It seems like there's a new yoga studio on every block these days, which is fine except it's getting hard to keep up with which style is which. Is there a style that emphasizes the spiritual aspect? Which style provides the best workout? What type of yoga is best if you're recovering from injury?
Here is a quick look at the most popular styles of yoga, to help you find the right one for you...
Great for: Beginning students. Poses are simple to learn, at a pace that makes it easy to keep up. Many classes use blocks and other props to help you find a comfortable alignment. Hatha yoga also provides an introduction to breathing, relaxation and meditation techniques, which are outstanding for relieving stress.
Great for: Fitness and weight loss. Think of Ashtanga as yoga with a cardio attitude. The style is demanding, as students flow from one pose to the next with no rest between. Ashtanga is very kinetic and vigorous, and delivers a calorie burn of about 500 per hour. “Power Yoga” is an Ashtanga variation that removes much of the chanting and spiritual aspect of the discipline.
Great for: Tranquility & relaxation. “Yin” is the laid back half of the “yin & yang” duo, and Yin Yoga is the most relaxation-focused style. Many of the poses are engaged from a sitting or laying down position and may be held for up to five minutes. Deliberation and contemplation are deeply ingrained in this style, which is perfect for stress relief and pain recovery.
Great for: Recovery. Iyengar is a traditional yoga style with a very modern twist: teachers are instructed in biomechanics, so they focus on less stressful poses that will not cause pain or injury. Props are commonly used to reduce the intensity of poses, and there are frequent pauses between poses to perfect form.
Great for: Mind+body development. Integral Yoga is a gentle style that features chanting, deep relaxation, breathing practices and meditation. Students work to restore their “natural condition,” which includes a balance of strength, health and mindfulness. The ultimate goal is the capacity to develop and sustain supreme joy.
Great for: Weight loss. Bikram Yoga has really blossomed in popularity over the last decade. One of the “hot yogas,” Bikram sessions take place in a studio heated to 105-degrees, with a strict regimen of standing poses and floor postures. This vigorous style combines with the heat to create a demanding workout for mind and body. Seriously, it's hot work – if you can't stand the heat, stay out of this kitchen!
Great for: Spiritual growth. One of the styles made popular in the original yoga renaissance of the '60s and '70s, Kundalini is also called the “Yoga of Awareness.” Classes are typically 90 minutes and feature chanting, singing, meditation and traditional yogic practices. Breathing exercises, mini-meditations and mantras develop the spirit, and vigorous postures that emphasize movement strengthen the body. An intriguing balance of physical and spiritual exercise.
Now that you know a little bit more about some of the most popular yoga styles, you may want to try a few for yourself before you decide which one really suits your needs the best.