Yoga is a form of exercise that has been around for thousands of years. It involves postures, breathing exercises, and meditation to help the body relax both physically and mentally. This mental and physical practice has numerous benefits to the mind and body. Yoga can help reduce stress, improve your flexibility and even boost your immune system.
If you are new to the yoga practice, you might wonder, is this the right exercise for me? Will I benefit from it?
And with so many different types of yoga, you might feel overwhelmed by the abundance of options. One question you might also have in mind is, which yoga is right for me?
In this blog post, we will discuss yoga, the different types of yoga practices, and how they work in order to give you a better understanding of which type is best suited for you.
History and Origins of Yoga
The practice of yoga dates back to India 5,000 years ago during the Indus-Sarasvati civilization. It is believed that yoga was an integral part of Hindu philosophy.
The Vedas, one of the ancient sacred texts in Hinduism, mentions meditation as a means to liberation, which can be attained by uniting with Brahman (the divine force). The practice was later adopted and adapted by Buddhist monks during their spiritual journey towards enlightenment.
Today, yoga has spread worldwide and is practiced by people of all ages, genders, and cultural backgrounds. This form of exercise involves physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation (dhyana) to help the body relax physically and mentally.
Different Types of Yoga
Today, yoga practice is not limited to one style or category. You can find numerous yoga styles that are mainly classified according to the goals and philosophy behind them.
If you are a beginner, you might find it challenging to know which kind is best for you. But don’t worry, we will be discussing the different types of yoga in this section to help you make an informed choice.
Hatha yoga is the most popular type of yoga practiced in the West. This style aims to unite mind, body, and spirit through physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation.
Hatha yoga was mainly developed to prepare the physical body for meditation, thus allowing one to enter into a state of spiritual awareness. Hatha Yoga is considered the most gentle yoga style that people can adapt from all walks of life regardless of their age or fitness level. Hatha classes’ main focus lies on proper alignment with particular postures and breathing techniques to improve body awareness and concentration.
Also known as hot yoga, this yoga style is usually done in rooms with high temperatures to produce sweat, which can help detoxify the body. Hot yoga involves 26 postures held for an extended period to improve flexibility and muscle tone while promoting weight loss.
The high temperature in the room allows your body to stretch deeper, thus increasing your flexibility. A Bikram yoga class also helps boost cardiovascular endurance by making you sweat more during workouts to help burn calories and lose weight faster.
Vinyasa is a dynamic style of yoga that involves synchronized movements with breathing. It focuses on the connection between your body and mind, thus promoting a feeling of well-being.
Vinyasa yoga can be practiced as a form of meditation with controlled breathing exercises that help calm the mind. The flow from one posture to another makes this type unique as it is believed to result in increased awareness and mindfulness over the body.
The literal translation of this type is power yoga, which emphasizes stretching and strengthening muscles to improve flexibility and increase energy levels.
This style involves both an aerobic workout and a meditative approach that can help build muscle strength while increasing oxygen flows in the bloodstream. Power yoga works best for people who are beginners in yoga and want a more intense workout.
Ashtanga is one of the most challenging types of yoga that involves a six series or sequences to help build strength, flexibility, and endurance while also improving focus on breathing.
The name of this style is derived from the word Ashtanga, which means eight limbs. Ashtanga yoga involves mental and physical exercises through yoga postures that help you build strength in your body to perform daily activities with ease.
As an intense form, Ashtanga yoga is best for people who want to build strength and lose weight faster than other types because it relies heavily on the use of muscles during workouts that can help burn calories quickly.
Restorative yoga focuses on slowing down and relaxing your body to help you recover from chronic stress, fatigue, or illness. This style of yoga is also considered a meditative yoga practice like Yin Yoga.
It uses props like blankets, bolsters, pillows, and chairs to support the body during postures that are held for a longer period with deep breathing techniques to promote relaxation.
Restorative yoga is best for people who want to relax and de-stress their bodies from the demands of daily life. It is usually done as a part of a therapy that includes meditation, gentle stretches, and proper breathing techniques to help heal old injuries or illnesses such as arthritis, headaches, and insomnia.
Yin Yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga that involves postures and holds to help increase flexibility while also stretching the connective tissues like tendons, ligaments, and fascia.
It is more on the meditative side as you hold each posture for a longer time frame in order to maximize its effects. As such, this type of yoga is best recommended for people who want to increase flexibility and improve emotional well-being.
Kundalini yoga is a form of meditation that focuses on breathing exercises and chanting. It combines postures with deep breathing techniques to create an inner balance between your body, mind, and spirit.
Kundalini yoga relies heavily on visualization as you focus on each posture before performing it in order to release blocked energy from different parts of the body, thus improving your mental and physical health.
Iyengar yoga is about proper alignment and body positioning to perform each posture correctly. It follows the use of props like ropes, blankets, or chairs for support during postures that can increase your strength while also improving flexibility over time.
Iyengar yoga focuses on breathing techniques through different poses with regular practice to improve mental clarity and concentration. It is best for people who want to lose weight, stay fit, and have better control over their mind through yoga postures that can improve focus while also being gentle on the body with proper support from props.
Prenatal yoga is a type of exercise that focuses on breathing exercises and postures to help prepare the body for childbirth. It can also be used as an alternative form of therapy during pregnancy by reducing anxiety, stress, low back pain, and fatigue while improving blood circulation and posture to relax both mother and baby.
Among yoga styles, this one is best recommended for pregnant women who want to improve their stamina and strength while also gaining control over their bodies during pregnancy.
How To Practice Yoga as a Beginner
Besides knowing which type of yoga is best for you, it can also be helpful to know how to practice the different styles.
You will need a yoga mat and comfortable clothing such as yoga pants, as some poses might require flexibility to perform correctly. Also, make sure that your body is warm enough before doing any exercise or activity like yoga because some postures can create fatigue in cold temperatures.
It is also best to do yoga in the morning so you can start or end your day with some relaxation and meditation time.
Start slowly by doing around five to ten minutes per day depending on the type you want to learn, then gradually increase the time frame according to your preference.
Yoga has many benefits for the mind and body, such as promoting relaxation, increasing flexibility, and improving concentration. While there are many different yoga styles, each one has a different focus that you can try out depending on your preferences.
It is best to choose a style of yoga based on your needs or preferences while maintaining a regular practice plan to maximize the effects of each posture. Also, make sure you talk with a doctor before starting any exercise, especially if it involves breathing exercises, to prevent any risk of injury.
Do you have a favorite type of yoga? Let us know in the comments below!