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Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline originating in India. While many view the practice as merely an exercise, it stems much further than that. A key component of yoga is performing physical routines to keep the body toned, but breath control, meditation, emotional control, and a healthy lifestyle are also important. Yoga has many benefits to both mind and body, including better posture and digestion, improved strength, peace of mind, eased pain, and increased lung capacity, oxygen flow to the brain, and flexibility. Yoga will leave you feeling grounded and more in tune with your life.
But of the major types of yoga practices, which is right for you?
Hatha yoga is perfect for beginners. It is based on slow-paced, mindful movement involving individual asanas, or postures. “Hatha” means “force” in Sanskrit. Despite its name, hatha yoga is actually one of the most gentle forms. A hatha yoga class, while keeping a slow pace, tends to focus on strength while also incorporating pranayama (breath control) and meditation. This practice is popular in the United States and most yoga studios teach this style.
Vinyasa yoga is a faster-paced form of yoga in which the practitioner flows between postures. It’s sure to get your heart pumping! Instead of individual asanas, vinyasa yoga focuses more on flowing through them, linking each pose to an exhale or inhale. Like hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga is also a great fit for beginners. And it’s great cardio!
Ashtanga yoga uses the same style as Vinyasa yoga, however, it’s a little more physically demanding! Ashtanga yoga focuses on routine and discipline. Founded in the 20th century, it is considered to be the modern-day form of practitioner yoga. There are five asana series in this style, and each student must master each pose of the first series before moving on. These series include sun salutations, standing poses, seated poses, and even inversions, which involved turning your body upside down!
Kundalini yoga has the most spiritual focus of the different forms of yoga. In Hinduism, kundalini (meaning “snake” in Sanskrit) refers to the primal energy said to be coiled like a snake at the base of the spine. The point of this practice is to awaken this energy. Kundalini yoga incorporates asana, meditation, pranayama, and mantras (chants). If you’re looking to increase your spiritual awareness, this one’s definitely for you!
Ready to sweat? Commonly known as “hot yoga,” its goal is to make your body sweat and detoxify. It is practiced in 95-107 degrees Fahrenheit in 40 percent humidity. Stemming from traditional hatha yoga, Bikram yoga consists of 26 postures and two breathing exercises. Classes usually last for 90 minutes. If you want to experience the same yoga benefits while detoxifying your body, you might want to grab a towel and head to class. Just make sure you can handle the heat!
Iyengar yoga is a slow-paced practice that involves the use of props such as blankets, blocks, cushions, harnesses, straps, and even chairs! A popular form of Iyengar yoga is aerial yoga in which the practitioner floats off the ground in a hammock as shown in the photo above. Forms of Iyengar yoga are perfect for the elderly as it minimizes the risk of injury and strain.
Yin yoga is another slow-paced form of yoga. In this practice, postures are held for longer periods of time which can range from 45 seconds to two minutes. More advanced yogis may hold asanas for up to five minutes! Yin yoga will allow you to be present and reroute your mind while stretching deeply. It targets the body’s connective tissues, bones, joints, and ligaments.
While it can be an uncomfortable practice, however, Yin yoga helps our body get away from its natural reaction of becoming tense when experiencing discomfort and teach it to relax and breathe instead. Practicing Yin yoga prevents the loss of mobility and ease pain as we age. It is also an excellent follow-up to more demanding or intense forms of yoga to avoid injury and remain balanced and flexible.
Not an exercise junkie? Are you trying to find peace and relaxation in your stressful life? This one’s for you! A restorative yoga sequence typically involves only five or six poses supported by props like blankets, pillows, eye bags, and scented oils to help you entirely relax. The main goal of restorative yoga is to de-stress, so if your life is chaotic, this is definitely a style of yoga to try.
Whatever style works best for you, it’s always a good idea to open your mind to the world of yoga and experience its different ways of practice. We each have different needs and lives; our bodies all work in different ways. It’s important to try new things and find what works for you. Remember that it is not about competition, but rather your own personal yoga journey.