In the hands of a capable certified teach you will learn to safely practice basic poses. You may also find it interesting to learn about yoga’s history and philosophy, including the concept of chakras, the seven main wheels or energy vortices (depicted in the image below).
Once you have learned the fundamentals of yoga, you’ll be ready to find
your own yoga style. Here then is a look at some of the basic styles commonly available, including general tips on how to choose a style that’s right for you.
Yogafinder.com can help you find a yoga studio in your area, or the Yoga Alliance can help you find a certified yoga teacher.
Just about everything that we in the West tend to think of as yoga – the physical postures, the breathing techniques – comes under the rubric of hatha, which is less of a particular style than it is one of the original six branches of yoga. The word “hatha” means “yoking” or union of mind, body, and spirit. Because hatha usually emphasizes breathing and relaxation and can be especially meditative, it’s a particularly good choice for tohse looking for stress relief and relaxation.
Precise, slow, and with great focus on alignment and proper form, the Iyengar style of yoga – named after B.K.S. Iyengar – is one of he most familiar forms of yoga now practiced in the West. Iyengar style of yoga is noted for its use of props – blocks, straps, harnesses, and inclined boards – to help extend your range of motion. A great choice for beginners.
An athletic, fast-paced style of yoga, in which you practice a specific set of six poses. All series begin with the sun salutations – a movement that includes challengin core-strength poses. Ashtanga has been described as “type-A” yoga, because it tends to attract a lot of competitive, driven individuals (including Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow). Ashtanga is demanding and probably not the practice that most people should begin with.
This is “hot” yoga, literally and figuratively. This style, developed by Indian yoga superstar Bikram Choudhury, is practiced in rooms heated to over 100 degrees. Not surprisingly, the adherents get good and sweaty as they go thrugh a specific series of 26 poses. For some people, particularly older individuals, the heat may be risky.
Power yoga classes are a fixture at many studios. The style, which is similar to ashtanga but is not strictly based on a specific sequence, emphasizes poses designed to promote strength as well as flexibility. It’s a good workout, but can be quite demanding in terms of difficulty and pacing.
Some would say that all yoga is restorative – meaning that it can help relax, soothe, and reenergize you. But as America yoga has evolved, the need for a class specifically devoted to restoration was recognized. So even though it may not be a style recognized in India, you are very likely to see restorative classes on the schedule of most yoga studios here. It’s usually a very slow-paced class, in which the asanas (positions) are held for a long period of time, often for two to five minutes. Props are used as well.
Although an extremely common term in the yoga lexicon, viyasa is not a specific style but rather an approach to practice. Any instructor who decides to link together a series of asanas, flowing from one to the next, is practicing vinyasa. Ashtanga, power, and many others are all vinyasa-type styles of yoga, often called “flow.” Keep in mind, the speed of that flow can vary.