Which Style of Yoga Is Best for You?
Common Styles of Yoga
First, know that there's a great deal of crossover. Yoga teachers often blend one or more yoga styles and even develop their own signature style of yoga. Only a few yoga styles are thousands of years old with little variation in the poses over the years.
Iyengar yoga. Detail-oriented and slow-paced, Iyengar yoga is an excellent beginning class. Analytical in its approach with a constant attention to detail, Iyengar yoga is great for learning the subtleties of correct alignment in each pose. The use of props -- belts, blocks, and pillow-like bolsters -- help beginners get into poses with correct alignment, even when they're new to the poses, injured, or simply stiff. Worldwide, there are over 2,000 certified Iyengar teachers. That makes this style of yoga one of the most popular. B. K. S. Iyengar, who developed this style of yoga and is over 90 years old, still teaches in India. Similar styles include Anusara yoga and Viniyoga.
Ashtanga yoga. Ashtanga yoga is another traditional style of yoga. It offers a highly vigorous, nonstop series of poses. The idea is to create heat inside the body to burn off toxins, release tight muscles and joints, and focus your mind. Six formal "series" of poses, beginning with the Primary series, increase in difficulty as you master each level. Unique to ashtanga yoga is its focus on a specialized breathing technique. Called ujjai breathing, it sustains heat in your body. Ashtanga yoga also used bandhas, or energy locks, in each pose. Originally developed by yogi master Pattabhi Jois in India, ashtanga yoga in the West now has many spin-offs, including Power Yoga.
Power Yoga. Power Yoga is hugely popular in health clubs and among athletes. It is one of the most athletic forms of yoga. Based on the sequence of poses in Ashtanga yoga, Power Yoga builds upper-body strength as well as flexibility and balance. Teachers lead classes that flow from one pose to the next without stopping to talk about the finer points of each pose. That way, students come away with a good workout as well as a yoga experience. If you're new to yoga, it's a good idea to take a few classes in a slower style of yoga first to get the feel for the poses. That's because there's less individual attention and more focus on moving through the Power Yoga class. Some studios call Power Yoga by different names: flow yoga, flow-style yoga, or vinyasa flow.
Bikram yoga. Bikram yoga is the favorite of anyone who loves to sweat. It was created by Indian yogi Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970s, long before yoga was a trend. He designed a sequence of 26 yoga poses to stretch and strengthen the muscles as well as compress and "rinse" the organs of the body. The poses are all done in a heated room to facilitate the release of toxins. Every Bikram class you go to -- from Manhattan to San Diego -- follows the same sequence of 26 poses. Some beginning yoga students find this reassuring. Bikram teachers even call out the same verbal instructions for the poses. Be prepared to sweat: Bikram studios are heated above 100 degrees. Check with your doctor if you have a medical condition like hypertension or diabetes before starting this "hot" style of yoga.