With so many different types of yoga floating around, trying to keep them all straight can seem mind-boggling. Routines range from slow to fast, basic to complex and very spiritual to strictly physical. Whether you’re looking for a mind-body connection or just a great workout, there’s a style of yoga that’s perfect for you. Get the inside scoop on our four favorite yoga practices.
Many yoga beginners start with this gentle practice that focuses on finding harmony and balance between mind, body and spirit. Hatha yoga teaches basic poses (known as “asanas”) and breathing exercises (known as “pranayama”) with an emphasis on relaxation and meditation. Hatha routines involve slow and controlled movements, and many classes start with sitting quietly and reflecting. You are encouraged to be very aware of your body as you move through the poses, which range from easy to very challenging. This practice, which is the foundation of most types of yoga, will stretch and strengthen your body.
Kundalini yoga is a spiritual practice that aims to create a mind-body connection. It incorporates poses, breathing techniques, and meditation. Most classes begin with a mantra and end with a song of blessing. Kundalini yoga centers on the idea that there is energy at the base of the spine that is coiled up like a snake. As you move through postures, you awaken the “snake.” It moves up your spine and flows through seven centers of consciousness, which are known as chakras. This leads to a state of heightened awareness that relaxes the mind and releases tension and stress.
If you prefer a fast-paced workout, Ashtanga yoga, commonly referred to as “power yoga,” may be best for you. This vigorous, physically demanding practice moves quickly through poses without stopping. Each pose is linked to the next by a specific way of breathing and moving, which results in a graceful and flowing sequence. The speed of the workout creates heat and energy flow. Unlike other yoga practices, Ashtanga yoga does not emphasize meditation. It is best learn this type of yoga in a teacher-led class but, after you master the order of poses, you can do the routine independently either at home or in a studio under a teacher’s guidance. Ashtanga yoga will improve your strength, flexibility and stamina.
Yoginis who love to sweat love Bikram yoga, often referred to as hot yoga. This vigorous, challenging practice is taught in a room that’s around 100° Fahrenheit and 40 percent humidity. The heat loosens your muscles while you move through a 26-pose sequence that incorporates two breathing techniques. Each posture is designed to stretch and strengthen the muscles you need for the next posture. Classes are typically 90 minutes long. Experts believe that this practice’s sauna-like atmosphere releases toxins from your body and improves circulation. Bikram yoga will also reduce stress, increase stamina and improve your flexibility.