Yoga has been around forever–or just about–but thanks to its recent growth in popularity, there are lots of class types available, making it hard to know which one is right for you. Since it’s back-to-school season, we thought we’d share a quick lesson on the yoga classes available. All you have to do is review the material and pick a practice that’s right for you. No pop quizzes: we promise!
Aerial: Think trapeze and Cirque du Soleil, but more soul soothing and less daredevil. Aerial yoga combines lengths of fabric that hang from the ceiling, working in similar ways to hammocks. The fabric helps to support your bodyweight making it easier to achieve yoga poses. Despite how it sounds, aerial yoga is perfect for newbies, as well as is great for those who’ve practiced for years and are trying to achieve more advanced postures, but still need some assistance.
Anusara: Meaning “flowing with grace,” Anusara yoga is based on the “three A’s”: attitude, alignment, and action. The class is described as playful, with some laughter; however, don’t take that to mean it’s easy. This joyful attitude is meant to encourage self-esteem and general positivity. The class is based on Hatha yoga (see below), with alignment as the focus. Lots of props are used so that both beginner and advanced students can benefit.
Ashtanga: One of the oldest yoga forms, Ashtanga is an intense class that combines breath and movement in a sequential order of asanas. If you prefer routine, Ashtanga might be for you as the class meticulously follows the same order each time. The first posture is a preparation for the next, and so on so that you can increase the strength and balance necessary to go further. Get ready for an athletic and vigorous practice that builds heat, but one that is still good for all levels of yogis.
Bikram: This is another great class for someone who prefers order and consistency. Bikram classes are made up of 26 sequential postures and breathing exercises, each of which are performed twice. Bikram can be an intense practice with the postures alone, but gets even more so thanks to the heat. Bikram is practiced in 105-degree studios, with about 40 percent humidity. While newbies are welcome to give it a go, if you’ve never done yoga before, this class could freak you out a bit. Bring an open mind…and a few towels.
Hatha: The true beginner can build a great foundation for many yoga styles in a Hatha class. This is a more basic class, with gentler stretching, breathing, and relaxation techniques. There is no flow between poses, which gives beginners good opportunities to learn and grow comfortable.
Hot: Hot yoga is less about the style of yoga and more about the temperature of the room. While Bikram must be done in a hot room to be considered Bikram, other classes increase the heat to help encourage muscles to be more limber as well as to sweat out toxins. If the heat doesn’t bother you, see what class styles are being offered this way and give one a try.
Hybrid: Studios like to shake things up a bit and combine yoga styles to offer the benefits of each in one practice. You’ll also see yoga paired up with sports, such as paddle board, as well as with other core exercises, such as pilates.
Iyengar: Named after creator B.K.S. Iyenger, this style of yoga focuses heavily on alignment using the many yoga props available, such as straps, blocks, and blankets. Those who feel yoga is only for those who are extremely flexible should try a class with Iyenger-based instruction. The props will help to keep you supported as well as encourage injury prevention.
Kundalini: Kundalini is known as the “yoga of awareness.” In this class, breath and meditation are used to challenge students physically and mentally to release stress and connect with their inner energy. While Kundalini is not a religion, it has a stronger spiritual side than other yoga practices.
Pre- and Post-Natal: If you have a baby on the way or the little bundle of joy has already arrived, this gentle Hatha-style yoga might be the perfect class. New and expecting moms can use this class to help reduce and relieve stress, as well as respond to the body’s changing needs.
Vinyasa: Also known as Power or Flow yoga, Vinyasa classes offer a more athletically and physically challenging practice. All poses are synced with breath, and poses tend to run together–or flow from one to the next. There is a lot of variety within the Vinyasa practice. Slow Flow classes will feel less aerobic than say a Power Flow, which moves at a quicker pace. Anyone can take these classes, but new people might need to look around the room to get a better feel for the postures.
Yin: Need a really good stretch and a little meditation? Yin yoga is for you. It’s a slow class, that is less about strength-building poses and more about focusing on flexibility. Props are used in this class to help those practicing hold stretches for longer periods of time. As your muscles sink deeper, so will your mind as meditative moments are built into the instruction.
Now that you’re in the know, think you’re ready to give yoga a try? Your homework is to find a class near you and see what you think. Report back in the comments when you’re done!
Already have a style you love? Tell others all about it in the comments!