I remember first getting into yoga and feeling lost. Terms like ashtanga, hatha, and vinyasa are used in class names and instructional video titles/descriptions with little to no explanation of what it entails. Spoiler alert: these are all styles of yoga!
So how do you choose a style that is right for you? Start by asking yourself why are you practicing yoga and what are you hoping to accomplish from your practice? Are you trying to:
- improve flexibility
- improve strength
- lose weight
- recovering from an accident
- undertake a spiritual quest
- improve performance in a particular sport
- elimination of toxins
If any of these sound familiar or align with your specific goals in practicing yoga, you're well on your way to finding a style that can work for you.
For example, Ashtanga or Vinyasa yoga are able to improve both strength and flexibility while helping in weight loss. Gentler styles, such as Hatha or Kundalini, can help with flexibility, spiritual pursuit and relieve stress.
Before we get too far along I want to be clear that as a yogi, you can practice more than one style and even combine styles to customize your practice. There is no need to limit yourself to a single style. Consider yoga a buffet and sample the different styles until you find one that feels right.
That being said, the different practices and styles of yoga have been designed to achieve different results. This is why understanding your goals and desired outcomes from practicing yoga is essential in order to be able to choose a style best suited for you. Here are brief descriptions of a few of the more commonly practiced styles:
Classes with "hatha yoga" in the title or description are focused on the balance between poses, breathing techniques, mantra chanting and meditation. This can be very good for beginners learning how to do basic asanas as they have a very relaxed pace and allow one to connect with their practice.
Master Iyengar (named after the person who taught him) focused more on the details and alignments of the limbs in the asanas, ensuring anatomical correctness during practice. These classes have a slower pace and is a great type of yoga for beginners as there is a focus on proper positioning.
A very dynamic and physical style, consisting of various series of positions, each one preparing the body for the next. This style is made up of 6 series, each which has a set order of poses. Ashtanga yoga also puts an emphasis on breathing and provides techniques that are applied to help focus the mind and control the flow of breath through the body.
VINYASA YOGA OR POWER YOGA
This is also a very dynamic and physical style but unlike Ashtanga, it is not based on a fixed series and the classes vary every time. It emphasizes the flow from one posture to another, following the flow of the breath often including transitions that lead from a standing posture to face down.
Very different from other styles, Kundalini Yoga is more spiritual and philosophical in approach than others. These practices include meditation, breathing techniques, chanting and some basic asanas.
A modern day hatha practice. A good match for the clarity and technicality of Iyengar and the dynamic aspects of a style like Vinyasa or Ashtanga. From an Anusara class you can understand the principles behind each position thanks to the guidance and explanations of the teachers. Often poses are held longer in Anusara yoga to allow for the explanation the the key principles of alignment and linking the spiritual intention to the body.
This style is also demanding as it is practiced in a heated room (often 105°F/41°C). This provides better muscle flexibility and increases sweating and with it the eliminating toxins from your body.
Now that you know the difference in a few of the popular yoga style, get out there and start trying them!
Knowing the difference in styles can help get us over the initial intimidation of selecting a class but it won't necessarily tell you the best style for you. For that, you need to experience the style and practice!
Let us know which style your currently using in your practice by tagging us on Instagram @myreech and #myreech