Which Yoga style is best for me?
This is a question that might pop up if you're considering to join Yoga classes or, if you already do, then you might be thinking what's all these Yoga styles about and should you be trying them out.
I often hear from beginners in my classes that they were so relived they liked my class because they tried Yoga before and didn't like it. Two things are major factors to make you fall in love with the practice or dislike it altogether:
The style of Yoga you chose. There are so many different types of Yoga (I will name a few major ones here) and although the practice itself has the same basic values, they are indeed different and appeal to different publics depending on your level of practice, personality type and lifestyle.
The teacher. You can have two teachers teaching the same type of Yoga and still feel like these two classes are completely different! The way a teacher guides their class is directly connected with their personality, beliefs, values, their own self-practice and so on.
So my advice here would be if you're seriously considering starting or going deeper into your Yoga practice find a style and a teacher that resonates with you. That will make your Yoga practice feel much more like a pleasant life change and habit rather than one more thing in your schedule or an obligation.
There are many more styles nowadays, many teachers who have come up with their own Yoga methods and styles, but they are indeed based and inspired by these majors styles I will list here. I am keeping this objective and simple for you so you have a broader view of the main available styles and know what to expect when you sign up for a Yoga class!
This is a traditional style of Yoga, unlike the many other lineages adapted and/or developed in the west. In a traditional Hatha Yoga class you can expect to have all the elements of Pranayama (breath work), Asana (postures) and Meditation. The class itself is guided in a very slow manner, holding each posture for at least 10 breaths or more. In my opinion, if you're completely new to Yoga this is probably an easier class to follow, which by no way it means it's not as strong as other styles! But just easier to follow considering the time you spend in each posture opposed to the following two styles explained.
I find this type of Yoga more therapeutic as well, easier to adapt to each student's particularities. The pace of the class allows the teacher to give more individual attention to the students. For that reason Hatha Yoga is probably an optimal option for most people. The holding in each posture also helps to develop endurance and strength of body & mind.
This is also another traditional style of Yoga but much more dynamic than Hatha Yoga. The word "Vinyasa" refers to the synchronisation of breath and movement. In an Ashtanga class all the postures are put in an "order" and the practitioner will "flow" from one posture to another in accordance to his or her breath. Each posture is held in between 3 to 5 breaths.
There are 6 different sequences in Ashtanga, 1 beginner, 1 intermediate and 4 advanced. Normally the practitioner spend 1 or 2 years practicing the same sequence, over and over, until the teacher considers the student ready to move on to a more advanced sequence.
This practice is known to be very strong and let's say "physical". You will for sure leave the class very sweaty! Some might say the practice is too focused on the physical aspect of Yoga (Asana). But in my opinion the body is a great tool to get out of your mind!
Some people feel it might be boring to repeat the same sequence over and over again, but other might say having pre-mediated sequences can help the practitioner to get into a meditative state by repetition.
This is a more modern style of Yoga, which became very popular in the west. It was born out of the Ashtanga lineage and the major difference here is how the sequences are made. There are infinite possibilities of sequencing, transitioning, amount of time you hold the postures and so on.
Vinyasa flow is a very organic and creative type of Yoga. Let's remember that Yoga in India was made by men and for men. I see the more modern styles of Yoga being a lot more "feminine" in the sense of the words that it is more creative and intuitive.
A Vinyasa class is very dynamic like Ashtanga class, but it can be strong or soft depending on how the teacher leads the class. I believe this practice to be a more intermediate type of Yoga. If you have no clue about the postures and you try to rock up at a Yoga studio first time for a Vinyasa Flow it might feel confusing, too fast and confronting. So make sure you have your bases right before you join in for a Vinyasa Flow class!
This style of Yoga was named after its creator B.K.S Iyengar. It very focused on alignment and uses different props like chairs, blocks and ropes to help you "perfect" the posture and give you support. Some might say this type of Yoga is very therapeutic for the body and can help correct spinal misalignment.
Normally you hold each posture for quite long, the aim of this practice is that you can develop enough strength in your body to later on perform the postures without the props.
B.K.S Iyengar has a very interesting story. He was born with various physical conditions and suffered great pain. He turned to Yoga to alleviate and overcome his physical conditions while having to adapt the practice. Thats how this style of Yoga was born.
YIN OR RESTORATIVE
These two practices are similar and for that reason I listed them together although there are some differences in between them two. These are also a modern type of Yoga that became very popular in the west for its very calming and restorative effects to the body & mind.
In this practice, you do all the postures on the floor, sometimes with the help of props so you can relax and surrender. You can hold the postures for 5 minutes, 10 minutes or sometimes even longer. The aim of the practice is to release fascia, work on flexibility and mobility.
For some this practice can be quite a challenge, since the class is very slow, calming and with very little or no dynamic some people might feel impatient or restless. But for others it's a very intense emotional release and stress cure.
Normally I practice this type of Yoga if I've had an intense physical day or if I want to practice before bedtime. It helps me to relax and surrender to a more Yin or calm energy.