Yin, Yang, Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga. If you are new to yoga, the different names alone can already be confusing. You just want to try YOGA, but there you are, overwhelmed before you even set foot on a yoga mat. Fear not. With a little bit of fun exploration you will find your yoga, and when you do, it'll fit snugly like your favorite yoga pants.
Yoga is more than moving your body
When starting with yoga, it's good to keep in mind that in its core, yoga is not meant to be a form of exercise. While sexy legs and toned arms will be a result of yoga, they're far from the most important benefit. Yoga is a complete way, a tool for us to use in order to bring the mind and the body to a union. Yoga will teach us to find our own voices, to follow the path which feels right for us, and while the physical movement is one integral part of it, yoga is so much more than that. Yoga is equally much about moving your breath, stimulating your nervous system, stilling the mind and eventually, yes, finding the path to enlightenment.
That sounds like a big word, but don't let that scare you. Whereas some yoga classes are more geared towards the spiritual side of yoga, not every teacher will make you chant or hum the AUM.
Yoga classes explained
Here are some clarifications on the most popular styles of yoga. Try them, test with a few different teachers, and find your match! Before diving toes first into a level 3 Power Yoga class, it's always good to go through some basic beginner classes with a slower tempo so that you learn the basics of the poses. There's nothing more discouraging than injuring yourself before you've even started your yoga journey.
Hatha yoga describes the physical nature of yoga, and many forms of yoga stem from it. Still Hatha Yoga is described as a yoga form of its own. It includes a more gentle asana practice, with breathing exercises and meditation, and limited flow between the poses, thus making it a good place to get to know yoga.
Ashtanga yoga is named after the eight limbs of yoga, as written in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Ashtanga is highly active, and uses a series of postures done in a flowing vinyasa style. It can be an intense experience due to the continuous movement, and requires moderate strength and stamina. Since Ashtanga uses a series of poses always performed in the same order, this is a good style of yoga for those who enjoy a sense of order. Start with the first series and take it from there.
Vinyasa or Flow yoga
Vinyasa is all about synchronizing the breath with the movement, and moving from one pose to another. Vinyasa classes can vary a lot depending on the teacher, but they always include active movement. If you like to include movement in your class, and like every class to be a little bit different, than you will love a Vinyasa class. Find your teacher and get creative!
Iyengar yoga places a lot of importance on alignment and details of the poses. An Iyengar class will have no flow between the poses, but rather holds the poses for a longer time, really getting into the details of the alignment. Iyengar also uses a lot of props in order to help you get into you alignment (think blocks ropes, and even chairs). It can be a great way of learning the ins and outs of yoga poses in a safe way.
Bikram Yoga or Hot Yoga
Bikram yoga is sometimes confused with the more general Hot yoga. Bikram yoga initiates from Bikram Choudhury, the founding father of this yoga style. Bikram yoga, like Ashtanga yoga, is a set of specific poses. Hot yoga on the other hand can include some of the poses from Bikram yoga, or it can be more general yoga (Hatha or Vinyasa) performed in a hot room. A great experience especially in the midst of the cold winter months!
If you want to restore your energy and enjoy a more meditative class, try Yin Yoga. Yin yoga is mostly done seated or laying down, and the poses are held several minutes at a time. Unlike the 'yang' style yoga which is concentrating on movement and muscular tissue, yin yoga aims to relax all the muscles and introduce a long stretch on the connective tissues, joints and fascia. Yin is a great way to get to know your body (and mind) in a slow, mindful environment.
Kundalini yoga, also called Yoga of Awareness, emphasizes the awakening of the full potential of the individual. It combines breath, mantras, body locks, mudras (hand gestures, or 'seals' that have an effect on the energy flow of the body) and postures to bring balance to the body, mind and soul. It can be a very different experience from the other types of yoga, so bring an open heart and mind and let go of everything else.
SUP Yoga, or Stand Up Paddle yoga is great for those of you who look for ways to combine water sports with yoga. This form combines stand up paddling and yoga, providing you a chance to be outdoors and experiencing the meditative, calming element of the water. As you are balancing on a board, you get more in tune with your body and the poses you do. This is great way to challenge yourself, to step outside your comfort zone and have some fun!
Your yoga is waiting for you!
Although this is just a small selection of all yoga styles out there, you can see that yoga styles can differ from each other greatly. Just because one style is not for you, does not mean that yoga in general is not for you! And always remember this: yoga is there to adjust to us - not the other way around. Yoga is a tool for us to use, not some magical set of postures we need to force our bodies into. So find something that suits you, that elevates your soul and makes your body sing!