Ashtanga, vinyasa, bikram? There are so many types of yoga out there and it’s daunting to know where to start. It’s no secret that yoga is one of the most positive changes I have made to my mental and physical wellbeing. However, as a beginner I had no idea what to begin with so it was a case of trial and error.
Spending a week at a yoga retreat courtesy of Azulfit has not only improved my body and mind but also given me an opportunity to try many types of yoga (plus a bit of Pilates). Not all retreats offer such a variety but that’s ok as there other ways you can get a taster of different yoga types at home before committing time and money to a block of classes.
For me, I don’t practise one type of yoga as I see value in any and every style. Perhaps if you want to monitor improvement or like consistency/routine then stick one for a while. Also, every teacher will have their own style and quirks too which you may/may not respond to. Where you choose to do yoga makes a difference too i.e. a gym class run by an instructor that isn’t yoga wheel trained might give you positions but not the spiritual depth. Maybe think about why you want to start yoga in the first place and go from there i.e. fitness, stress release etc.
The good news is all yoga is great and good for you so you can’t go wrong. My guide below looks at the eight most popular styles that may help you as you can match them to your needs as a starting point.
Best for : Beginners
What is it: Hatha involves poses and breathing exercises and is the most widely taught in the uk. It encompasses all types of yoga. Many gyms teach Hatha classes which will give you the yoga basics without too much speed or spiritualising.
What are the benefits? You’ll feel looser and more relaxed and start to get the hang of common positions relatively quickly.
Try at home : Yoga with Adriene videos on YouTube or at yogawithadriene.com.
Best for : Toning
What is it? An ancient method that was popularised in the 70s. It’s fast and flowing, moving to a different position with each breath. It involves the same six sequences in the same order.
What are the benefits? It’s speed makes it great cardio and with the repeated movements you’ll easily be able to track your progress from class to class.
How can I try it at home? The Ashtanga Yoga With Michael Gannon app is great value at £1.99 (ashtangayogaapp.com)
Best for: Burning calories
What is it? Also known as hot yoga, this style takes place in a sauna style heated room and involves a sequence of the same 26 positions. Don’t expect a chilled yoga session, this is more about endurance and definitely divides people into a love/hate camp.
What are the benefits? Clears your pores and removes toxins as only sweating profusely can! The heat also means you can move into poses more deeply.
How can I try it? Start at a local class first and please remember preparation and clothing (people are half naked) is different to ‘normal’ yoga so research before booking. You will find Bikram classes more expensive than other yoga owing to the costs involved in heating the room. There is a hot yoga app for £9.99 (hotyogadoctor.com) if you have access to a super hot room!
Best for: Boredom busting
What is it? Similar to Ashtanga in that it involves fast and smooth sequences – it’s often known as flow or dynamic yoga. Each class involves different poses and sometimes music too, so it’s great if you’re easily board and already have a grasp of basic poses.
What are the benefits? It’s fast and fun so the time flies by and you’ll break a sweat.
How can I try it at home? The yogaia yoga app (yogaia.com) offers vinyasa classes as well as many other styles on a live or pre recorded basis.
Best for: Cleansing the mind
What is it? This is all about grace and following your heart
What are the benefits? One main focus is alignment, so you can expect your posture to improve. Plus, it’s all about experiencing bliss.
How can I try it at home? You can find five minute preview videos at ekhartyoga.com or pay around £10 to access the full classes online.
Best for: Addictions/emotional issues
What is it: A spiritual style that’s supposed to activate the kundalini – a dormant ‘snake of energy’ at the base of your spine. It involves chanting and mantras.
What are the benefits: You will build a leaner frame but the key to this one is going deep within yourself and letting go.
How can I try at home? Kundalini classes are harder to find than other types of yoga. The kundalini mobile app has sequences and meditations to try (kundalinimobile.com). If you love it and fancy more then Azulfit are offering a weeks kundlini retreat from 2nd to 9th December with an incredible teacher.
Best for : Tension and muscle aches
What is it: Other yoga is termed ‘yang’ owing to its fast pace where as yin counters that. It gets you in touch with the earth and cools you down. It offers deep positions, usually all on the mat that you hold for 3-6 minutes. This yoga gets deep into the fascia and is great if you do other sports to stretch out.
How can I try it at home? Yin yoga app £6.99 offers some great relaxing positions to follow.
Best for: Stress or if you’re feeling low of energy
What is it: Much like yin yoga but with zero effort. Rather than holding poses, you are simply falling into them and staying there for up to twenty minutes. Expect to use lots of props for comfort such as bolsters and pillows. I find that I sleep so well after either this or Yin.
How can I try at home: ‘How To Do Restorative Yoga At Home’ book at £5.68 from Amazon is a great start. Remember to donate the book to charity once finished so others can benefit from the learning.
Please note that this article isn’t recommending yoga at home instead of classes, however I recognise that everyone has busy lives and not everyone can get to classes for various reasons. I’ve seen some yogis that have had exceptional skill simply from following Youtube tutorials so it is great that we live in a world where this is at our fingertips. However, if you can, try to attend classes as having a qualified teacher will make sure you are being safe and kind to your body. Also, the beauty of yoga classes is how you will feed off the energy in the room and of course, you will be less distracted.
Owing to time, money and willpower I combine yoga classes and home practise. Sometimes I don’t feel like going out to class if I’m having a poor mental health day, but I do feel up to putting a yoga dvd on at home where I’ve created a peaceful space. Also, with yoga classes being around £10 a time then it’s often not affordable to do one or more a week. I used to travel with my job lots too and always used that as an excuse to sit in my hotel room and drink wine, but having a world of yoga within your phone (until you know the positions off by heart) is a much healthier choice.
Go forth, experiment, enjoy and let me know how you get on.