Updated: Jan 8, 2022
When I first started practicing yoga, and again when I started teaching, my preferences changed. At first, I looooooved Power Yoga! I wanted to get a great workout, sweat my butt off, and really feel like I was working. Then as I practiced and taught more, I found that my preference shifted, not only by style, but day-to-day. The style of yoga that you choose should be aligned with your goals, values, and how you feel each day.
Some days I want the kick my butt, sweaty mess, dying on the floor practice. Other days I want to relax and show my body some love and compassion. There is no right or wrong way to practice or do yoga; just do what feels right for you. If you practice mindfully and bring awareness to your body, you can follow your intuition and know what's best for you.
As I mentioned, this was my go-to. For those of you who are familiar with Ayerveda, I'm a Pitta! (For those of you who are not familiar with Ayerveda, stay tuned for a post). My constitution is fiery, active, outgoing, hardworking, purposeful, and strong. It is also impatient, sensitive to hot temperatures, mood swings when hungry, and short tempered. Sounds like a perfect fit for Power Yoga, right?!
Power yoga is fast-paced, focused on building power, strength, and endurance, and intense. Although it's not technically a form of yoga, it can be considered to be in the Vinyasa lineage. It is composed of flows from posture to posture, rather than approaching each pose separately. It also tends to hold more challenging postures for longer, or incorporate pulses and other aspects to make the postures more challenging. It may seem more like an aerobics class or bootcamp than yoga. Though it is more dynamic, it also requires a lot of focus on breathing and meditation since it requires a fair amount of self-discipline and determination.
Because it can be more challenging, power yoga increases your ability to find ease in discomfort. Learning that you can, and having the mental focus, to stay in dis-ease and come through is an essential element of building your character, not only as a yogi, but as a person. When times get challenging - because we know they will - will you have the focus, determination, and self-discipline to stay strong, become resilient, and lean into discomfort?
Hatha covers a wide scope of practices. Any type of practice that teaches physical postures - so almost all yoga - is considered hatha. However, the common conception and how classes are typically advertised as hatha is likely to be slower, more gentle, using basic postures. It is excellent for Beginners, and for anyone who wants to slow down and show gentle love and compassion towards their bodies.
Hatha includes postures (asana), breath-work (pranayama), and meditation, which can all be used in various combinations. This can produce both a spiritual and physical practice, or more of one than the other, depending on how these elements are combined.
Hatha is a great choice for anyone new to yoga.
Ashtanga, like Power, is challenging and athletic. Unlike Power, it follows a set sequence of postures. Ashtanga follows the same six series of specific postures that flow into one another and breath-work is synchronized to the series. It is said to improve endurance and flexibility, and like Power has benefits to determination and resiliency by staying focused and mindful when moving through challenging series.
Hot yoga was most likely influenced by Bikram yoga, except that it does not follow a set sequence of postures. The heat is said to improve flexibility, detoxify, and make the cardiovascular system work harder to cool the body. Although Hot yoga can be good for cardiovascular health, and has potential benefits for heart health and diabetes, it does not come without precautions.
Because of the temperature of the studio, practitioners find that they are more flexible. However, this may not always be a good thing. Injuries can occur when we stretch beyond our limitations. And when the temperature is high and our muscles are more flexible, they may also be more prone to overstretching, tearing, and other injuries. Does this mean I do not recommend hot yoga? Definitely not! If you love it, rock it! I do recommend though (*disclaimer: this is my opinion and recommendation), that you are mindful when practicing and avoid stretching past where you are comfortable. Bring awareness to your body and if you feel any pinching or pulling, adjust your movement.
As I mentioned, I am a Pitta so I'm already very hot and I don't like being too warm. I love weather that is 20-25 degrees Celcius. So for me, hot yoga is just not my jam. But if you enjoy it, then go for it! Hot yoga has several benefits: as mentioned, cardiovascular and benefits for people with diabetes, increased metabolism, and detoxification through sweat and cleansing properties.
Iyengar was my lineage of training, and when I describe this type of yoga - and if you've ever attended one of my classes - you will think "oh, that's totally Amanda!". This style focuses on precision and alignment of postures. Participants may use various props, including blocks, straps, bolsters, blankets, bands, or cushions. Modifications are offered to allow everyone accessibility and to encourage correct postural alignment. Props also aid in achieving postures without over-stretching or over-exerting.
