The world of Yoga is daunting to the beginner. We can start with the best intention and come face to face with a myriad of yoga classes, their alien rituals, chanting and environments (hot yoga anyone?) and its easy to get lost in the maze.
So, wheres the best place to start? There are a 6 major yoga styles that recognised globally and then countless other styles of yoga that are developed by practitioners, health and yoga centres. For simplicity this post will explore the 6 major styles of Yoga. This DB Guide will cut down the confusion and strip away at the layers, explaining and grouping each major yoga style into an easy to understand category so you can totally understand what the class is all about and which style of yoga will provide you with the most benefit.
Each style is defined under one of the following categories and given an estimated rating out of 10 with 10 being most challenging and 1 being most relaxing. Obviously this rating will depend on your own individual fitness levels, so should be take as a loose guide.
However, as a beginner the key things your teacher will highlight and which you should attention to in any Yoga class will be to:
- Be aware
- Stay calm and concentrate
Strength: This is a workout class, intense and challenging you will build up a sweat!
Conditioning: a more gentle a and slower paced workout, this class will strength and stretch increasing your flexibility.
Restorative: relaxing and calming, this class will help you unwind, stretch and restore after a hectic day at work.
MAJOR STYLES OF YOGA
Ashtanga means eight limbs is based on ancient yoga teachings where each asana (physical yoga posture) represents a new limb. It was brought to the West by Pattabhi Jois (“pah-tah-bee joyce”) in the 1970s. Ashtanga is a rigorous form of yoga that always performs the exact same poses in the exact same order. It is similar to vinyasa yoga, as both styles links every movement to a breath. Ashtanga however is a hot, sweaty, physically demanding practice.
Bikram Choudhury developed this school of yoga with classes being taught in heated rooms. A Bikram class will make you sweat! Bikram has similarities to Ashtanga in that it follows a preformulated sequence, however this sequence is different and has been trademarked so that the name Bikram can not b e applied to other ‘hot’ yoga classes.
Hatha yoga is actually a catch all term that simply means ‘force’ and can be applied to any form of yoga class that teaches a series of physical postures. However, in the real world of gyms and yoga centres Hatha will denote a gentle introduction to basic yoga postures and is therefore suitable for individuals of all ages and abilities.
Iyengar yoga was developed by B.K.S Iyengar (“eye-yen-gar”) and has a key focus on proper alignment. To support this focus cclasses will usually include a wide array of props, from blocks to straps, bolsters and/or blankets. As the focus is on alignment classes will generally hold postures for longer, to ensure students obtain correct alignment. Whilst this means you won’t generally be moving from posture to posture (asanas) it is nonetheless challenging and will require a good deal of mental focus to maintain posture.
Restorative yoga may also be called Hatha, Calm or Yin Yoga and it represents a more relaxing, passive approach to yoga potentially using bolsters, block and blankets as props in the class to help students experience the most relaxinv, restorative effects of a yoga class without the high energy intensity of classes such as Ashtanga or Vinyasa.
Vinyasa (“vin-yah-sah”) is a Sanskrit word for a phrase that roughly translates as “to place in a special way”. The key characteristic of a Vinyasa class is the element of flow. It is a dynamic, flowing form of yoga where the poses (asanas) are connected to the breath. Therefore Vinyasa practice can be movement instensive and students transition through their Asanas. Whilst Vinyasa classes have similarities to Astanga they are less formulaic and it is generally up to the teacher to set the tone of the class. This means intensity can vary and makes Vinyasa a could option for those who prefer variety over routine.Within Yoga there are also 10 living principles which can guide us through life. These principles connect to the spiritual side of yoga and are rooted in its history – you can read about those principles in more detail here.