[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Chiara Fucarino who blogs at Yoga-Paws]
Ah, yoga. What’s not to like about stretching your muscles, sprawling out on a comfortable mat, and losing yourself in tranquility? Not only does practicing yoga tone your body and refresh your mind, it also improves your immune system, helps lower your stress level, and provides so many more health benefits. Yoga has been around for more than 5,000 years, and we’re still fine-tuning the practice. Today, aside from having a yoga studio around every corner, we have many different styles of yoga. Even though they’re all based on the same poses, each style has a particular focus. For example, one style has a purpose to improve flexibility, while another style primarily strengthens your core.
With many different types of yoga being practiced today, it may be difficult for you to figure out which style benefits your mind and body the most. It’s important for you to find out which type of yoga meets your needs, so here’s a quick explanation of five of the most common yoga styles practiced everywhere.
Hatha originated in India in the 15th century. This type of yoga is slow-paced, gentle, and focused on breathing and meditation.
- Purpose: To introduce beginners to yoga with basic poses and relaxation techniques
- Benefits: Relieves stress, provides physical exercise, and improves breathing
- Good for: Beginners and people wanting to learn the basics of yoga
Much like Hatha, Vinyasa covers basic poses and breath-synchronized movement. This variety of Hatha yoga emphasizes on the Sun Salutation, a series of 12 poses where movement is matched to the breath.
- Purpose: To link the breath with movement and to build lean muscle mass throughout the body
- Benefits: Helps improve strength and flexibility, tones the abdominal muscles, and reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes
- Good for: Beginners and advanced yogis alike seeking to strengthen their bodies
Ashtanga yoga metaphorically focuses on eight limbs. Considered a form of power yoga, Ashtanga is fast-paced and intense with lunges and push-ups.
- Purpose: To help improve one’s spiritual self
- Benefits: Relieves stress, improves coordination, and helps with weight loss
- Good for: Fit people looking to maintain strength and stamina, and those who want to get in touch with their spiritual side
Iyengar covers all eight aspects of Ashtanga yoga and focuses on bodily alignment. Different props like straps, blankets, and blocks are used to assist in strengthening the body. Standing poses are emphasized, and are often held for long periods of time.
- Purpose: To strengthen and bring the body into alignment
- Benefits: Helps improve balance, speeds up recovery from an injury, and builds up body strength
- Good for: Beginners who want to learn the correct alignments in each pose and those with injuries, balance issues, and chronic medical conditions like arthritis
Also known as hot yoga, Bikram is practiced in a 95 to 100 degree room. It’s typically a series of 26 poses that allows for a loosening of tight muscles and sweating.
- Purpose: To flush out toxins and to deeply stretch the muscles
- Benefits: Speeds up recovery from an injury, enhances flexibility, and cleanses the body
- Good for: Beginners and advanced yogis alike who want to push themselves and those with physical injuries
These are only a few of many styles of yoga. Try one or all of them to figure out which one suits your needs the best.