You’ve heard the buzz about yoga, and you check out the schedule at your local studio only to see a sea of foreign words – what the heck is Vinyasa? Kundalini? Bikram? Kripalu? And how are you supposed to know which one to try?
Not all yoga is created equal – in fact, the various types have unique differences in poses and principles that can make one better for you than another. One of the best things about yoga (and probably why it’s so popular) is that there are so many forms and variations. Most were invented long ago in India, but others have been created or modified as the practice became mainstream in America and the Western world.
If you try one yoga class and don’t like it, chances are you can find what you were looking for in another type of practice. Here are some of the most common types you’ll need to know about to become even a rookie yogi.
What is it? This is perhaps the most “precise” form of yoga, which teaches you how to get into the basic yoga poses with perfect form. Often called “furniture yoga,” Iyengar is also characterized by liberal use of props like blocks, straps and incline boards to help you form the positions more precisely.
Is it right for me? If you are just starting out, Iyengar is a good practice to try because it helps you learn what poses should be in their purist form – then you can modify them to fit you better from there. It’s also good for perfectionists who like to “do it by the books,” so to speak. It is also great if you are turning to yoga for physical therapy.
What is it? Anusara yoga is essentially the most relaxed, forgiving form of yoga. While all yoga can be modified for your body and state of mind, Anusara is described as Iyengar yoga with a sense of humor and acceptance. Instead of forcing the body into picture-perfect positions, this practice seeks to help students reap the benefits of yoga by forming the poses to the best of their ability.
Is it right for me? Anusara is the perfect casual practice yoga, and is a great form for those who love the benefits of yoga but prefer to do it their own way. It’s also a great form of yoga for beginners who are nervous about a too-intense yogi atmosphere. It’s non-threatening and oozes acceptance – of your own body and skill set, and that of others.
What is it? Bikram yoga, named for its inventor, Bikram Choudhury, is frequently practiced in a hot studio. Usually, the heat will be cranked up to about 105 degrees in the studio, which helps loosen muscles so they can stretch further, and promotes sweating and body detoxification.
Is it right for me? Tolerating the heat is an athletic feat in and of itself, but it’s not for everyone. If you feel like your workout isn’t complete until you are drenched in sweat, you’ll feel great after Bikram. Make sure you bring plenty of water and a towel!
What is it? Kundalini yoga is characterized by fluid movements, which are meant to release the “kundalini” or “serpent” energy in your body – Kundalini yogis imagine an energy supply coiled up in the body that can be tapped and uncoiled to energize you throughout.
Is it right for me? If you are looking for a bit of a (natural) buzz, Kundalini might be a good practice to try. While all yoga can be energizing in its own way, Kundalini is particularly good at giving you a mental and physical boost. Be ready to breathe differently during this practice.
What is it? Vinyasa yoga is characterized by the “flow” of movement throughout. In this practice, you essentially flow from one pose to the next, connecting each pose by aligning movement and breath, so you are constantly moving. Vinyasa offers a more cardiovascular workout than some other forms of yoga.
Is it right for me? If yoga seems a little too stationery of an exercise for you, Vinyasa might be a good option. The point is to be moving constantly, so it’s a good type to try if you have lots of energy to spare and are looking for something that is always moving and changing.
It is also important to keep in mind that the instructor makes a huge difference in the class you take, because they tend to interpret it differently and might even change the flow of the class based on the energy levels or ability of the students.