Yoga is not a practice where one size fits all, but is certainly a practice for all. And even though you don't have to be able to touch your toes or balance on your head, it can be a little confusing as to what style to practice. Yoga teacher, Manda Greenblatt, investigates ...
What is Yoga?
Yoga is an embodied practice that encourages cultivating balance within the many systems of the body and the mind.
The essence and benefits of all different yoga styles are similar: to develop greater awareness of the workings of the mind and body, to develop and embody strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, suppleness and release of any held tension.
Our biggest limitation to starting yoga is our mind, not our body.
Every mind and every body is different. You don't have to be super-flexible, able to sit in lotus, be a size 8, own a pair of multicolour spandex leggings, or be a vegan. You cannot be "bad" at yoga.
You simply start where you are, and breathe.
Same, same but different ...
Different styles of yoga emphasise different elements of the practice – for example, breathing techniques, postural alignment, strength building or calming and balancing the nervous system.
Knowing what is right for you might take some investigation. Try a few different styles of yoga, and definitely try a few different teachers out. We all have our idiosyncrasies (teachers and students), so start by exploring what style, and teacher, best serves you.
Be clear with your intention. Know why you are starting yoga and what you are hoping to develop. If you know what you’re looking for, it’s easier to choose a style that is better suited to you. Here’s
Here's a few of the most popular styles that you'll see on class schedules:
All yoga classes that work on physical postures and breathing techniques are technically "hatha" yoga classes (sorry to confuse you). "Hatha" yoga and general/everyday "yoga" classes are often used synonymously.
Ha means “sun” and tha means “moon” in Sanskrit. The term hatha yoga is usually given to classes that emphasise balancing active and heating practices with steadying and calming practices.
Expect to work dynamically in standing postures, whilst building heat and strength in the body, and then cooling and calming down with deeper and longer held stretches either seated or laying down.
Systematised by Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois is a method of yoga that encompasses synchronising breath with dynamic movement through a set sequence of postures.
Within each series (there are three), every posture builds to prepare you for the next (the principle of vinyasa krama). Ashtanga yoga is known for its athleticism and fluidity.
By practising the same sequence of postures regularly, it becomes a moving meditation whilst delving deeper into the architecture of each pose.
Developed by B.K.S. Iyengar emphasises precision of structural alignment in the body. Unlike Vinyasa Flow and Ashtanga, the transitions between postures are not fluid.
Poses are typically held for longer in order to facilitate the release and lengthening of tight muscles.
Props are commonly used including straps, blocks, bolsters, blankets, chairs and if you’re lucky, wall ropes. Iyengar is a complete practice in itself as well as a great adjunct to all other styles.
Vinyasa Flow Yoga
An energetic and energising method of yoga, which emphasises the harmony of breath and rhythmic movement. Sequences are progressive and linked in an intelligent way to prepare the body for the next posture.
Expect to create a steady internal heat (through breath) that facilitates a deeper stretch and lengthening of muscles.
Students of Vinyasa Flow yoga are encouraged to rest their awareness on synchronising breath and physical movement,whilst maintaining integrity to structural alignment.
Founded by Sharon Gannon and David Life in 1984 introduces a rich and multidimensional practice which encompasses a strong vinyasa practice alongside spiritual/ philosophical teachings from ancient texts, devotional chanting, uplifting music and meditation.
Central to the Jivamukti method is the tenet of ahimsa, causing least possible harm to others, self and the world we share and inhabit.
This style is becoming increasingly popular with celebrities and younger people.
There are numerous brands of hot yoga where set sequences of postures are taught (e.g. Bikram) in rooms heated to between 36–40°c.
Other classes do not include set sequences but use the heating element for its associated and alleged benefits – to facilitate deep stretching and lengthening of muscles while building a detoxifying sweat.
Arrive to class pre-hydrated!
A derivative of hatha yoga that builds upon an uplifting and empowering tantric philosophy of "intrinsic goodness".
The heart-full assumption here is that all beings are inherently good and as the practice unravels, one is encouraged to access and experience that "sweet spot" inside.
Students are led through a dynamic yoga practice that accentuates precise alignment principles based on grounded bio-mechanics.
Restorative / Yin Yoga
It does what is says on the tin. These two styles (often used interchangeably, however differ to varying degrees) seek to bring the body into a relaxed state, inviting the mind and body to experience deep release and rest.
In our supercharged lives, this practice is particularly beneficial and complementary for balancing the nervous system and adrenal glands.
Postures are held for a longer amount of time whilst props are used to support your muscles as they gently and passively release. A delicious way to unwind and restore the mind and body.
Expect to leave feeling revitalised inside and out.
The thread that links it all
I like to take a pluralistic approach to "styles" of yoga – different people need different things at different times of their lives. There is no "right" method, nor is there a "right-type-of-person-who-practices-yoga".
Yoga is ultimately about bringing and welcoming every part of yourself onto the mat, working to release contraction in our minds and bodies, feeling more spacious and expansive and taking that freedom and joy out into the world and uplifting those around you!
The "right" style of yoga for you is a method that lifts your spirits, empowers you and helps you to soften all your edges.