Yoga is an activity which encompasses exercise, breathing, and meditation to reach desired goals. The actual practice of yoga dates back to before 3,000 BC and has been commonly associated with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, despite the fact that its techniques existed prior to the establishment of these religions. There are various forms of yoga that focus on different goals for the body. Several yoga poses can be implemented during physical therapy sessions depending on the condition and needs of the patient. In addition to individual poses and stretches that you may experience at physical therapy, classes exist that can provide a more comprehensive exposure to yoga.
There are over 100 different classes of yoga at varying degrees of difficulty and areas of focus. Some of the more common types of yoga include: Hatha, Iyengar, Yin, Restorative, Kundalini, Ashtanga, Vinyasa/Power/Flow, Anusara, Bikram, and Jivamukti. If you are looking for a beginner course you may want to look into Hatha, Yin, Restorative, Iyengar, or Kundalini yoga classes. For those with yoga experience, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Bikram, Anusara, and Jivamukti may fit your style more.
Which style of yoga you choose to pursue depends on what your goals are for your yoga experience. Hatha yoga is a generic term which includes any form of yoga that teaches physical posture; therefore all of the forms of yoga listed in this blog are forms of Hatha yoga. Most Hatha yoga classes give a general introduction to the basic yoga postures and are therefore very good for beginners. Iyengar yoga scrutinizes over proper form and often uses props including blocks, straps, chairs, boards, etc. to reach the proper positions. This form of yoga is good for someone who is starting out and wishes to learn proper positioning before advancing to quicker paced forms of yoga. Yin yoga focuses more on the joints than the muscles. The poses are held for up to 20 minutes in order to focus on stretching the connective tissues in the body. Restorative yoga also holds poses for extended periods of time, but the focus is on restoration and stress relief versus stimulating connective tissue. This form of yoga can be helpful for the overall healing process of the body. Kundalini yoga focuses on the spiritual and philosophical components of yoga. It incorporates meditation, breathing, and chanting as well as some yoga postures.
If you have practiced yoga before and are looking for a more intense experience you may want to try Vinyasa. Vinyasa yoga is known for its fluid movements which is why it can also be referred to as flow or power flow yoga. This form of class is very active and can be challenging with the continuous transitions between poses. The order of the poses changes with every session. Ashtanga yoga is similar in intensity to Vinyasa in the flow of movements and coordination with breathing patterns, but Ashtanga uses a specific sequence of poses every time. Bikram yoga is good for more intense stretching because it is performed in a heated room. Individuals who have an aversion to heat, cannot medically tolerate heat, or are pregnant should not participate in this form of yoga. Be aware that the high heat levels can also put you at risk for overstretching your muscles and dehydration. Anusara yoga works to encompass both the mind and body by performing vinyasa style poses while focusing on the inner goodness in all. Jivamukti yoga works similarly to Anusara in that it encompasses both body and mind. It often encompasses music, chanting, and scripture readings with its vinyasa style movements.
In addition to the traditional forms of yoga, prenatal yoga also exists. This form of yoga is geared specifically to pregnant women. If you have never participated in yoga before, it is recommended that you not start until your second trimester due to possible light headedness and symptoms with various poses during the beginning of pregnancy.
As you can see there are a multitude of different yoga styles that you can explore. The key is educating yourself on the various types and choosing which class appeals to your goals. I hope this blog gave you a brief insight into the various forms of yoga and an idea of which styles you may want to attempt based on your experience level and desires. If you are still unsure about starting into a yoga class, talk to a physical therapist to see what you’re ready for and explore your best options.