Yoga is a great discipline to add to your training programme – different styles of yoga can improve your sports and exercise performance and your overall wellbeing.

There are many yoga styles and you’ll be able to find one that suits you. As yoga styles and teachers vary so much it’s best to have a good look around and see what’s on offer and do some drop-in sessions before committing to any one style, memberships or courses. I’ve put together an overview of the main styles:

Hatha Yoga

When yoga came to the western hemisphere, all asana practice was all called Hatha Yoga – and strictly speaking all physical yoga forms, such as those listed below, are Hatha Yoga. Some classes are still called Hatha Yoga and they generally have a more gentle and slow style. There will be an emphasis on relaxation, breathing and working with the body, not against it.

Ashtanga Yoga

The original vinyasa yoga as taught to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009) by Krishnamacharaya in Mysore, India, is hugely effective for increasing weight loss, flexibility, energy and focus. There are six set Ashtanga Yoga sequences and each one is gradually worked through under the guidance of a certified teacher.

The Ashtanga method encourages daily vinyasa practice, breathing practice called ‘Ujjayi’ and core work involving ‘moolha bandha’ (engagement of the pelvic floor) and ‘uddiyana banda’ (contraction of the lower abdominals). As some of the postures are quite complex, it is advisable to start with a beginners class so that you can be guided through the first set of postures before moving on to a more advanced practice.

Dynamic, Power and Vinyasa Yoga

These terms basically mean the same. If you attend a Dynamic, Power or Vinyasa Yoga class you will enjoy many asanas, most of which will be standing postures. The postures are linked with vinyasas (a ‘vinyasa’ is a short sequence of movements that flow together and are linked by the ‘breath’) and help to generate heat within the body and therefore flexibility.

The intensity of Vinyasa and Dynamic classes will vary from class to class but expect a non-stop strong class that will raise your heart rate and work your entire body.

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The original hot yoga method innovated by living yogi Bikram Choudhury. Practices are performed in a room heated to 40 degrees and involve a set sequence of 26 postures all of which are done twice. Fantastic for detoxing the whole body, Bikram Yoga emphasises being strong and focused and as a result the method has a big following among young professionals and ‘type A’
personalities. Bikram believes that it is never too late to start his method of yoga and that anyone can with the right commitment do it.

Iyengar Yoga

A hugely popular method taught by B.K.S Iyengar in Pune, India. Iyengar is known for his use of props such as yoga blocks, blankets and bolsters to help the body move into perfect alignment. As a result it’s great for people with injuries and who are new to yoga as the detailed instruction of Iyengar Yoga sets the practitioner up with an effective foundation that can be applied to any yoga style.

Jivamukti Yoga

A modern yoga style that was developed in the 1980s but has its roots firmly in original teachings of the yoga tradition. Founders Sharon Gannon and David Life incorporated their study of Ashtanga Yoga with yoga philosophy and how to incorporate yoga into daily life and developed this all encompassing and challenging form of Hatha Yoga. Classes are strong and flowing and incorporate upbeat music, chanting and yoga philosophy.

Restorative Yoga

This style of yoga is very slow and does exactly as the names suggests. Its emphasis is to relax and restore the mind and body by allowing the nervous system to calm down which in turn has a direct affect on relaxing the mind and therefore the body. Expect to use props such as blankets, bolsters and yoga blocks to allow the body to ‘rest ‘ into the postures. Asanas may be held from between five to ten minutes.

Restorative yoga is fantastic for disorders of the nervous system such as insomnia and IBS.

Tomorrow Sally explains more versions of yoga to us and also offers valuable hints and tips about teaching points and also starting a class.

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