Though it is a slower practice, it encourages immense concentration to correct alignment and the ability to hold postures for extended periods of time.
This style is great for anyone and everyone, but is especially beneficial for those who are recovering from injury or who consider themselves inflexible.
Iyengar is perfect for yogis who are new to the practice, or anyone who wants to improve their flexibility, reduce chronic lower back pain, recover from injury, or who have injuries that they require modifications to work around. I may be biased, but this is my fave! I spend a lot of my teaching time offering modifications and providing several cues to help achieve basic posture, align, and then refine.
Considered to be potentially one of the most ancient styles of yoga, Kundalini yoga has its origins around 1000 BC (or BCE), and was first taught in Northern America in the 1970s. This style incorporates chanting or song with movement and breath.
It is believed to activate your shakti, or spiritual energy. It encourages the flow of energy throughout the chakras (some people pronounce ch-ah-kras, some say sh-ah-kras... po-tA-to, po-tah-to ;P), starting in the root chakra (or tailbone) and moving up through the spine to the crown. Kundalini practice starts with a chant to activate shakti, followed by a sequence of postures and breath-work, and concludes with meditation or song.
You are less likely to find a Kundalini practice at your gym or local yoga studio. Because these businesses think in numbers, they try to appeal to the masses. However, if you can find an online yoga class (wink, wink) or a studio that offers Kundalini or a more spiritual practice, I highly encourage you to give it a try! At first it may feel a little crunchy, hippiee-dippie, and out-there (been there!), but then you may find that it is exactly what you need. As a person who went from being closed off to semi-crunchy, partly hippie, these types of practices opened me up to a world that I never even knew existed and I have benefited immensely. My practice has become more about spirituality and connection with self than about getting a good workout. And the term yoga itself, in sanskrit means to yoke or unite. Yoga is about uniting the body, mind, and spirit.
This converted yogi has learned to appreciate the benefit of restorative or relaxation practices! It is considered Iyengar's calmer baby sister. A variety of props are used, not to assist or aid, but to support the body as it calms and rests.
Each posture can be held for up to 20 minutes!! Seems crazy right?! Very few poses are used during a class. The time is spent being guided by a teacher and relaxing into the asana.
It can contribute to increased relaxation (as the name suggests) and can provide suppleness to the muscles. It can provide stress relief... with practice. As I found when I first tried a Restorative or Relaxation class, I just laid there waiting for the next posture. I couldn't relax at all! I kept thinking, "Oh this is nice..... okay, what now?". That is precisely why I needed more Restorative in my life! The lessons learned on the mat can be translated over into our everyday lives - it's one of the things I love most about yoga! I was always so focused on "what's next?" that I never truly sat back and experienced the current moment. How sad is that? Now I think back on how much I missed by not being present. If you are like me, and you find that you can be very anxious, impatient, or forward-focused, I invite you to try Restorative classes. It may just change your life!
Yin is similar to Restorative or Relaxation, in that participants hold postures to strengthen and lengthen muscles and connective tissues. The practice taps into the parasympathetic nervous system (sympathetic nervous system is our "flight, fight, or freeze" reaction, parasympathetic nervous system is our "rest and digest"). Participants relax into postures to slow the body down, release stress and tension, and relax both the body and the mind.
Yin can also help to alleviate sleep problems. So if you suffer from sleep problems, give Yin yoga a try.
There are many amazing styles available and I encourage you to try all of them, unless you have an injury. Each has its own set of benefits and features. I have seen the transformation each has made in my own practice, and I hope that you will experience the difference for yourself. I encourage you to try them with an open-mind - and hopefully more than once - so that you can see for yourself what each has to offer. As I mentioned, some of them may seem weird or feel uncomfortable at first. But if you open yourself up and come at it with an attitude of curiosity and a learner's mind, you may find that a practice that you never would have considered may end up being the perfect fit for you! As always, I am here to answer any comments, concerns, questions, and I encourage productive feedback. I love to hear from you and to build our community. Namaste.