From soul-wrenching flows in 100-plus-degree rooms to quiet hours spent in mindful contemplation, the term “yoga” has come to mean many things to many people.
However, there is no one optimal type that rules over the rest - all help you achieve a quieter mind and stronger body, in different ways. The type of yoga that’s best for you is simply a matter of personal preferences.
Below is a list of the most popular forms of yoga, with a brief explanation of what type of personality is usually drawn to them -- this is not a hard rule, just what I’ve observed in 12 years of practise and 9 years of teaching.
1. Bikram Yoga (aka Hot Yoga)
Consisting of 26 poses performed twice during a 90-minute class in a room heated to more than 100 degrees, Bikram is often the “gateway” to yoga for many people and is often touted as a weight loss regimen.
Who should try it: This type of yoga often caters to beginners who want to feel like they’ve really worked out.
What else you need to know: I understand the appeal of sweating it out -- I regularly practised Bikram for about three months years ago. But I’m not a huge fan of being in that much heat for so long, and sometimes staring in the mirror at yourself for that long stops being about alignment, the purported reason for practising Bikram. That said, I like the focus it helps develop; it’s quite challenging to hold a posture for 60 seconds, and then 30 seconds, which is the Bikram prescription. Many are drawn to the meditative qualities this procedure demands too -- if you know what pose is next, you can go there without hesitation and spend more time focusing on your breathing and alignment.
2. Ashtanga Yoga
Popularised by Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga Yoga consists of an exacting series of postures, as does Bikram Yoga. The movements are dynamic and there’s intense focus on breathing, and some studios only teach the series in Sanskrit.
Who should try it: Ashtanga appeals to very determined people who use these 90 minutes as a physical meditation -- again, the idea is to be in a focused state without any surprises about which posture is next.
What else you should know: Some classes are led by teachers, and others have an instructor in the room only giving adjustments as the practitioner performs the series on his or her own.
3. Vinyasa Yoga
Vinyasa means “linking [movement] with breath” and denotes a series of postures that is up to teacher to imagine. This is the style I’ve always taught and practise most. I like to mix things up a lot -- unlike with the previous two styles, I don’t necessarily like to know what’s coming next, and I enjoy the challenge of really having to listen to the instructor before assuming I know what’s coming.
Who should try it: I’ve found that this style attracts more creative and spontaneous types of people, open to whatever is being offered to them.
What else you should know: There is a wide range of difficulty in Vinyasa. Some instructors teach a slower, more traditional series that involves holding each pose for several breaths, while others tap into the inherent creativity involved in designing your own class, sometimes throwing in elements of dance and martial arts.
4. Iyengar Yoga
Developed by famed teacher BKS Iyengar, this style of yoga is predominantly very slow, with the instructor breaking down alignment to a much greater degree than other forms. When practising Iyengar, you can expect to hold a pose for 3 to 5 minutes, often using props like blocks, straps and chairs.
Who should try it: Iyengar often draws older practitioners whose joints may not allow them to practise the more rigorous styles, as well as people who really enjoy getting “inside” a posture with all of the alignment cues. This is perhaps the most therapeutic form of yoga as well, and you’ll often find people recovering from injuries in these classes.
What else you should know: Depending on the teacher, Iyengar classes can be quite challenging -- some poses are extremely difficult to stay in for long -- while others may have a more restorative and gentle approach.
Still unsure of which type of yoga is best for you? The best way to find out is to try various styles to see what your body responds to best. Also remember that the type of yoga that suits you best can change as your needs change -- and can even change from day to day. Sometimes I’m in the mood for a rigorous and challenging flow, while other days a more restorative and meditative class makes sense. Bottom line: The more types you try, the more options you’ll have and the better you’ll understand the totality of the yoga practise.
Have you signed up for your next yoga class yet?
(Source: By Derek Beres for Completely You)