Following my previous article, I have had many people saying that yoga isn’t really something that they thought about doing. I’ve heard everything from both ends of the spectrum. From “it’s too hard” to “it’s too easy for me” or “I like to work hard and sweat not just relax and stretch” or my favourite, “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible enough!” Well here it is.
Yoga IS for everyone and I will explain, in my opinion, what the different types of yoga are so you can explore and work out which style fits you.
Now I’m not saying that you should pick just one style, in fact, far from it! All different types of yoga equally benefit the body and mind in different ways. You could start by choosing the style that works for you. It could be sweaty and hard but once you get into it, you should try a calmer, stretchy type or vice versa.
Life doesn’t work at its best unless you have a balance of activity. You can not constantly be running around like crazy, never taking a break and always be fighting yourself through your days. Equally, you can’t be sedentary all day and do absolutely nothing. You need a healthy balance of both. That’s why yoga can work for you. Not only in a class, but outside in your day to day life.
So here are some of the main forms of yoga and what type of person it may suit. I am sure you can find one that works for you.
This is what I trained in and all I can say is that it’s probably the strongest and fittest I’ve ever been. It’s essentially a sequence of asanas (poses) put together with a big concentration on the breath (or breathing). It is similar to Vinyasa or Flow but the sequence always the remains the same. There are a few levels that devoted Ashtangis progress into that are at a very high level of physical discipline. Traditionally, it is practiced 6 days a week, although in modern society, we know that’s not always possible.
I love the way the routine of the set sequence allows you to shut off and really concentrate on your breathing. At the same time you can achieve great physical and mental benefit from this practice.
Who is Ashtanga for? This is for the disciplined person, like myself who really wants to work hard and sweat. In my personal opinion, you need to have a certain level of fitness before entering an Ashtanga class but if you’re the type who wants a good work out, this one is for you.
Ahhhhh Yin. The reason I’m writing about Yin next is because it’s almost completely opposite to Ashtanga in the physical make up of the class. Don’t be fooled though. While some may say that this can be somewhat “easy” and “relaxing”. This “stretchy” class can be hard. Yin is a slow, steady practice with a lot of time spent on the mat being still and in one pose. Why is it hard? For hard core exercisers out there, you will find this practice more of a challenge than Ashtanga or Vinyasa. That’s because you remain still in a particular posture for an average of 3-5 minutes. Your mind will probably wander and you could start to get bored and probably agitated. As a beginner, I did for sure. But after a minute or so, you’ll realise that the pose is actually quite difficult and your muscles will really start to relax deep in the stretch. You start working into and feeling that connective tissue (a type of biological tissue that supports, connects or separates different types of tissues and organs in the body). Your body may want to tense and you may want to get up and move around. This is the challenge. Can you remain still? Can you continue to focus and breath into the pose? It’s a great practice and I urge everyone to give this a try.
Who is Yin for? Yin is for the quiet achievers, the ones who really want to get in touch with their minds and bodies in a gentler but equally challenging way.
This is my favourite practice at the moment. The reason I say “at the moment” is because yoga practice for me really depends on how I’m feeling. I may go through weeks wanting and needing to do a lot of Yang (movement) based, strong classes. But believe me, this doesn’t last long. I’ve learned through time to listen to my body and choose an appropriate practice that my body may need.
Vinyasa is where a sequence of asanas and movements are synchronised with the breath. This can also be called Flow because of the way the poses run smoothly together. While similar to Ashtanga, it is also different. Unlike Ashtanga, there isn’t a set sequence. The teacher will change the flow and poses from class to class.
Who is Vinyasa/Flow for? This is for beginners and experts alike. You can get a really good work out but there is also a range of poses from easy to more difficult that will suit anyone. A good yoga instructor can adjust the poses to suit your fitness level.
Hatha is quite a broad term that encompasses different types of yoga practices. Many contemporary forms of physical yoga can be described as Hatha. Although I consider Hatha to be at the gentler end of the spectrum, don’t be surprised if you attend a class and get a big variation.
Who is Hatha for? This is for the beginner with a sense of adventure but like Vinyasa/Flow, it can be for the experts too. Again, a good yoga instructor can adjust the poses to suit your fitness level.
There are still many other forms of yoga out there. From Iyengar to Restorative, Kundalini and so many more variations. To explain them all would keep me here forever. My personal advice to you would be to try them out. Read the descriptions and pick one that you feel would suit your personality. This could be your starting point and often there will be many different styles available at your local studio along with many different teachers. Don’t give up if you try one style or one teacher and think it’s not for you. Try a different class with a different teacher. Eventually, I can almost guarantee that you’ll find one you like.
I believe there IS a style of yoga that will suit each different person.
And, as I mentioned earlier, your body may need a different style of yoga at a different time of your life. Try them all to see which one fits you and don’t assume that you will only like, or dislike, one particular style. Once you find your footing in yoga, you can begin the explore all the different forms that there are.