Yoga offers a number of health benefits, but if you’re new to the practice, you may not know where to start. Even if you’ve been involved in yoga for awhile, you may be intimated by the various schools of yoga, each of which offers a completely different approach to the activity.
There are many different ways to practice yoga; probably as many ways as there are yoga instructors. However, there are a few popular schools that are accessible to the masses and probably easy to find within your community. Whether you’re new to yoga or looking to try a new methodology, consider these types of yoga for your practice:
Hatha yoga has become a somewhat blanket term for modern yoga. It simply involves the combination of breath and movement, making it ideal for beginners and seniors. At a Hatha class, you’ll probably do a lot of stretching, make some gentle movements and focus on your breathing.
A vinyasa is a series of movements that involves folding forward, jumping back into plank, lowering one’s body to the ground, and pushing back into downward dog before making your way back to a standing position. This sequence (which can have many variations) is the basis of vinyasa yoga, a popular approach that builds on the Hatha practice while adding faster, more challenging motions.
Ashtanga yoga is arguably the most classical form of yoga you’re likely to find in the 21st century United States. (It also happens to be yours truly’s yoga of choice.) Created by the Indian yoga teacher Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in the mid-20th century, Ashtanga yoga consists of a specific sequence of poses, including sun salutations, standing and seated stretches, vinyasas, core work and backbends. Focus is placed on the breath as well as the motion sequence. Ashtanga can be physically challenging, but if you’re an experienced practitioner looking to deepen your practice, it’s a fantastic choice.
Iyengar yoga is synonymous with a focus on alignment. B.K.S. Iyengar created and pioneered this yoga school, teaching students to focus on keeping the spine and back aligned while moving through the asanas (poses). There is also, as with most types of yoga, focus on the breath practice (pranayama). Most Iyengar yoga classes will include the use of props such as yoga straps or blocks in an effort to help students learn proper alignment and form.
Bikram yoga (the “official” hot yoga practice) is a little unpopular within many yoga communities, as its founder (Bikram Choudhury) remains a controversial figure. Nonetheless, many yogis enjoy this regimented practice, which involves a sequence set of poses completed in 105-degree temperatures. There are lots of types of hot yoga out there, but Bikram yoga is the most official, having been around since the 1970s. Hot yoga is great for improving flexibility, building strength, detoxing through sweat and clearing the skin.