One day, you’ve decided to finally start doing yoga, but after Googling classes, you’re confused. What is Ashtanga or Iyengar or Vinyasa or Kundalini or Yin? Why are there such an array of options? Which one will suits my need? These choices themselves might confuse and scare newbies off the mat.
Well, don’t worry! Like cross training, you might want to consider incorporating a variety of yoga into your regular practice to keep you in balance. I always love telling my students, go out and try different teachers, studios or styles. Find out what you like. Even for myself in the beginning, I tried almost all the classes with different teachers in my current studio to familiarize myself which kind of yoga will appeal more to my body. Once you know what style resonates with you more, dwell more time to practice that certain style/s.
Yoga is not necessarily a ‘one-size-fits-all’ practice. A 20-year old and a 70-year old person might need different workout and so are those hyper-mobile and flexible person will need different practice compared to those who are muscular and stiff.
So, when you are spoilt for choices, where do you start? Inhale and exhale, calm yourself, keep your Ujjayi breath, and choose smartly! I am going to share a few styles that I am more familiar with, some I tried before and some I’ve never done before, but I will try to be as informative as I can.
About: Slow-paced, gentle, and focused on breathing and meditation
Benefits: Relieves stress, provides physical exercise, and improves breathing
Best For: Beginners. Those wanting to learn the basics of yoga
About: Emphasizes the sun salutation, a series of 12 poses where movement matches breath. Flow from one pose to the next without stopping. Move with the breath. Emphasis on standing poses, which are often held for long period of time.
Benefits: Helps improve strength, flexibility and abdominal muscle toning. Reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
Best For: Beginners, Intermediate, Advance. Beginners can first try the slower movement classes to get a feel of the flow. This is suitable for people who wants to strengthen their bodies. Intense exercisers might enjoy this style because of the faster pace. Endurance athletes too are drawn to this type for its continuous movement to increase the heart rate just like performing cardio exercises.
About: Focuses on body alignment. Props like straps, blankets, and blocks are used to assist in strengthening the body. Each poses are hold for a period of time.
Benefits: Bring the body into alignment. Helps improve balance. Speeds up recovery from injury (with doctor’s advise of course). Builds up body strength.
Best For: Beginners. Those with injuries, balance issues, and chronic medical conditions such as arthritis. Detail-oriented yogi will enjoy this style because the class teaches precisely about anatomy, movement, and form.
About: Considered as a form of power yoga. Fast-paced and intense with lots of lunges and push-ups. This a form of yoga that is challenging yet orderly in its approach. Consisting of 6-series specifically sequenced yoga poses, you will flow and breath through each pose to create internal heat. The same poses will be perform in the exact same order in each class. Most modern studios will have teachers calling out the poses while if you go to Mysore style, it will be an unguided class.
Benefits: Relieves stress, improves coordination, and helps with weight loss.
Best For: Beginners, Intermediate, Advance. Various level of experiences suited for fit people looking to maintain strength and stamina. Type-A folks will love this style. Perfectionists will love Ashtanga’s routine and strict guidelines.
About: Also known as Hot Yoga at times, practiced in a 95-100 degree F room. For Bikram specific yoga studio, every class follows the same sequence of 26 poses. It is usually a 90-minute sequence. The practice can be strenuous as it is under pretty hot room so hydrate before and after.
Benefits: Speeds up recovery from injury, enhances flexibility cleanses the body.
Best For: Beginners, Intermediate, Advance.Best for amateurs who are newer to yoga because of its predictable sequence. Also will be loved by sweat lovers who really look for a tough workout that will leave them drenched.
About: It is pretty different from typical yoga class as it is physically and mentally challenging. There’ll be kriyas (cleansing), repetitive physical exercises, coupled with intense breath work – while also chanting, singing and meditating. The goal is to break through the internal barriers to releasing the untapped energy residing within you and bringing you to a higher level of self-awareness.
Benefits: Relieves stress, provides physical exercise, elevating spiritual experiences and mindfullness, improves breathing.
Best For: Intermediate, Advance. For someone who will be looking for a more spiritual practice. Those who are seeking something more than just a workout session.
About: Healing the mind and body through simple poses held for up to several minutes. Uses props such as bolsters, pillows, and straps. This is a meditative practice designed to target the deeper connective tissues and fascia, restoring length and elasticity. Props are used to release into the posture instead of actively flexing or engaging the muscles. Like meditation, it may take most people a few classes to be able to release into the poses easily without feeling antsy and realize the practice’s restorative powers.
Benefits: Help with ailments such as stress, chronic pain, migraines, and insomnia.
Best For: Intermediate, Advance. Those seeking relaxation and flexibility. Not very suitable for people who are super flexible (might overdo some poses) or anyone who has connective tissue disorder. It may be pretty challenging for beginners but it will be a good practice for anyone who has a hard time slowing down, experiencing insomnia or people with anxiety. Also great for athletes who are on recovery mode.
About: Yoga postures and movements performed while suspended off the ground by a hammock-like piece of cloth.
Benefits: Increase flexibility by relieving compression, which releases tension, straighten the shoulders, and elongate the spine
Best For: Beginners, Intermediate, Advance. Very good for someone who is looking to increase flexibility and experience being upside down.
I personally am an Ashtanga and Vinyasa practitioner more than other style. I love doing Yin Yoga, but it’s not easy to look for a real good Yin teacher around my area in Singapore. So, I do it only when I feel my body really needs Yin practice more than the Yang. In terms of teaching, I do teach Ashtanga, Hatha, and Vinyasa. I’ve tried other styles like Bikram/Hot Yoga before, but not really something I resonate with myself. I’ve never tried Iyengar and Kundalini though, so I can’t comment much on those 2 styles. As for Aerial Yoga, I tried it couple times, but I guess it wasn’t really my style too. However, it will definitely be good for someone who would love to increase their flexibility, test their strength and experience being upside down. Besides, being in a hammock-like piece of cloth feel kinda fun too.
My daily practices alternate between Vinyasa and Ashtanga Yoga. I love the internal heat created within my body to help me sweat. I always feel so good to sweat and stretch especially in the morning. My practice usually will start with a 10 minutes meditation and that will help me clear up the mind before going into my asana practice.
For all those who is looking for any yoga style to practice with, go and experience those you have available within your areas. Pick and choose which styles you like most and practice them regularly to get all the amazing benefits yoga could offer you.
“Truth is ONE. Paths are many.”