New to yoga and don’t know the difference between Vinyasa, Hatha or Iyengar? We know, it’s confusing. So let’s break it down to help you choose which is right.
If you’re new to the yoga world, you may have already noticed there are different styles to choose from. Although all practices are based around the same core elements – moving through structured poses combined with breath awareness and meditation – yoga is certainly not a one-size-fits-all practice.
Many people take up yoga to improve their health and fitness, but stick with it because of the stress-relieving benefits. That said, it’s important to take the time to explore which type will benefit your lifestyle, personality and health goals right from the get go.
“I recommend trying out a few different classes or styles at varying studios to figure out which type you like,” suggests yoga instructor and health coach, Lee Holmes.
“Just like a regular gym class, you need to explore – see which style you mesh with, which studio is your vibe and which teachers you identify with. Then, stick with the one that resonates with you most.”
Here are three of the most popular practices to choose from.
When it comes to complete mind and body relaxation, Hatha yoga is your go-to class.
“Hatha Yoga provides the tools to improve your life, recover from illness, reduce stress and anxiety and overcome daily obstacles to find a state of calmness and peace,” says Holmes.
Classified as a mind-body exercise – just like Tai Chi and Pilates – Hatha is a gentle type of yoga and develops mental focus, providing a greater connection between mind, body and spirit.
“Classes create a highly transformative, healing and inspirational environment, which includes healing and energising movements to strengthen the muscles and provide mobility and balance throughout the body,” says Holmes.
But Hatha isn’t the only stress-busting class you can try. In general, practicing yoga has been found to help with anxiety and levels of stress hormones in the body.
Most people don’t associate yoga with a high-intensity workout, but it can be hard work – especially when it comes to the practice of Vinyasa.
The idea behind this style is to combine breathing techniques – to calm the mind – and maintain a constant flow of movement via what are known as asanas or postures. Which is where the workout comes in!
These poses have been found to improve muscle strength, body composition and endurance just as much as resistance training – so you can expect to get your heart rate up. It also does great things for your cardiovascular system, encouraging oxygen to flow through the blood, loosening muscles and releasing toxins.
While it’s still a relaxing experience, the focus is on strength for both body and mind.
If you’re one of the many people plagued by neck and back pain, Iyengar classes may be the perfect way to realign yourself – both physically and mentally. It’s all about alignment of the muscles that help with posture and focuses on aligning the Pranayama – breath control – and Asana – the physical practice of yoga poses – with precision.
While these poses can be demanding in effort and require attention to detail to ensure each is carried out correctly, beginners shouldn’t be discouraged. It’s not uncommon – in fact it’s encouraged – to use props and tools to assist in controlling each pose to get it just right.
It’s worth checking with your doctor before embarking on a new exercise program, especially if you suffer from any aches or pains or any health condition.
One of the main reasons yoga is so popular is that it can easily be done anywhere – especially once you are familiar with the moves and have your downward dog down pat.
So if you’re feeling stressed or out of balance, here are three easy exercises you can do anywhere, anytime.
Don’t forget - you don’t have to be an expert yogi to get the benefits of yoga, start slowly and enjoy the process.
- From standing, step your feet out wide.
- Turn your right foot out by 90 degrees. Turn your left toes in slightly towards the right foot.
- Reach your right arm out to the side, over your right leg, and engage your right thigh.
- Drop your right hand down onto your shin, ankle or the floor on the inside or outside the right foot – whichever feels most comfortable for you.
- Stack your left shoulder on top of the right one as you open your chest, reaching the left fingertips towards the ceiling.
- Look up toward your left fingertips (if you can).
- Hold for five breaths.
- Switch sides.
- Lie on your belly with your feet together.
- Place your hands near your shoulders, palms flat on the floor and lift your upper body off the mat.
- Keep your pubic bone on the mat and make sure your shoulders are down and away from your ears.
- Roll your shoulders back and lift the chest higher, while keeping the lower ribs on the floor.
- Hold for five breaths then release.
- Start in a kneeling position.
- Drop your buttocks toward your heels as you stretch the rest of your body down and forward.
- Rest your stomach on top of your thighs and your forehead on the mat.
- Stretch your arms forward, then as your forehead rests on the floor, bring your arms around and to your sides, palms facing upward.
- Hold for 10 breaths.