It seems like everyone from the neighborhood dog walker to the cashier at the grocery store is talking about heading to their yoga class. What is yoga? Is this the latest fitness fad? What’s so great about it?
On its most basic level yoga is made up of a series of poses designed to quiet the mind, purify the body and build physical strength and stamina. It isn’t just the latest fad. It has been around for thousands of years and has countless benefits including anxiety management, improved concentration and creativity, stimulation of the immune system, and improved circulation. It helps with numerous health concerns such as back and neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, depression, epilepsy, arthritis, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, asthma, headaches, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease.
Intrigued? Ready to run to the nearest yoga studio and sign up? Great! Before you do, however, you might want to check out what style of yoga would best suit you and your needs. While all styles of yoga improve strength, flexibility, and balance, each type of yoga comes with its own set of challenges and benefits.
Hatha Yoga, sometimes referred to as basic yoga, is the most widely practiced form of yoga. It is perfect for the new yogi who wants to dip his, or her, toes in the water before diving in. This style is made up of basic movement connected with breathing and focuses on holding the poses for a short time while establishing a mind-body connection. If your goal is to de-stress and improve overall health and fitness, this is a great option for you.
Vinyasa is made up of a series of poses that flow smoothly and focuses on connecting your breathing to the movement. For example, you would inhale on an upward motion and exhale on the downward motion. This is great for the beginner yogi who gets a little antsy holding poses and wants to focus on strength and flexibility. Vinyasa is similar to Hatha in its basic structure.
Iyengar is a fantastic option for the perfectionist yogi. This type of yoga focuses in on keeping the body in alignment and uses props such as blocks, straps and blankets. Beginners, or seasoned yogis, who are nursing an injury or who are suffering from neck or back pain should definitely give Iyengar a shot. It’s great for joint and muscle health.
Ashtanga is made up of six different sequences of poses, all of which focus on a different aspect of the body. This type is not for the beginner as it is one of the most physically demanding types of yoga. Similar to Vinyasa, Ashtanga moves through the poses with a fluid motion. It aims to build stamina and boost overall fitness levels. This is a great option for weight loss and leaves you with the same after workout feeling you might get after weight training.
Kundalini is the perfect choice for the yogi looking to explore their spirituality through yoga. It focuses on awakening the energy at the base of the spine, the root chakra, and drawing it upward, and involves chanting and breathing through movements. Kundalini might be physically and mentally challenging for the beginner yogi who isn’t familiar with the poses, chanting or meditation.
Bikram, also known as hot yoga, is pretty straight forward. This is the practice of moving through the same 26 poses in a room heated to 105°F (40.6°C). This yoga is ideal for those looking to improve flexibility and strength and want to cleanse toxins from their bodies. Because of the standard 90 minute length and high temperatures you should definitely consult your doctor before trying Bikram yoga.
Yoga is a great stress reducer and can fit into anyone’s schedule. With the many different types of yoga out there, it’s possible for everyone to find their perfect fit. Check out your local yoga studios and try out a couple of different types to find your best fit and enjoy the many rewards!