According to a study done in 2012, approximately 20 million Americans do some form of yoga. This number has only continued to increase as more people find an interest in this type of exercise. Actually, if you live in a big city, you probably already have a yoga studio blocks from your home or office. Yoga provides many benefits to the body, for example:
- Improved flexibility and maneuverability
- Weight loss
- Balancing excessively high or low metabolisms
- Overall improvement of strength
- Tones the body
- Boosts your body’s circulatory system
- Improves your cardiovascular health
A common myth or stigma surrounding yoga is that it is a religious experience. This is even more popular when yoga incorporates meditation. This is simply just not true. While yoga can be spiritual, it doesn’t mean it is a religious practice for everyone. Whether you’re Christian, Muslim or an atheist, it has no bearing on whether you “should” practice yoga or not. If the above benefits appeal to you, then you should give yoga a try.
Yoga can be practiced at a studio or in the comfort of your own home. The only problem with learning yoga by yourself is trying to figure out what all the different forms mean. There are many different forms of yoga, some of them more popular in America than others. Each form differs from each other in how it is practiced and what effect you generally will get.
- Basic Hatha Yoga- Ideal for Beginners
Hatha yoga is essentially the practice of different poses in yoga so nearly all yoga can be considered to be a type of hatha. However, in modern times a hatha class or DVD will generally be the right place for someone totally new to yoga to start. Most hatha yoga is more about flexibility and learning proper postures rather than getting a serious workout. Hatha can also be nice for people who just want to loosen up and relax.
- Restorative Yoga- Perfect for Stress-Relief
Similar to hatha yoga, restorative yoga is meant to be relaxing and rejuvenating to the body. One aspect of most restorative yoga that makes it so perfect for relieving stress is the use of props like a rolled up towel or small pillows. These props help align your body is proper poses so you can focus more on relaxing rather than keeping correct posture. Most restorative yoga classes will be more modern, as you can imagine based on the name.
- Iyengar Yoga- Excellent for Intermediates Looking for Relaxation
You can think of Iyengar yoga as restorative yoga’s big sister. Some studios will use the two terms interchangeably but generally Iyengar yoga is stricter with proper posing and is more traditional. Most instructors will not be lenient about improper positions which can be a real asset if you have prior injuries that require you to be careful with your body. Similarly to restorative yoga, Iyengar focuses on relaxing the body through specific poses through the regular use of props. If you already have some yoga experience and want to take it up a notch, Iyengar would be a great choice.
- Anusara Yoga- Focuses on Spirituality and Positive Energy
If you do enjoy expressing your spirituality and that is your main goal with yoga, Anusara will likely be a good fit. While Anusara does have the physical benefits of yoga, this form was created to focus more on positive energy, grace and the overall goodness of the soul. Don’t assume this form is all about feeling happy though. Anusara gives not only the mind but also the body a workout.
- Vinyasa- An Intermediate to Advanced Practice of Grace and Discipline
Vinyasa is a very graceful, fluid form of yoga. Actually, Vinyasa literally means flow in Sanskrit. You can expect this class to be more suitable for intermediate and advanced yogis who strive to really perfect poses and transitions. Generally Vinyasa classes are lively and quite beautiful to watch. This is where yoga starts to become a physical workout that demands concentration and discipline, however.
- Ashtanga Yoga- Rigorous and Technical, Where Yoga Starts Getting Your Heart Pumping
If you are familiar with yoga but are craving a real, heart pumping workout Ashtanga might just be right up your alley. Ashtanga is like Vinyasa on steroids. Movements and poses in Ashtanga are very deliberate and technical in its execution. Transitions within and from poses are based on breaths. Ashtanga repeats the same postures within every class. This might get old for some yogis but is an excellent way to get a workout while perfecting your body control.
- Bikram Yoga- Gets You Sweating More Than Your Spinning Class
Bikram is now one of the most popular forms of yoga. Bikram is all about working out the body and getting a serious workout. Even exercise junkies who participate in strenuous exercise like spinning or crossfit will agree that advanced Bikram is absolutely effective. Similarly to Ashtanga, Bikram follows a specific set of different poses, 26 to be precise.
Hot yoga is supposed used as a term for Bikram but there are differences. Hot yoga will usually use different poses which technically means it can’t be considered Bikram. Both forms are a major full body workout out however. And the kicker? Both are practiced in heated rooms so you’re guaranteed to sweat and get the best workout possible.
Yoga has so many benefits and, unlike many types of exercise, can be excellent for those with injuries, arthritis or other issues. You can find literally thousands of different yoga DVDs for practicing at home or you can find a local class with an instructor to help you get started. Regardless of where you are in your exercise program, there is a form of yoga that will help you reach of goals.
Disclaimer: You should always consult your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen, especially if you have joint and knee issues or past injuries. Yoga is seen as a mind form of exercise, but it is STILL quite a workout.