Studies showing the many health benefits of yoga abound.1 Yoga can improve strength, balance, flexibility and breathing, alleviate back pain, help you lose weight, boost the immune system and lower stress levels. “Hatha yoga” is an umbrella term that actually includes many different styles ranging from serene, calming poses designed to strengthen the mind, body and spirit connection to very vigorous, intense workouts—which one to choose? These are just a few of your options:
Ananda—A gentle, classic, meditative practice designed to bring serenity and calm while aligning body, mind and spirit with silent affirmations during the gentle poses.
Anusara—Designed to accommodate a wide variety of student abilities, Anusara yoga focuses on “flowing with grace” through a series of gentle poses.
Ashtanga—A real workout designed to build stamina, strength and flexibility through faster-paced poses. It is better suited to more experienced students.
Bikram—Also called “hot yoga”, this style includes a fixed set of 26 poses, done in a specific order at a room temperature of 90-105 degrees Fahrenheit; a vigorous, cleansing workout!
Barre—A hybrid style mixing vinyasa yoga and ballet movements.
Integral—One of the first yoga styles introduced to western audiences, it focuses heavily on breathing2 and awareness during poses.
Iyengar—Incorporates props like straps, blankets, bands and blocks to help students focus on the alignment of their bodies during practice.
Kripalu—Includes three levels designed to take beginners from learning poses to coordinating them with awareness of the body-mind connection to “meditation in motion” level.
Viniyoga—This is a gentle style that helps students coordinate breath and movement in a gentle series of poses designed to reduce stress and fit each student’s ability and goals.
And there are many more styles than this! So how do you choose one that fits you?
Choosing Your Yoga:
The following steps should help you find a yoga practice that fits your individual needs:
Ask yourself what your goals are for starting a yoga practice. Are you seeking stress relief and inner calmness? Would you like to lose weight? Do you want better flexibility and overall fitness? Are you addressing a certain health problem?
Talk with a trusted healthcare provider about your goals and health concerns. Some styles of yoga may not be appropriate for people with certain health conditions, while other styles may be very good for them.
Ask friends and family who practice yoga for their suggestions.
Look for an experienced yoga instructor who is fully certified in the styles they teach.
1. Woodyard C.,: Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. International Journal of Yoga 2011 Jul-Dec; 4(2): 49–54.
2. Zope SA, Zope RA.: Sudarshan kriya yoga: Breathing for health. International Journal of Yoga 2013 Jan;6(1):4-10. doi: 10.4103/0973-6131.105935.