Yoga is, in its very nature, a very individual pursuit. These days, there are many different forms of yoga – so it is safe to say you can find a style of yoga that suits you and your needs. It’s beneficial to try a variety of different yoga styles, to test out what might be best for you. Different styles of yoga have different pursuits, so you will want to find the pursuit that best aligns with your intention of starting yoga in the first place. For example, there's the more relaxing Yin Yoga which encourages you to let go through the holding of deep stretches for extended periods of time. Then there are the more dynamic practices like Ashtanga, a fast-paced series of athletic poses. So, the question is what are you looking for in a yoga practice, what do you need from a yoga practice? You might like to consider your own physical fitness in making this choice – are you brand new to exercise or are you already very active? Find a practice which lifts you, excites you, motivates you, brings you joy or helps you to relax!
Take the time to write a list of intentions and goals for your practice to help you be clear on what you are looking for. What is the 'why' for you?
For example, my mum would like to start yoga because she has been working for many years in an office on a computer and now she has started to experience lower back pain. Her intention is to mobilise her lower back and spine and her goal is to help ease the lower back pain.
When doing this; be honest with your desires and needs, do it from a place of integrity and in a way in which you can evaluate when you test different practices out – if they are meeting your intentions or goals or not.
Yes, everyBODY can do yoga. But we all start from different places and we should be aware of that when beginning.
Some questions I would ask to evaluate physical fitness before starting yoga:
- Do you have any injuries?
- Do you have any health/medical problems?
- Have you had any health/medical problems in the past?
- How often do you take part in exercise, are you active?
- Have you had a baby within the last 2 years?
When we try something new, we can get excited, we try hard and we want to be able to do the new thing - the Ego rises! However it is so important to listen to your body - know when you need a challenge and know when you need to pull back. Taking part in a physical practice like yoga can put stress on the body if you are not prepared for what you are entering into. Be wise, know your limits, listen to your body and find a good teacher who can support that!
If you have any pre-existing health or medical conditions, it might be worth checking in with your doctor before you begin searching for a style of yoga.
One of the classic forms of yoga, Hatha Yoga is what most other yoga styles derive from. Nowadays a Hatha class will usually be more gentle than the dynamic practices, it includes asana, pranayama, mudra and sometimes chanting. Again the content is down to the discretion of the teacher taking the class. The intention with Hatha is usually to practice yoga as traditionally intended – to gain access to a balanced mind, body and spirit.
As always research the class/teacher you are taking and see if you can be as informed as possible as to what you can expect in relation to your own physical fitness.
Vinyasa means breath to movement and so usually in a Vinyasa class you would be taught a series of poses that you would move through in synchronicity with the breath. Levels vary and so it is worth researching who is teaching the class and how they describe the content of the class. It typically depends on the style of the teacher who is teaching it.
Be aware there will be some Vinyasa Yoga classes which are more advanced than others! Again, do your research before attending.
Yin Yoga is a practice where the yogi holds asana for longer periods of time (often between 5 -10 minutes). It is based on the functionality of the body and encourages the student to let go, in relation to their own anatomy – feeling into the pose as they go deeper into the asana. It has an emphasis on moving through layers of the self as the student spends longer in the pose. Yin is usually taught with more chilled out vibes, think candles and blankets!
If you have injuries be careful in Yin Yoga. As the practice works with target areas of muscles for long periods of time you could end up aggravating an injury by the pressure and tension placed on the specific muscle group. Ensure you communicate this with the teacher in advance - they will be able to offer you modifications.
Iyengar Yoga focuses on the alignment and precision of executing poses. Created by B.K.S Iyengar, the practice uses props to find the detail in the alignment of the body in each position. In this practice the poses are held for longer periods of time, but even though it might feel like you are working at a slower pace – you will certainly be working hard to access the correct technique of the poses. Iyengar can be a great way to learn how to execute poses correctly, for your body and improve your flexibility and strength through the poses.
Anybody - you can find a range of classes from beginner to advanced level - so there should be a class to suit your needs.
Be sure to chose the right level class for you, otherwise holding complicated yoga poses for long periods of time could become tricky.
Restorative Yoga is about relaxing, letting go, getting cosy and just releasing into poses. In a Restorative Yoga class, you will probably only do a few poses in the session. Again, think candle-lit and blankets ! This practice is great for stress, for taking time out of your schedule just to be and to connect with the body.
Restorative yoga can really be for anybody!
Ashtanga Yoga is a dynamic, structured series of poses (Primary Series, Intermediate Series etc) sequenced to deep Ujjayi breath. It consists of a standing sequence, a seated sequence and a finishing sequence. It keeps a dynamic and ongoing pace, only holding the asana for 5 breaths until the finishing sequence. The full practice usually takes 90 minutes. Ashtanga is known to attract those with a more athletic appetite.
Ashtanga Yoga can be for anybody, that is for sure, however it is a challenging practice. Because of the set sequence, it can be easy to fall into a place of wanting to achieve the yoga poses when the body is not prepared. Modifications can be given to suit the needs of the student. If you love high energy, athletic practices you will love Ashtanga Yoga.
For pregnant yogis who haven't practiced Ashtanga before it is perhaps not the place to start. If you are pregnant and have experience with Ashtanga Yoga already, it would be best to discuss with your teacher where you need to modify (for example twists, inversions).
A form of yoga designed for mummies-to-be. The practice is there to support the mother through pregnancy and birth and uses yoga and meditation to prepare the mother for this process. This is great for people who want to take up yoga during pregnancy as it will teach the safe ways of executing the practice in relation to the changing body.
The teacher will embed within a prenatal yoga class all the restrictions a mummy-to-be should be aware of when practicing yoga.
For stress and anxiety, it totally depends on what helps you feel less stressed! Some people have excess energy that they need to burn off and practices like Ashtanga Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga are great for that. Some people find their stress and anxiety melting away in a more relaxing environment and therefore perhaps Yin Yoga or Restorative Yoga is the right practice for those people. Ultimately you will probably need a different style of yoga at different points of your week, month, life! Listen in to what you need!
Again this depends on what the athlete is looking for, if they need a break from an intense training schedule perhaps Yin Yoga or Restorative Yoga. Often with athletes there is a part of the body they wish to stretch and elongate so even Iyengar can be good .If the athlete is looking for a powerful practice to add to their training schedule, then its Ashtanga Yoga for sure!
Technically for beginners, a beginners yoga class would be best. Finding a class where the teacher speaks through the basics so you gain a full understanding of how to execute the yoga poses safely.
Firstly a yoga practice shouldn't only be about weight loss, it can be a wonderful consequence of the yoga practice - but if it is the sole purpose - perhaps the intention of yoga is missing. Saying that, the more dynamic practices like Ashtanga Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga would be scientifically beneficial for weight lost.