Are you OK with getting sweaty? No matter what your skill level and goal, the perfect yoga class is out there for you. Here is a quick guide to some of the most popular styles that can help you to find the right class (or to avoid the wrong one.)
Hatha is a great style for beginners, it’s actually the basis of the other forms of yoga. It focuses on stress relief through controlled breathing, meditation, and holding poses. It is the most popular type of yoga practiced in the United States. Hatha is a general name that actually acts as an umbrella term over other yoga styles.
Iyengar uses poses like hatha yoga, but there is more focus on proper alignment during each pose – this is posing for perfectionists. Poses are done slowly and held for longer than in other styles of yoga (one to two minutes per pose is common in Iyengar,) then yogis rest before slowly moving into the next pose. One of the distinguishing marks of Iyengar is the accessories: blocks, straps, cushions, and blankets can be used to achieve the poses, which helps those with decreased mobility to do them.
Like hatha but want more of a workout? Vinyasa is similar, but moves faster. It involves a series of poses, and movements between them, with controlled breathing. The poses are arranged so that you will inhale on an upward movement and exhale on a downward movement. The rhythmic movements and breathing allow you to relax and focus on the class while getting a great workout from holding the poses.
Can you handle the heat? Bikram yoga is practiced at temperatures of 95 to 105°F for a variety of reasons. The increased heat will keep your muscles warm, which can increase flexibility and prevent injury. It also makes you sweat, which releases toxins from your body. Also, it’s reminiscent of India, yoga’s birthplace.
You may have heard certain studios refer to Bikram as “hot yoga.” Bikram involves 26 postures that give a great workout that promotes muscle strength and endurance, weight loss, and cardiovascular conditioning.
This is not for beginners – you’ll need to work your way up to this. This is a physically demanding, athletic style that involves working through series of increasingly difficult poses while controlling breathing. Expect to get sweaty with this type of yoga no matter what the temperature of the studio is.
Some classes may incorporate different styles into one class, or may modify any of these styles to make them therapeutic or more appropriate for different abilities. Get to class early to talk to the instructor about your individual needs, or find out if you can get a one-on-one class to become familiar with the poses and proper postures before jumping into an all-levels class.