Yoga is a 5,000-year-old tradition that is now recognised for its power to boost our fitness and overall wellbeing, bringing with it the benefits of flexibility, strength and calmness of mind. There are so many styles available today, with classes ranging from flowing and dynamic to static and meditative – read on to find out which style might suit you.
What to expect: In Ashtanga, students work through a set of dynamic postures at their own pace or so-called mysore style. Beginners start at what is called ‘the primary series’ and work through a standing, dynamic movement sequence which then leads to more static standing and floor poses, or ‘asana’. Each pose is linked with a vinyasa or one-breath movement. You start the practice with five sun salutations A and five Sun Salutations B (Sun Salutation B includes holds in the warrior pose). In this style of yoga, importance is given to the breathing with traditionally five breaths per pose. Classes are typically 90 minutes long, although some studios will offer shorter versions for time-poor students.
Who it’s for: This style suits people who prefer routine and want to improve their fitness through their practice.
Where to get more information: http://kpjayi.org/.
Great reading: The Heart of Yoga by TKV Desikachar.
What to expect: The trademarks of an Iyengar class are props, blocks, bolsters, straps and cushions. The focus of the practice is on physical alignment through careful positioning of the body. Poses are held longer, so precise skeletal and muscular alignment of the body can be achieved through adjustment by the teacher or with the props. The class length varies from one to two hours.
Who it’s for: This practice is accessible to all students, including those with injuries and physical limitations.
Where to get more information: http://www.bksiyengar.com/
Great reading: Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar
What to expect: Expect to sweat (a lot!) as classes are held in up to 40ºC and have humidity added to the room. The teacher will direct you through 26 set poses that are the same for every class. The idea is to clean the body from the inside out by sweating out toxins, and by warming up the muscles, deeper poses can be achieved faster. The class demands intense concentration as you work your way through 45 minutes of standing poses followed by 45 minutes of seated and lying-down poses and a rest period or savasana at the end.
Who it’s for: People who are up for a challenge, enjoy a hot environment and the detoxifying benefits of this practice.
Where to get more information: http://www.bikramyoga.com/Bikram/bikram.php
Great reading: Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class
Hot Power Vinyasa
What to expect: Expect to sweat and flow. These vigorous classes are heart pumping and dynamic, combining Ashtanga style moves with a more fluid sequence to give you an all-over body workout. The class incorporates some philosophy, breath work and a rest period or savasana. The practice will lift your spirits and provide you with some authentically challenging moments both physically and mentally. Classes are traditionally 75 minutes long, but many studios offer express formats of 45 to 60minutes in duration.
Who it’s for: For those who seek both physical and mental challenges.
Where to get more information: http://www.power-yoga.com/ and http://www.baronbaptiste.com/
Great reading: Power Yoga by Beryl Bender Birch and Journey into Power by Baron Baptiste
What to expect: Yin yoga classes comprise a series of long held poses that last anywhere between 1 and 20 minutes! The long holds give the body time to bath the tissue lubricating the joint and most of the poses focus on the hip region, which means you’ll be performing many of the poses lying down or seated. The classes encourages you to relax and sink into the poses as opposed to the styles of yoga described above, which are very active in nature or yang. A yin class can be one to two hours long. More benefits can be gained from the longer classes.
Who it’s for: Those who enjoy a quieter more meditative, thoughtful practice.
Where to get more information: http://www.yinyoga.com/
Great reading: Insight Yoga by Sarah Power
Hatha yoga is the overall term for all types of yoga that focus on postures. If a studio advertises that they practise Hatha, ask them in what style. It will usually consist of a combination of the styles mentioned in this article.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask a yoga studio for a trial class or two so you can find a style and a teacher that resonates with you.
Oh on last count there were around 100 different styles of yoga