Beyond Om: The Many Styles of Yoga
Yoga is more than "om-ing" and sitting cross-legged. Learn about the different yoga styles and how you can pick one that is right for you.
The Hatha Yoga Styles continued...
Bikram yoga is a system of 26 postures that are
performed in a standard sequence in a room heated to 100-110 degrees
Fahrenheit. This approach is fairly vigorous and requires a certain level of
fitness on the part of students.
"Bikram is done in a room with a high temperature,"
says Miller. "There is less focus on alignment, and more on sweating and
getting a good workout."
Viniyoga focuses on practicing a posture according to
one's individual needs and capacity. Regulated breathing is an important aspect
of Viniyoga, and the breath is carefully coordinated with the postural
Kripalu yoga is a three-stage yoga. In the first stage,
postural alignment and coordination of breath and movement are emphasized, and
the postures are held for a short duration only. In the second stage,
meditation is included into the practice and postures are held for prolonged
periods. In the final stage, the practice of postures becomes a spontaneous
"meditation in motion."
Integral yoga made a debut at the Woodstock festival in
1969, where yoga expert Swami Satchidananda taught thousands to chant,
"om." This style aims to integrate the various aspects of the body and
mind through a combination of postures, breathing techniques, deep relaxation,
and meditation, and function is more important than form. In this style of
yoga, breathing and meditation are emphasized as much as the postures.
Sivananda yoga includes a series of twelve postures,
breathing exercises, relaxation, and mantra chanting.
Ananda yoga is a gentle style that is designed to
prepare the student for meditation, involving consciously directing the body's
energy to different organs and limbs.
5 Tips to the Right Yoga Style
With so many choices available, just showing up at your local
YMCA for a yoga class might not cut it. What should you look for when choosing
a style? Experts give WebMD five tips to transcending the confusion, starting
with finding the right instructor.
1. "Look for an instructor that is professional and that has a clear
understanding of yoga in general so he or she can be helpful," says Tony
Sanchez, a yoga instructor in San Francisco and president of the U.S. Yoga
Association. "The instructor should be able to comprehend the different
levels of the yoga postures and read a person's needs so he can teach the
2. "Educate yourself," says Miller. "Do some
reading and learn more about the different styles available near you."
3. Then it's time to try yoga.
"Try a class and see if you like it," says Sanchez.
"Do you like the instructor? Does the instructor know what he is doing? Is
4. When you try a class, ask yourself if it is suitable for
"Iyengar is an easier yoga because it concentrates on more
detail, with fewer exercises but more attention to alignment," says
Sanchez. "While Bikram and Astanga yoga are more extreme. These can
challenge a person beyond his or her ability, and this is where there is more
risk for injury."
So know your limits, explains Sanchez.
"You should be able to understand how far you should push
yourself safely," says Sanchez. "The instructor should be paying
attention that the students are doing the positions with proper alignment and
posture. And the students should decide if they are pushing themselves too hard
or not enough."
5. When you find a style that is right for you body and mind,
Miller recommends wearing comfortable clothing and avoiding eating before