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Beginners guide to 6 common yoga styles

Helen Mincher yoga yoga teacher

I have recently made the gargantuan leap out of London up to West Yorkshire. Amongst the pressing concerns of finding a new home, good school, new batch of mates to hang out with (yep, i still say that even though I’m past 30), I needed to find a new local yoga studio. And so in my quest to find teachers whose style suits me, I find myself suddenly trialing different types of yoga again… and battling the rather large and confuddling myriad of yoga variations…  So here is my simple guide to the 6 most common forms of yoga I have encountered.  Maybe it will inspire you to shake things up and try a new class? #flipthedog

1. Ashtanga

Physical!  This is a fast-paced practice through a series of set poses. You’ll need to stand near someone good on the front row, as the teacher tends not to demo, but to chant through the breaths, walking round the class, pulling you into alignment.

2. Vinyasa

Lovely flowing class, aiming for a continual movement, and often set to music.   A good teacher will vary the flows from week to week to focus on different aspects or parts of the body, or even common ailments in the class

3. Hatha

This is a curve ball - hatha basically means yoga…. it refers to any practice that combines poses, or asanas, with breathing techniques. If you see a hatha practice advertised, you can expect a straightforward class, with a good mix of restorative and invigorating poses, with plenty of time for savasana. Hallelujah. 

4. Bikram

HOT HOT HOT baby! Think heaters cranked to the max (aiming for 40 degrees, with high humidity). The heat will readily loosen muscles and enable you to stretch much deeper into the poses. This will make you feel like you had an awesome workout, but the walk to the car in early Spring, may be slightly uncomfortable…

5. Iyengar 

This type of yoga emphasizes proper alignment to strengthen the muscles and support the joints. You often use props, like blocks and straps, to help you get into poses. More time is spent getting into poses, correcting them, then holding them. There’s no time for flows here.

6. Kundalini

The most way out. A fair bit of chanting, breathing, more chanting and about only half of the time in class devoted to poses. Now, I quite possibly have not done this variant justice as my local studio described the class as containing ‘potent tantric techniques that are potentially life changing’ Oooommmmmmm!

Do add some colour to the brief descriptions I gave the variants in the comments; keen to hear which yoga styles you love and why.

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