I used to think of yoga as holding a few stretches for an intense amount of time whilst trying to find my spiritual side.
As a training regime, I ignorantly wrote it off since I have a short attention span and I’m not very spiritual. When I say not very, I mean not at all.
I’m sure I’m not the only one that thinks that yoga isn’t for them based on the same thinking I had.
However, I am a bit of a nerd and like to understand what I’m doing. I started doing ROMWOD to supplement my Crossfit work and whilst this was all gentle stretching, I discovered that what I was doing was yin yoga and there was a whole different spectrum of yoga and some great workouts to be discovered.
Below are the common types of yoga and the benefits they bring. There is a yoga style for everyone, my hope is that this can point you in the right direction depending on what your goals are.
Named after BKS Iyengar who developed this style, this type of yoga is great for beginners to learn the subtle alignment for a lot of asanas (or poses, in English).
It’s not a flow style of yoga, more about finding true alignment in each pose. Students can use multiple props, such as straps, blocks and bolsters to help them.
Each pose is held for longer periods of time. When I followed an Iyengar style workout, I once held a seated forward fold for 15 mins. The hammies felt light after that!
It’s all about linking the breath to the pose. The main benefits include relative strength and flexibility.
No doubt this is what you think yoga as. It is one of the most commonly taught styles of yoga out there so chances are that this is what you have seen or come across.
More rigorous than Iyengar, this is more about flow, moving from one pace to another quickly, in time with the inhale and exhale of your breath.
I’ve fallen in love with this type of yoga, as it’s easy to get a sweat on and increase strength within the body significantly.
Classes are commonly (although not set in stone) more structured. In the same way that you would structure a gym session into warmup, strength, cardio and a half assed 30 second tricep stretch, Ashtanga follows a similar pattern, in the sense that you would start with some sun salutations, main sequence, some back work and a finishing sequence.
It’s quite challenging, requiring great strength in your core and arms. As you become more experienced, the sequences will start to involve arm balances and headstands. There will be some beginner type sequences in there but bear this in mind if you decide to give this a go with little background in yoga.
Benefits include greater awareness of your body and proprioception, stress relief and a good fat burn, due to the fast nature of this style. You could replace cardio work with this (I’m talking treadmills and steppers at your local globogym) and I would argue that you would see more benefit.
Vinyasa is another style that’s about moving from one pose to the next in a flow, aligned with your breath. It’s influenced by Ashtanga but I guess the main difference between this and Ashtanga, for example, is the variable nature of each class. Two classes are rarely the same.
For this reason, I like to think of vinyasa as like being the Crossfit of the yoga world, whereas Ashtanga will have a core set of sequences.
Benefits are similar to that of Ashtanga with relative strength increasing, flexibility increasing and heart pumping for cardio. It’s a great workout!
Beginners might struggle with the pace of this style whilst they are learning the postures but my take on this is you only get good at something if you start doing it. Let go of being perfect from the start, trust that you will pick it up and you will see the benefits.
When I first heard about this, I thought it would just be a fad but apparently not!
It goes way back to the 1970’s. it involves the same 26 postures to create length and strength in the muscle belly with one core difference from the rest of the styles…the class is performed for 90 a hot, sweaty room between 35-42°c.
Not only will the heat get you sweaty but the muscles will be more negotiable in lengthening.
Also, your body will get rid of toxins and has been known to reduce insulin resistance in older students.
I told you there was a different style for the result you wanted!
Bit of a catch all title this one but Hatha is more gentle, focusing on postures and poses more than flowing pose to another. It becomes more of a philosophy in the east but the western world uses the term to describe a practice in this way.
Benefits include stress relief, improvement in emotional health, reduction in anxiety / depression and reduction in back and neck pain.
Without knowing the term and what it meant, Yin Yoga was the style I started out doing. It’s focused more on seated postures that can be held between 1-10 minutes.
It’s very gentle (that doesn’t mean easy) but the aim and benefit here is that the longer poses target the joints and connective tissues, rather than the muscle itself. Given that a lack of flexibility is more often found in the range of motion in a joint (not always the muscle), I can’t see how a yoga practise can be complete without some form of Yin style work.
I couldn’t sit on the tops of my feet due to a severe lack of mobility in my ankles but thanks to yin and persistence, I’m now performing recline hero for 4+ minutes.
You’ll experience great benefits such as relaxation, tension release in the joints and better joint health.
If you’re an active type in the gym or in a sport, I recommend dedicating some time to this.
This isn’t an extensive list but they are the main categories of yoga and you should find something here that compliments what you’re trying to achieve.
The + 1
One I’ve yet to try (maybe this Saturday night?) is beer yoga...yes, beer yoga.
Get your favourite IPA, pull out the mat and sip on that beer whilst doing some Hatha yoga...vinyasa might be too fast to not spill anything!
In a bit.