Ashtanga, hatha, yin, aerial, kundalini, Bikram, power, Iyengar… there are now hundreds of yoga styles to chose from. It's a curse for the beginner, because as yoga becomes more popular, it also becomes harder for someone to find a fit that suits them. In LA now they are even doing yoga with weights, they call it Sculpt Yoga. We have certainly come a long way from thousands of years ago when the practice was taught one on one over a lifetime.
With so much to choose from, there is always going to be good and bad out there. So if you are interested in pursuing yoga you really do need to take the time to find a teacher that you like and a time and method that you enjoy. Luckily these days ClassPass and cheap intro offers at various yoga schools give you a chance to really get out there and explore. Some teachers even offer the first class free.
Most people starting a yoga practice are interested in finding a style that suits their personality. If you are naturally on the go all the time, the faster practices tend to resonate. If your idea of chilling out is pottering in the garden or chilling out with a glass of wine and plate of cheese, then the slower methods tend to be your starting point. After all we tend to fell at home in a class that replicates our normal rhythms.
For people who like to get into a sweat, the best styles to go for are vinyasa, power, Bikram, flow and aerial. These practices are all about getting your body heat up to cleanse you inside and outside. They have momentum and difficult postures, so Type A's love them. They also are great for those of you who strive on challenge and progress.
On the other hand, if you are into taking your time, and want to destress and feel calmer, Yin, Restoration, Trauma are the practices to try out. They do longer holds, focus more on breath and are all about bringing you back into your parasympathetic state. This is where the systems of the body begin to repair and rest. In a yin class you can be asked to hold a posture anywhere from 5-9 minutes. Wonderful for helping your mind switch off.
Of course, if you are drawn to yoga for its spiritual practices, Kundalini (influenced by Shaktism and Tantra), Raja (meditation), Karma (doing things for others) and Bhakti (devotion) yoga may just be what you are after. These focus much more on the internal practices of yoga. The chanting, acts of service, and on moving your internal energies towards bliss.
If you are interested in yoga for the long haul, I would advocate picking a lineage. Finding a teacher who has studied underneath one of the masters. Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who died in 1989 (he lived to 100), was one such master. He was the teacher of Indra Devi, Pattabhi Jois (Ashtanga) and BKS Iyengar. The main teachers who brought yoga to the west. These practices have depth, consistency and with steady work deliver amazing life-long results.
So be brave, put on your activewear, grab a friend to take with you, and try out a few styles until you find one you love. Yoga is a wonderful way to stay well and stress free. Most schools offer beginner courses too so you can try it out with other new students. If you do go to a general class set yourself up in the middle of the room and let your teacher know you are new.
Martine loves combining breath work and movement, and her classes are a balanced mix of challenging poses and relaxation techniques. She has been practicing yoga since 1995 and started teaching in 1999. Martine originally trained in Iyengar under Anna Prior and later trained in Hatha before discovering her love of Ashtanga.