Remember when yoga meant keeping things simple? Giving zero ‘effs about how you look? About healing and about being a vehicle for meditation? Yeah, I’m kinda guilty of forgetting that too! My mental state before I practice yoga can sometimes slip into:
Ummm, where did I leave my ‘I want to Namaste In Bed’ tee?
Which leggings won’t go see-through in class during downward dog?
Jeeze, my toenails look like dementors’ claws!
Maybe I shouldn’t have had that spicy burrito for lunch…
What pose can I Insta for the obligatory #yogaeverydamnday?
Damn that burrito...what if I can’t keep up in class today?
Yeah, not really why I started loving yoga! Maybe all I need is to consider what style of yoga I should practice today! But how do you go about that when there are so many styles, with so many unpronounceable names?
Maybe first off, we should be thinking not what yoga can do for me, but what's in my life that I need help with right now?
What is out of balance?
What would be helpful to work on?
Am I feeling lost or in pain?
Am I trying to set an intention?
Am I feeling super energetic today?
Starting with that, the decision on what type of yoga to invest your time (and let's face it, your money in) will be so much easier!
To help decode these 7 popular yoga styles so you can get the most from your practice, we’ve teamed up with Lucy from YO-MU (Yoga-Music)
, who runs amazing yoga events with live electronic beats & cello, not only in the heart of Barcelona, but world-wide!
1. Sivananda Yoga AKA Hatha Yoga - The ‘Bend It Like Barbie’ One
One of the six original branches of yoga, Sivananda Hatha is a devout school of yoga practice on and off the mat that encompasses nearly all types of modern yoga involving physical postures. It’s the yogi equivalent of the actual ice cream, if Bikram and Vinyasa are ‘Rum & Raisin’ & ‘Choc Chip’ flavours!
It usually involves a gentle flow of postures (asanas) focussed on chillaxing you and loosening the body. Its great if you do lots of strength training and want to ease yourself into yoga fitness, flexibility and to understand the connection between mind and body.
2. Iyengar/Anusara Yoga - The ‘You Do You’ Ones
Great if like me, you want to leave the ballaches of the day behind and place full concentration to the here and now.
Lucy from YO-MU says that “Anusara is all about from the heart as Anusara is the heart chakra. It is a slow practice with focus on asanas for the heart centre...every position is focused on opening the heart, I love this one!!”
“Iyengar is from the master Iyengar himself and they are very strict about taking it slow and precise and all about the tradition of the roots of yoga, like Jiva Mukti, Sivanada and Ashtanga - they are all devout schools of spreading yoga spirituality and encompassing these practices in life on and off the mat”.
Iyengar places a lot of emphasis on aligning the body during every pose so props like belts, blocks and bolsters are often used through the poses to help you reach your fullest ability - think furniture yoga! Great for all ages and abilities. Try it if you have unique needs or limited ability due to an injury or health condition. It's not overly physically demanding due to the slow and careful style but it can demand attention to detail.
3. Ashtanga - The ‘Winter is Coming - Challenging One’
A more physically demanding type of yoga that teaches you to link every moment and pose sequences to the breath. You’ll hold each pose for only 5 breaths, punctuated by a half sun salutation to keep up the pace. The same poses are practiced in the same order and you’ll move rapidly. Bring a towel!
Great if you want to tone the body and give your mind a workout.
4. Bikram - The ‘Hardcore Sweat-Fest’ One
Bikram features yoga poses in a sauna-like room. Brixton will feel like Barbados with the heat is cranked up to nearly 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity - que Monica-from-friends-humidity-hair!
In official Bikram classes it will be a series of 26 basic yoga postures, each performed twice to stretch and strengthen the muscles, help alleviate joint pain as well as compress and "rinse" the organs of the body. Needless to say, it's suited to well-practiced yogis, although beginners wanting to improve their flexibility might enjoy this.
5. Vinyasa - ‘The One Called Flow’ One
An active style of yoga involving mastering smooth transitions from posture to posture without stopping to detail each one. Kind of like Ashtanga, but with Vinyasa you don't follow a strict series of poses and classes will vary depending on the style of teacher.
Great for those who love a good workout, love variety, who are prone to boredom and want to keep things interesting. Beginners may like starting with a slower style (ie. dash the more dynamic classes until you get used to the poses).
6. Jivamukti - The ‘Lighter Spirit’ One
Expect a vinyasa-style physical practice that adopts a theme for each class, Sanskrit chanting, music and scripture readings. Jivamukti means "liberation while living". Great for those going through transformation and want to apply yogic philosophy to their daily life.
Lucy from YO-MU: “Jivamukti was the brain child of David and Sharon Gannon, ex party goers from New York. Sharon was a dancer and David was a musician and they made it all about being a vegan and being pro active in the community...adapting ancient yoga practice to modern day living!”
7. Restorative & Yin Yoga - The ‘I Came for the Savasana’ Ones
Less work, more peace & relaxation. You’ll spend three to five minutes holding just four or five simple poses using blankets, bolsters, and belts to help increase joint circulation and improve flexibility. In Lucy’s classes expect soothing electronic beats and live cello to set the beat for breath when holding these cosy asanas.
This style of yoga is my favourite, ideal if you want to enjoy the emotional benefits of yoga without using too much energy and have longer than a lunchtime to play. Expect a longer savasana (lie down at the end) with soothing lavender eye pillows to help you sink into deep relaxation. Think grown up nap time! No not that kind!
With Yin yoga, expect a quiet yoga practice, focused on lengthening connective tissues through passively holding poses and letting gravity do the work. You’ll practice patience, surrender and meditation.