With yoga studios popping up on every street corner and new variations of the practice constantly being invented, there’s no denying that the modern world of yoga is vast and varied. If you are just getting started on your journey, it may be hard to decide where, exactly, to start. Same goes for a longtime yogi who may be looking to switch it up, but is unsure of the type of yoga that would complement his or her current practice. Well, here’s where we come in: Below, a quick outline of some of the different types of yoga you can try, depending on what you want out of your practice.
To begin, consider that all yoga practices fall into the realm of either Yin or Yang. As suggested by that recognizable black and white Chinese symbol, Yin and Yang refer to the energetics of a yoga practice: Yang is masculine energy, boasting classes that are more dynamic, intense and physically demanding, while Yin is feminine, with classes that are softer, slower and restorative.
You can consider a number of factors when choosing the style of yoga you practice, from what you enjoy to what you want to accomplish physically, but we recommend going by an old adage that applies to yogis new and experienced: “The practice you are drawn to and do the least is generally the practice you need the most.” In other words, it’s all about balance. If you are drawn to the intense movements of a vinyasa class, you might be surprised how much you benefit from the counter-balance of a restorative class. Yoga is about creating unity within your mind, body and soul. Here, some of the most popular types of yoga, sorted by these energies.
THE ENERGY: YANG
The style: Ashtanga One of the most long-standing and widely practiced styles. Classes feature the same postures executed in varied levels of primary sequences.
Practice it if you love: Strong, intense, regular routines.
Try it if you need: More regime; best for people who are generally floaty and not so grounded.
The style: Iyengar “God is in the details” would be the best way to sum up Iyengar. I’ve even heard it described this way: “If Ashtanga were the paragraph, Iyengar would be grammar.” This style places emphasis on the minute aspects of physical alignment.
Practice it if you love: Details!
Try it if you need: To still your mind, to practice present awareness, to correct alignment, to learn more about postures.
The style: Vinyasa One of the most widely practiced styles today. Classes have no set sequence, consisting instead of dynamic flows that focus on moving with the breath, and may vary greatly according to the teacher.
Practice it if you love: Moving, flowing, breathing—and sweating!
Try it if you need: A break from regime; to give up control and surrender to a sequence unknown.
THE ENERGY: YIN
The style: Restorative An extremely Yin style practice, restorative yoga uses props to set you into specific postures aimed at relaxing the mind, body and central nervous system.
Practice it if you love: Relaxing, winding down, less movement.
Try it if you need: To slow your mind with your body, to nourish and rest your body.
The style: Yin The name of the practice aptly indicates where it falls on the scale: Yin is a practice where postures are held for long periods of time, usually minimum of five minutes. Sensations can be strong as the body moves into postures designed to stretch and open the body.
Practice it if you love: The feeling of stretch, the meditative state of staying still and breathing through sensations.
Try it if you need: To open your body, increase flexibility and to still your mind.
The style: Yoga Therapy Often called IYT (integrative yoga therapy), this form of yoga can include asana (physical practice), meditation and pranayama (breathing). It is taken as a healing therapy for medical conditions and illnesses, and used by trained professionals in rehab settings.
Practice it if you love: Alternative mind body therapies.
Try it if you need: A holistic approach to healing your illness or injury, for physical and mental therapy.
Disclaimer: Yoga styles continue to expand and vary with each day, and this list doesn’t cover everything. Other yoga styles to consider? Hatha yoga, sky yoga, power and core, Hot yoga, Kundalini yoga, just to name a few.
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