Yoga is a form of exercise that has enjoyed continued popularity in India and the far East for hundreds of years. In recent years, it has become more familiar and more popular in the Western world. Yoga classes are easy to find in yoga studios, civic centers, fitness centers, senior centers and a variety of other venues. In addition to having many opportunities to practice yoga, modern practitioners also have many choices in types of yoga. How can you select the right type of yoga practice to suit your needs? In this article, we will describe the various types of yoga practice and help you make smart choices. Read on to learn more.
Basic yoga is known as Hatha Yoga. “Hatha” is a Sanskrit word meaning “Sun and Moon”. Ha means sun, and tha means moon. Hatha yoga is a measured and gentle type of yoga that focuses on controlled breathing and excellent form. It is the best place to start with yoga because you can learn to perform your poses perfectly and strengthen your lungs with measured breathing. As you gain more strength and begin to attain the unity of body, mind and spirit that is the goal of all yoga practice, you can begin to challenge yourself with Hatha Yoga. It can be practiced slowly and meditatively, or you can step up the pace and get a bit more of a workout. Hatha yoga provides a good, all around yoga practice that is good for relaxation, strengthing, flexibility, weight loss and overall good health.
For a faster moving style of yoga, try Ashtanga Yoga. “Ashtanga” is a Sanskrit word meaning “eight limbs”. This type of yoga is quite intense. It focuses on synchronized breathing and following an established or choreographed series of poses. Ashtanga can provide a demanding form of yoga practice as you move progressively from one pose to another. This type of yoga practice improves strength and flexibility, as well as stamina. It is good for improving your overall fitness level. It is invigorating and good for stress reduction.
Another fast paced style of yoga that synchronizes breathing is Vinyasa, a progressive style of yoga. Sessions begin with simpler and easier series’ of poses, such as the Sun Salutation, and move into more challenging poses. Throughout the practice session, every pose is carefully balanced with the use of a counter-pose. Benefits are similar to those found with Ashtanga Yoga. Vinyasa Yoga may be said to be a bit more cerebral due to the structure of the sessions.
For an even more energetic yoga workout, try Power Yoga. This style of yoga is a western creation that is based upon the concepts of Ashtanga Yoga. Power yoga classes follow a choreographed series of poses with no stops in between. The pace is fast, and the workout is demanding. This is a good form of yoga for people who are in excellent physical condition. It provides an excellent aerobic workout along with strengthening and flexibility.
Iyengar Yoga focuses strongly on form and alignment. Rather than moving quickly or fluidly from one pose to another, the emphasis is on attaining and holding a pose in perfect form and alignment for an extended period of time. Practitioners of Iyengar yoga use straps, blocks and other yoga props to help gain perfect alignment and stay in position. This is a good form of yoga for strengthening. It is also conducive to deep meditation.
The most challenging form of yoga is Hot (aka: Bikram) Yoga. This is a fast paced, demanding form of yoga practice that is done in a room that has been heated to 105 degrees and has a humidity level of about forty percent. Twenty six poses are typically performed in a Hot Yoga class, which lasts about an hour and a half. It goes without saying that practitioners of Bikram yoga sweat a lot. This is said to provide tremendous cleansing benefits. The high temperature and humidity are said to loosen the muscles and joints for greater flexibility. Bikram yoga provides benefits in terms of strengthening, gaining flexibility and improving stamina. Only people who are already in very good shape should take up Hot Yoga. Pregnant women should not perform this type of yoga.
Generally speaking, if you are just starting out Hatha Yoga is the best place to start. You can get in surprisingly good shape with Hatha Yoga, and you can adjust the intensity to suit your needs from one workout to the next. If you decide to stick with Hatha Yoga for the rest of your life, you will have made a smart decision. You can also segue into any of the other types of yoga from Hatha Yoga with great ease. Alternately, when you have become proficient with Hatha Yoga, you can just attend a class in one of the other types from time to time for the variety. Yoga is a very adjustable form of exercise that you can practice successfully throughout your life.