Originating in India around 5000 years ago, yoga has developed over time into a variety of styles. Each style has it’s own focus and form, meaning everyone is able to choose their preferred style based on their individual needs, whether that be relaxation, flexibility, improving mobility or recovering from injury.
Yoga has grown and grown in popularity over recent years, and has proven health benefits. Two of the most popular and widely available types of yoga are vinyasa and bikram and classes for both are offered by most gyms and health centres. But yoga comes in many more forms and disciplines, so how do you choose the discipline that’s right for you? Whilst there are many options, we look at five of the most common, to help you choose. And remember, you don’t have to be flexible to join! Yoga is suitable for all levels and abilities.
Vinyasa Yoga or Vinyasa flow
Easily one of the most popular types of yoga, readily found on most gym timetables; vinyasa flow is a style of yoga derived from ashtanga yoga. This flow is an umbrella term for a variety of yoga styles, however, the focus is on being a dynamic and energetic practice. Unlike ashtanga, vinyasa does not follow a set series of poses and each practice is different. This practice is ideal for anyone who is relatively healthy and looking for something with a bit of a quicker pace but may not be an ideal starting point for anyone recovering from an injury. Vinyasa classes are often taught to music, to add to the experience.
One of the other most popular yoga styles is Bikram. Named for the practice’s creator, Bikram Chaudhury, this practice is held in a studio heated to approximately 40C/105F and 40% humidity. Chaudhury advocates the use of heat and humidity to rid the body of toxins.
Only classes which adhere to Bikram Choudhury’s strict style go by the name of Bikram Yoga. The style was developed 30 years ago and consists of 26 poses, which are moved between in sequence. This sequence is then performed twice throughout the class.
Another option are hot yoga classes, which are similar, but may deviate slightly from Choudhury’s prescribed methods.
Similar to Vinyasa, ashtanga focuses on the flow of your movement, changing poses fluidly with your breathing. The main difference between the two is that ashtanga follows a set sequence, performing the same poses in the same order. There are six sequences to choose between but this is the only variation in your practice. Ashtanga is an energetic vigorous style of yoga, moving at a fast pace.
Restorative yoga, as the name suggests, is designed to help heal the body and mind. This practice is slow and deliberate, focusing on deep relaxation. A typical practice would only consist of four or five poses, held for up to 20 minutes each, propped up with pillows and bolsters. This style of yoga may be of particular interest to those suffering from poor sleep, stress and anxiety.
Yin yoga is of the Taoist tradition, originating in China. It focuses on passive, seated poses to relax the body and mind. Yin yoga aims to help increase flexibility and suppleness to the body, whilst relaxing the mind through meditation. Poses are held from anywhere between one and five minutes, gently stretching your muscles through the application of moderate stress to your tendons, fascia and ligaments.
Before taking up any style of yoga, it’s best to find a studio which will offer you some flexibility to either try a few classes or pay on a class by class basis, rather than immediately having to commit to something such as a monthly membership or 10 week course. This way, you have the opportunity to sample a few different types of class before settling on what’s right for you.