How to find the perfect yoga practice for you
Firstly, yoga is by definition, “A Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation.” Sounds fabulous doesn’t it! And it really is, but as there are so many types of yoga, it can be difficult to know which yoga practice is right for you.
Each type of yoga has its own benefits and focus that can help you reach your physical and mental goals.
I started yoga because I wanted to become fit and healthy; I hated the idea of the gym, I cannot run for my life (my chest makes it very uncomfortable) and I used to dance – yoga seemed like the perfect fit. After a few YouTube sessions, I was in love. And after teacher training, I realised how powerful it is, not just physically but also mentally. So I spent years exploring the different types of yoga and enjoying how each yoga practice made me feel.
What I teach now is a mix of Hatha and Vinyasa, with a bit of Restorative thrown in – my favourite elements combined. Add in a meditation and relaxation practice at the end and these classes are my idea of heaven! You have to find what works for you as each yoga practice has its own benefits and focus that can help you reach your physical and mental goals.
So whether you’ve tried yoga before, you’re brand new to it or you’re just wanting to explore a different type, here is a simple breakdown of each yoga practice to help you find the right fit for you.
Types of yoga:
Best for: beginners wanting a little physical and mental challenge
Overall feeling: more relaxed, limber and looser
Most classes will be based around Hatha (it actually is a larger umbrella term for most yoga practices, but in Western countries it tends to follow a type of yoga). Most poses are held for a few breaths so you gain control over your breath and body, while checking in with the mind.
Best for: beginners to intermediates wanting a physical challenge
Overall feeling: increased heart rate, flowing, dance-like practice
Vinyasa links the movement with the breath so you tend not to stay in one pose for too long, usually moving with every in and out breath. Great for the athletic types who like a bit of a challenge!
Best for: everyone wanting a deep stretch and relaxation
Overall feeling: stretched out, relaxed and maybe a little fidgety to begin with…
I love Yin, but it takes a while to get used to. Like Hatha, the poses are held for a while but in Yin, you may only get a handful of poses each class. Props are used to help you get deeper into the posture and you’re encouraged to actively release and let go. As you’re in the poses for a while, it can take some patience to relax
Best for: everyone wanting intense relaxation
Overall feeling: calm, relaxed and at peace
Restorative is similar to Yin, yet you’ll find you won’t do too much moving. The emphasis is on deepening your relaxation practice. Props and blankets are used for you to get comfy and cosy. You likely won’t move off the floor… very nourishing.
Best for: those wanting a spiritual and physical practice, intermediates
Overall feeling: invigoration, mentally and physically
This is probably the most spiritual of them all. Chanting, meditation, mantras, intense breath work and core poses are common in a Kundalini yoga practice. Using the chakras, the emphasis is on shaking up the energy in our body and getting our mental and physical bodies aligned.
Best for: intermediate to advanced yogis wanting a workout
Overall feeling: sweaty, increased heart rate and worked out
Bikram Choudhury coined this yoga type, which consists of 26 basic poses in a heated room. The poses never differ so you know what you’re doing each class and most classes feel a bit like a boot camp, so don’t expect to relax deeply throughout the class. Better for someone who has tried yoga and understands their limits, as it’s easy to overstretch here.
Best for: beginners to intermediates wanting a workout
Overall feeling: stretched out, worked out, sweaty and relaxed
Much like Bikram, but it can be any type of yoga held in a hot room. It all depends on the type of yoga you’ll be doing, but the heat usually makes the practice a little more intense so you’ll feel as though you’ve worked hard at the end.
Best for: beginners to intermediates wanting a workout
Overall feeling: like going to the gym, but with a relaxed feeling at the end
Power yoga has more emphasis on the physical practice, usually flowing through trickier poses quickly. It works your body, core and flexibility so is a challenging all-rounder.
Best for: intermediate, type As that want a workout, mentally and physically
Overall feeling: in-control, ordered and intense
Ashtanga is based on a series of flowing sequences. Much like Vinyasa, each movement is paired with the breath, only this time the sequences are set. If you’ve heard of Sun Salutations, this is an Ashtanga sequence. Classes are intense, so expect a workout and to feel satisfied at the end!
As you can see, there are so many types of yoga. Most teachers will let you know what kind of class they teach, although you’ll find that a lot of teachers mix a few to suit their students. Unlike typical exercise classes, yoga has a spiritual, mental and physical practice that is encouraged throughout. You can go as intensely as you want and it can be practiced with just your body and no equipment, at any time of the day.
If you’re interested in giving it a go but still want some more info, make sure to check in with a local yoga teacher! More than anything, the yoga community is typically a beautifully loving one, encouraging you to explore all types of yoga to find one that fits you. You’ll be welcomed with open eagle arms and nourished camel hearts.
A Q&A with John Ogilvie, owner and founder of Byron Yoga Centre
We sit down with John Ogilvie, owner and founder of Byron Yoga Centre, based in Byron Bay, New South Wales.
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