The Yoga world can be somewhat bamboozling so this blog is born out of wanting to breakdown into accessible non-yogi language, what kinds of yoga there are (this may help you if you are making decisions as to whether to try certain classes etc) and also to show why it is tricky to generalise when talking about yoga because there are so many different types, all of which offer a very different experience.
To name ALL types of yoga would require a book, not a blog, but here are a few of the most commonly practiced in the UK:
A Hatha class can vary in intensity, but generally starts with breathing exercises, sun salutations and then a sequences of asanas (poses) before bringing it down to savasana (the lying down bit at the end). The physical work is often interspersed with short relaxation periods to allow body and mind to process the work. This will improve your flexibility and have you feeling more balanced, both mentally and physically.
The clue is in the name! This is ANY kind of yoga done in heat. Many hot yoga classes are done in 28- 32 degrees heat, but some are much warmer. Hot Yoga tends to be like Marmite – you either LOVE sweating and working in the heat or you can’t bear it! I LOVE IT!
Synthesized from traditional Hatha yoga techniques, this is a TYPE of hot yoga that consists of a very specific sequence of 26 postures that will never vary in order. The extreme heat (40 degrees!) helps those of us who are less flexible and a repetitive sequence makes progress very measurable.
This can be fast or slow, but the main focus is linking the postures together in a smooth way: the transitions are often as important as the postures themselves. Some classes warm you up with sun salutations or a variation of sorts. Classes can be physically demanding! Each posture is held between 3-8 breaths typically. A Vinyasa flow is great for improving fitness levels, energy optimisation and overall health.
Yin or restorative
This is a slow and more meditative approach to yoga. Each posture can be held from 8 breaths up to several minutes at a time with the aim of calming the mind and improving circulation throughout the body. To ease comfort for the practitioner, props are often used. Yin/restorative is ideal for increasing flexibility and stress release.
The class starts with an opening chant, sun salutations (surya namaskar) and is then followed by a strong sequence taken from set series of postures (apparently, there were originally four). Originally, some ashtanga teachers would maintain that your practice finished the moment a pose was unreachable for your current body and then you would return again the next day to try again. Fortunately, in modern classes, you can just do your best and modifications will be offered when needed! Ashtanga is fantastic for building upper body and core strength.
Power or Rocket Yoga
Born from Ashtanga, this is a fast and sweaty strong sequence with lots of inversions and powerful movements. Not for the faint hearted, but an awesome choice for fat burn and strength.
Kundalini yoga is called the yoga of awareness. It consists of simple yogic techniques that can be enjoyed by everyone, whatever your age or physical ability. It is a complete science that includes breath (pranayam), kriyas (a specific sequence of yoga postures/asanas), sound, chanting (mantra) and meditation. For more info on local classes please feel free to click here 🙂
I am a big believer that there is at least one type of yoga out there for everyone. Which one will suit you best? Try them all! Experience speaks the biggest truth! Also, do not feel that you need to “choose one”: different types of yoga can suit you better on any one day, depending on what you need, and this varies greatly at different times in your life. Go with the flow! Quite literally…
You will frequently hear the class finished with a ‘Namaste’ and I said this for some time without having a clue what it meant! So here is a little light 🙂
Huge thanks to Jo Pamini Badger, Alice Milner and Jane Holderness for their help with both the yoga speciality information and photographs!