Perhaps you haven't tried taking a yoga class, or you've mustered up the courage but found that it wasn't for you. There is a common misconception that yoga is not for everyone. The truth is that there isn't a particular body type or range of ability required to practice yoga. In fact, since there are such a wide variety of yoga styles available, the practice really is for every body. You can choose a class based on your own needs and desires. In addition, private and customized classes are available which are excellent for addressing specific concerns.
By some measures, there are hundreds of styles of yoga and most of them overlap. With names like Iyengar, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Kundalini, Sivananda and Krishnamacharya, it's easy to become confused! Although the schools of Yoga go back to ancient times, we'll examine a few common styles of yoga that are available today, perhaps helping you to choose your favourite style.
Hatha Yoga may be one of the most familiar names and styles practiced. Hatha is a Sanskrit word meaning 'sun/moon', in a modern sense Hatha Yoga is an umbrella term for many yoga classes that include postures (asanas). A good Hatha class will be a balance of somewhat strenuous work and relaxation, usually holding the poses rather than quickly flowing into the next. It's a good idea for beginner students to start with a Hatha class, learning the names of poses and proper alignment before advancing to a faster moving class. Many Hatha classes are patterned after Iyengar Yoga. Iyengar Yoga is based on the teachings of the late B.K.S. Iyengar, he may have been the first teacher to emphasize proper alignment in the poses. The classes typically move at a slow pace with precise attention on the placement of the body. The asanas can be modified with props, which enable a beginner student of any age and ability to practice safely. A regular Iyengar Yoga practice can lead to greater body awareness, increased strength and flexibility.
Ashtanga is an athletic and strenuous style of yoga, it is flowing and uninterrupted. Students learn a series of poses, the primary series. More advanced students can move on to the second or third series. The popular and creative style of yoga, Vinyasa Flow, is inspired by Ashtanga Yoga. With Vinyasa Yoga (often referred to as 'Power Yoga' or 'Flow Yoga'), each pose flows into the next, synchronized with the breath. Sun Salutations are a major component of Vinyasa Flow, practiced before, after and in between poses.
Kundalini Yoga or the Yoga of Awareness, described in basic terms, is an uplifting spiritual and physical practice. Kundalini yoga consists of dynamic poses, mudras (yoga of the hands), mantras and meditation. Much focus is placed on the breath and breathing is generally done through the nose. Kundalini is an excellent style to practice to work through problems, enhance mood and is used to conquer addictions.
Sivananda Yoga is another style of yoga for all abilities; it has a mission to spread peace, health & joy. Named after Swami Sivananda, the practice focuses on five points: asana, pranayama (breath control), relaxation, proper diet, positive thinking and meditation.
Yin Yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga, which is mostly stretching. The poses are held for longer periods of time than most styles of yoga. The aim of Yin is to access the connective tissue of the body rather than simply the muscles, increasing flexibility and circulation to the joints.
Restorative Yoga is very relaxed and, true to it's name, attempts to restore balance in the body and mind. Props such as bolsters, pillows, blankets and blocks are used to support the participant in comfortable, therapeutic positions. It is possible that only a few poses will be practiced during the entire class. Your teacher may guide you through a meditation or let you enjoy your peace while relaxing. Restorative yoga is perfect for the end of a busy day or week.
Yoga in the style of T. Krishnamacharya, (often referred to as the father of modern Yoga), focuses on 'honing the tools of our minds and bodies so that all our actions are performed to the best of our abilities'. The classes are small or private and the goal is not necessarily to improve at yoga, but to live a better life in general off of the mat. Krishnamacharya was the father of the late T.K.V. Desikachar (founder of Viniyoga).
Numerous styles of yoga have been coined by various teachers and trademarked as such, eg. Forrest, Bikram, Baptiste and YogaFit. In addition, many experienced yoga teachers will pull from various styles of yoga to discover their own style. In conclusion, if you've tried yoga and didn't like it, try again! There is a teacher and style of yoga perfectly suited to you.