How To Pick The Best Style Of Yoga For What You’re Trying To Accomplish
Posted Jun 17 2013 11:00am
By Shawn Tremaine
Yoga has been around for a long time.
Historic Sanskrit texts have it dated back to the 3rd millennium B.C. with the first formal “guide” to the yogic philosophy, the “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” dating to around the 2nd century A.D. With a history like that, it’s hard to argue the practice’s efficacy and positive effects on human health and wellbeing.
The idea behind yoga is to unite the mental, physical and spiritual through the “asanas”, or yogic positions. As practitioners make their way through a series of exercises, “oneness”, or what many people refer to as “yogic bliss” is achieved rendering peace of mind, body and spirit.
The yoga practice strengthens the muscles as it stretches them, unlike a standard weight workout which strengthens through contraction. As greater flexibility is realized, ligaments and tendons begin to loosen up, bringing lubrication to the joints. Additionally, the body’s glandular systems are stimulated, which is said to make the body’s many functions run more smoothly.
The practice is cheap and convenient. You can do yoga in your home and, with a good book or DVD, learn the positions easily, though experts recommend you attend at least one class in a hands-on environment, with a teacher, at the outset of your practice to ensure you’re doing things correctly.
There are several different types of yoga to choose from. Let us examine some so you can choose the style that best fits your needs.
The most popular form of yoga here in the west is called Hatha. This is considered a basic practice, where beginners tend to flourish. It’s slow, deliberate, and emphasizes the basic positions.
Iyengar yoga is concerned, primarily, with bodily alignment. The poses are held longer than Hatha, through which greater stretching is achieved and, it is assumed, the body returns to its natural “aligned’ positioning. This is a good practice for people who are out of shape or with some form of limited mobility.
Kundalini yoga is a fascinating practice that is said to bring the energy from the base of the spine up through the rest of the body’s energy points or “chakras”. There is heavy emphasis on the breath or “prana”.
Championed by those of the Sikh faith, this practice is thought to be one of the most “spiritual” forms of yoga. Highly recommended for those who need to strengthen their immune systems or rid themselves of negative habits such as reliance upon drugs or alcohol.
A newer form of yoga is Acroyoga. Do you have friends with whom to practice yoga? Acroyoga is a 2- or 3-person form of yoga, which has one person on the bottom (the base) another person on top (the flyer), and a third person watching and making sure all goes well (the spotter), though the poses may be done without a spotter for those more experienced in the practice.
The flyer is propped up on the base’s legs and poses performed in this way. One form of this practice even brings in non-yogic acrobatics and Thai massage. Acroyoga, like myriad other forms of modern yoga, is recommended for those who have already mastered some other, more basic form of the practice.
One of the best ways to tell if a style is right for you is to try it out! Many yoga studios will offer a first class free or for reduced charged, so you can get an idea of what it’s like.
- Shawn Tremaine is a personal trainer and health and fitness writer, and has reviewed yoga classes in NYC. In his spare time he coaches his sons soccer team, helping everyone learn the fundamentals.