How to choose the yoga practice that’s right for you
In the United States, when people hear "yoga," many imagine that there is only one type. But there are many, many forms of yoga. At different times in our lives, different types of yoga may better suit where we are in mind and body. It is worth exploring all that yoga has to offer so we know what tools are there for us when the time is right.
Hatha yoga, in its simplest form, refers to the practice of physical yoga poses. When people in the U.S. hear the word "yoga," this is what they picture. However, in Indian and Tibetan traditions, haṭha yoga extends from the physical pose practice to include ethics, diet, breathing exercises (pranayama), meditation, and a path toward enlightenment. The Western physical style of yoga was largely codified by T. Krishnamacharya, who taught from 1924 until his death in 1989, and whose students popularized yoga throughout the West. There are now so many styles of hatha yoga practiced in the U.S., in fact, that we will leave styles other than hatha for another post.
Power Yoga / Hot Power Yoga / Power Vinyasa / Baptiste Yoga
These styles of yoga all share dynamic physical movements and total body engagement through poses linked by vinyasas (a vinyasa is the set of movements of plank, chaturanga/low plank, upward facing dog, downward facing dog). Typically, these styles attract people who are looking for physical fitness, who enjoy the challenges of a strong asana (pose) practice, and who like the benefits provided by the focus and breath work of a yoga class.
Like power yoga, Ashtanga attracts folks who would like a challenging physical practice and, also like power yoga, is a series of poses linked with (many) vinyasas. Because Ashtanga involves practicing the same set of poses six days a week--only adding new poses once existing ones have been mastered--this practice is good for those who thrive on discipline and consistency.
Slow flow yoga typically refers to a slower form of vinyasa-based hatha yoga. This style is good for folks who like some strength-based physical practice, but prefer to hold poses for more breaths than a power yoga class typically allots.
Iyengar and Sivananda
Both of these styles focus on long-held poses, but in different ways. Sivananda yoga uses meditation, breathing exercises, and 12 basic Hatha yoga postures with the goal of reaching a union of mind, body, soul, and the divine. Iyengar yoga uses props such as straps, blocks, blankets, and bolsters to achieve perfect alignment in each pose, with the goal of integrating mind, body, and emotions. These styles are particularly suited for those who seek stillness through physical challenges.
Kripalu, Jivamukti, and Viniyoga
These styles of yoga link physical asana with holistic and philosophical practices, and so are suited for those looking for a more integrated yoga practice. In Kripalu Yoga, attention is paid to holistic health and self-discovery through the practice of yoga and Ayurveda. Jivamukti Yoga uses yoga poses and five core tenets to teach that everything is connected and can live in harmony. Viniyoga implements adaptations and modifications for practitioners based on their individual needs, and includes chanting, movement, and breathing techniques into the poses.
Gentle Yoga and Restorative Yoga
Gentle yoga typical mimics power yoga, but in a much less intense form. Practitioners move seamlessly from pose to pose guided by the breath. Restorative yoga classes focus on stillness and total-body relaxation. Over the course of an hour restorative class, you might perform just four poses, using props such as bolsters, blocks, and straps to support the body and release tension. Both styles are useful for everyone, but especially for those whose bodies and minds are calling for them to slow down.
Most kundalini yoga classes in the U.S. are in the style of Yogi Bhajan, who in 1968, introduced his own brand of kundalini yoga. This practice focuses on kriyas, or repeated movements linked with pranayama/breath techniques, and meditation. These kriyas and meditations are designed to direct and control the flow of energy from the lower centers of the body to the higher centers. As such, the physical postures focus on the navel, the spine, and pressure points on the body. This practice is particular useful for those who are drawn to understanding how to control and create energy within their bodies and minds.
When looking for a local yoga class, think about what style would serve you best today. As the seasons of your life shift, try classes in different styles. Yoga is a practice that continually expands the more we are open to learning.
Classes & Events
Mon. 6:30pm: Music Monday (Hot Yoga, Força)
Wed. 6:30pm: Vinyasa (Hot Yoga, Força)
Thurs. 6:30pm: Inside Flow (Hot Yoga, Força)
Fri. 2:00pm: Meditation (online)
Sat. 9:00am: Vinyasa (Hot Yoga, Força)
Upcoming Music Monday Classes:
1/24 Billie Eilish
1/31 Van Morrison
2/7 The Black Keys
2/14 Love Songs & Thai Massage Techniques
Win a yoga mat! For the next month, each time you attend a yoga class at Força, you are eligible to put your name in a jar. On February 28th, a name will be drawn to win a black Gaiam Performance Dry-Grip Yoga Mat (a $70 value). The more classes you attend, the greater your chances of winning!
Take a look at the mat you could win!