my other post about connection. This is SO important.

For example, if you’re already doing lots of strength training your best choice is likely to be a yoga style that focuses more on flexibility. That way, you can balance your fitness routine. Perhaps try yin or hatha yoga style. Yin is a slow but strong practice focusing on holding the pose in the body to stretch, the desired target area. It is less about how it looks and all about how YOU feel it.

Those who have an injury or live with a chronic medical condition such as arthritis might want to try slow, therapeutic, gentle yoga, or one-to-one sessions with a teacher where you will be able to openly focus on alignment and your unique needs.

If you are drawn to experience the spiritual side, you could try a more traditional class which includes chanting and the spiritual essence of yoga like Jivamukti or Kundalini.

For those who are relatively healthy and want a challenge, Ashtanga is a good strong option which focuses on a series of set poses (Primary Series) you can work through and towards mastering by attending regularly.

Vinyasa or vinyasa flow is also a good choice if you are relatively healthy and like the more creative variety of moving and enjoy the fact it may not always be the same sequence but will generate warmth in the body and muscles will work.

More modern developed classes such as Sculpt, Barre and my Intensity are fusions of movement disciplines and are great for those who know they want to try something “a bit like yoga but not yoga”. Sculpt is a strong class blending yoga with hand weights and would have the ancient yoga gurus squirming in their godly seats!

Barre is a fusion of yoga, Pilates and dance and originates from ballerina Lotte Berk who after injuring her back got the idea of combining her ballet barre routines with her rehabilitative therapy to form an exercise system. Hence it is a strong form of work out yet suitable for many as it focuses on individual muscle groups and is low impact for joints.

Intensity (my own class) is born from the rise in popularity of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) where we incorporate yoga inspired and other moves, into short workout cycles for a high intensity short sweaty fun workout!

Before you make a decision, try a few, ask a teacher for advice, telling them what you enjoy or don’t enjoy. Go and ask for a free trial – Most will be delighted to welcome you.

Then watch, copy and enjoy.

Try a few different teachers and find those you personally connect with. All teachers have their own unique focus based on their personalities, their own yoga practice and where and with whom they’ve trained.

Yoga can be expensive, but needn’t be. You do not need all the gear, or all the equipment. Try to stay off Instagram accounts of those doing all the moves and wearing all the gear – This will not help you on your journey. Instead focus on what you like, and get joy from and do/follow that or them! xx

Categories: Yoga, Yoga World

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