10 Types of Yoga for Every Body
By Kate Hanley, Special to Lifescript
“Hatha” is an umbrella term that refers to any practice that teaches physical postures as a means to enlightenment. So nearly every yoga class taught in the U.S. is technically a hatha class. When a class is billed as hatha, it generally is a simple, gentle overview of the fundamental yoga poses – no jumping around or flowing from one pose to the next as in ashtanga or vinyasa.
A vinyasa class is like learning the steps to a yoga dance – students move seamlessly from one pose to another in synchrony with the breath. It’s one of the types of yoga that can be physically challenging and will make you sweat. Vinyasa studios often incorporate yogic philosophy, chanting and meditation, making them a good introduction to learn all about yoga.
Bikram yoga classes aren’t for the faint of heart. Held in a heated room (between 95 and 110 degrees), they capitalize on the high temperature to loosen muscles and promote a detoxifying sweat. Whether you’re in Los Angeles or La Grange, Ill., every Bikram yoga class follows a prescribed sequence of the same 26 poses. Hot yoga is similar (it’s also done in a heated room), but doesn’t follow the same sequence.
Iyengar uses many props – blocks, belts, ropes, and lots and lots of folded blankets – to help students find proper alignment in each pose, regardless of physical limitations. The keyword in an Iyengar practice is “precision” – it’s no wonder Martha Stewart loves this style of yoga. Iyengar teachers go through years of rigorous training and can customize the practice to a variety of conditions and injuries. They generally don’t talk about yoga philosophy or spiritual teachings.
Like Bikram yoga, an ashtanga class follows a set sequence of poses – which one you do depends on how long you’ve been practicing. Unlike Bikram, an ashtanga teacher doesn’t call out the poses: Students move through the sequence at their own pace as the teacher gives physical adjustments. Power yoga is based on ashtanga, but each power yoga class is unique, choreographed by the teacher.
Anusara teaches that humans are intrinsically good, and that the practice of yoga can help us uncover our innate state of grace. Anusara is also defined by a sense of community – it’s not uncommon for students to clap when one of them nails a difficult pose. The practice is joyful, playful and physically challenging balanced with careful attention to form.
Kundalini yoga is based on the belief that a current of powerful vital energy (kundalini) resides at the base of everyone’s spine. Its repetitive movements are designed to arouse this normally dormant energy and get it flowing up the spine to boost physical vitality, mental clarity, emotional openness and spiritual awakening. It’s not a traditional physical workout, but doing the movements for a several minutes will build stamina and can result in exhilaration.
A restorative class uses blankets, bolsters and blocks to prop students up in yoga poses, so they can experience the benefits without physical effort. Instead of doing a full backbend, for example, students lie on the floor with their spine draped over a bolster. “Restorative poses allow the body to stretch more than just muscles,” says Witold Fitz-Simon, a Brooklyn yoga teacher, founder of yogaartandscience.com and author of The Yoga Practice Journal. “The body’s connective tissue, known as fascia, can begin to lengthen, which can create fundamental postural changes,” he says. Above all, the poses feel great – as relaxing as a massage and as refreshing as a nap.
These classes are all give and take. A combination of yoga, acrobatics and Thai yoga massage, AcroYoga pairs students up with a partner – one is the “flyer” and one is the “base.” After a series of warm-ups, the flyer does yoga poses while supported by the base’s body. The flyer experiences greater opening while the base is massaged by the flyer’s body weight. At the end of class, the flyer reciprocates by giving the base a Thai yoga massage.
Jivamukti is a form of vinyasa yoga developed by Sharon Gannon and David Life in New York City. Jivamukti yogis are devoted to following the moral precepts of yoga – classes often open with a lecture on non-violence, for example, accompanied by a few chords on the harmonium. The physical yoga is vigorous and adventurous – you’ll try poses you never thought you’d be able to do and have a great time doing it.
Which style have you practiced?