Beginners to yoga are understandably confused by the various styles, so we’ve narrowed it down for you.
Photo: jesslef / www.pixabay.com
Surely, you know that yoga has many benefits. For starters, it can promote calmness, boost your health and give you a toned, lithe figure. Studies also show that the workout lowers cortisol (a stress hormone) levels as well as relieves lower back and joint pains. If you are new to the art and all the various styles are confusing you, find your match here.
YOGA STYLE: IYENGAR
Iyengar focuses on the proper alignment of the body, so expect a slower-paced session that lets you adjust and refine each asana (pose).
Try it if… you want to get the basics right or have reached a plateau. Props like blocks and straps help to ease the body into more difficult poses, working muscles you never knew you had.
Avoid it if… you can’t stay still. Due to its emphasis on achieving the correct form, be prepared to hold a pose for up to 30 breaths, a long pause compared to those in more energetic yoga disciplines.
Stretch Factor 5 / 5 If you’ve never been able to do a proper headstand or backbend, you will now. The ropes attached to the wall, a feature unique to Iyengar, help you slide into the deepest stretch of your life.
Sweat Factor 2 / 5 The workout is of low to moderate intensity, thanks to the long intervals between each pose.
OM Factor 4 / 5 Sessions generally begin with a five-minute invocation (chanting is optional), although this varies according to the instructor or class duration.
YOGA STYLE: RESTORATIVE
A relaxing class that involves resting in simple poses for a few minutes. Bolsters and blankets may be used.
Try it if… you feel burnt out from the daily grind or have trouble sleeping at night; this soothes frazzled nerves.
Avoid it if… shedding kilos is your aim. Stretching at a snail’s pace won’t get your heart racing, so look elsewhere for your cardio fix.
Stretch Factor 1 / 5 Most people – even the elderly and those with old injuries – will find the moves easy to execute.
Sweat Factor 1 / 5 Poses are usually done either lying or seated on the mat.
OM Factor 2 / 5 Some classes may include guided meditation.
YOGA STYLE: VINYASA
A continuous, fast-paced workout that focuses on “flowing” from one pose to the next with each breath. Sequences aren’t fixed the way they are in Ashtanga yoga.
Try it if… you can’t sit still. It’ll appeal to sporty types who love an energetic routine that also gives a good stretch.
Avoid it if… you’re completely new to yoga. With barely any intervals between each pose, beginners might have difficulty keeping up.
Stretch Factor 3 / 5 Besides loosening tight hamstrings, you’re likely to ache the next day from the many push-ups and jump-throughs in the routine.
Sweat Factor 3 / 5 It includes a mix of gentle stretches and vigorous moves – all done in one seamless motion.
OM Factor 2 / 5 Depending on the teachers, emphases on philosophy and chants may differ.
YOGA STYLE: ASHTANGA
A fast-moving, cardio workout based on Vinyasa yoga, Ashtanga is traditionally done Mysore style – where practitioners commit the poses to memory and execute them at their own pace. Beginners should start with a “led class”, where a guru guides them through the entire routine.
Try it if… you’re looking to torch calories. Your heart rate will remain elevated with the multiple jump-throughs and jump-backs.
Avoid it if… variety is your middle name. The sequence of poses is fixed, so bolt in the other direction if you’re not keen on repeating the same routine.
Stretch Factor 4 / 5 It consists of numerous forward bends, hamstring stretches and inversions to push your body – and flexibility – to the max.
Sweat Factor 4 / 5 Ashtanga calls for the Ujjayi Breath (Ocean Breath), a breathing method that engages the diaphragm to increase oxygen flow and warm up the muscles quickly.
OM Factor 2 / 5 Classes typically begin and end with chants, but generally do not include meditation.
YOGA STYLE: BIKRAM
Stretching in a sauna – that’s Bikram yoga (also known as Hot yoga) in a nutshell. The room is usually heated to 40 deg C, and the workout typically comprises 26 poses and two breathing exercises done in a fixed sequence.
Try it if… detoxification is your goal. The heat induces perspiration, your body’s natural method of dispelling toxins. You’re allowed to take as many water breaks as you need to stay hydrated.
Avoid it if… you have high blood pressure, heart disease, and a sensitivity to high heat. Seek a doctor’s advice beforehand to be sure.
Stretch Factor 4 / 5 Thanks to the high temperature, your body warms up more quickly, allowing you to ease into deeper stretches.
Sweat Factor 5 /5 Bring along a large towel to lay on the mat and a smaller one to mop perspiration off your face.
OM Factor 0 / 5 No chanting here: Bikram yoga focuses on boosting your fitness and flexibility.
YOGA STYLE: HATHA
This popular branch of yoga is where several other modern forms, including Ashtanga and Iyengar, are derived from.
Try it if… you’re a newbie. Beginners will learn basic poses such as the sun salutation, the inverted triangle, the warrior, the child and more.
Avoid it if… you like routine. The sequence varies from session to session, so you may not always get to practise your favourite asana.
Stretch Factor 3 / 5 Take an intermediate or advanced class if you find the poses too simple. Even basic ones like the downward dog can be modified for a challenge.
Sweat Factor 3 /5 Though it is considered a slow form of yoga, you’ll still work up a sweat – especially at more advanced levels where poses require more eff ort and strength.
OM Factor 4 / 5 Expect the class to start and end with a chant. However, this practice may vary across centres, so call ahead to find out.
Read: Yoga classes that got the thumbs up from our testers during Shape Sports Awards 2015.