Don’t know your Hatha from your Ashtanga? Or your Anusara from your Iyengar? You are not alone. These are not names of diseases, body parts, or even Greek goddesses. They are names of yoga styles. Which one should you choose? Each form or style will help you achieve physical and mental balance, but they do differ in other ways. There are actually eight major yoga styles – the other four being restorative, Bikram, Hot yoga, and Vinyasa. This means most likely there is a yoga style to meet your needs.
Which Yoga Style is Right for You?
Well, if you did not know the name of these yoga practices then you are probably a beginner. So let’s start there – with something for beginners.
Hatha is great for beginners. You will learn the basic yoga postures. Most classes taught in the United States are hatha yoga. You should come away from a class on hatha yoga feeling relaxed, more flexible, and more erect. You may not work up much of a sweat but should feel you had a workout. Research shows that you can lose body weight and improve blood sugar control with one hatha yoga class a week for 12 weeks.
Restorative yoga is what is it suggests – a way to relax and rejuvenate after a rough day or week at work. It is more passive in nature using blankets, blocks, and straps to place you in a particular pose without you having to exert much effort (lazy person’s yoga). But do not discount it’s health benefits. A 2013 study showed that women who did restorative yoga once or twice a week for 48 weeks lost more fat than women who did stretching exercises.
In Ashtanga yoga poses and postures follow a flowing sequence in which you change poses without any rest. The sequence of poses does not change. It is more rigorous and provides a cardio workout. You will likely break a sweat as it can be demanding. A 2014 study found Ashtanga yoga effective at lowering blood pressure.
Developed by Bikram Choudhury in the 1980s Bikram yoga uses heated rooms and involves moving through 26 poses in the same order each time. You will definitely sweat. It is becoming increasingly more popular.
Hot yoga is an offshoot of Bikram yoga. It is basically the same thing as Bikram yoga other than the number and sequence of poses vary. This is done for legal reasons as Choudhary has trademarked his sequence of poses and has taken legal action against those who use the “Bikram” name and do not follow the sequence of 26 poses exactly. So if an instructor wants to deviate from Bikram’s sequence of 26 poses he or she needs to call it something else like ‘hot yoga.”
Iyengar yoga is a precise style of yoga emphasizing finding the proper alignment in a pose. Props (blankets, straps, blocks, etc) are used to assist a student in finding proper alignment. Finding that precise alignment is both physically and mentally challenging. It’s well suited for those with chronic low back pain. A 2009 study found chronic low back sufferers experienced less pain after practicing Iyengar yoga for six months.
Vinyasa yoga is similar to Ashtanga in that there fluid movement from one pose to another however the sequence of poses vary from class to class unlike Ashtanga. It is physically challenging and ideal for those who do not like routine. Movements are sometimes choreographed to music. A 2014 study from Brown University found that Vinyasa yoga twice a week for eight weeks improved moods in college age students.
Anusara yoga in newcomer to the practice of yoga and was develped in 1997 by John Friend. It was designed to use the physical effects of yoga to unleash the intrinsic goodness felt to be in all of us. Anusara means flowing with grace. It empasizes the Universal Principles of Alignment where alignment is defined as the mindful awareness of how various parts of ourselves are integrated and interconnected. Anusara yoga challenges the mind and body.