By Jewell Fears for Vinazine

 

As a former athlete (gymnast to be exact), I’m used to putting my body into precarious positions. After being injured in a competition many moons ago, I’ve struggled to find an activity that not only challenges my body but doesn’t exacerbate my injury while doing so.

Being sympathetic to my dilemma, a girlfriend of mine suggested I try “hot yoga” (hot what now?!) I had never heard of it, let alone knew where to sign up for it. After my initial confusion passed, she invited me to her local studio. 90 minutes and 800 buckets of sweat later, I emerged from the studio declaring I’d never try that again! However, my interest was peaked by the stretching and fluid movements of the practice. I decided to dig a little more and research the different types of yoga so I could find the best class for me.

The first thing I did was make a list of the different types of yoga and, based on their description, would decide which one would be best for my super basic level of proficiency. Also, one that wouldn’t cause me to sweat out my body weight before the end of class. Although I found quite a few different types, there seemed to be five that were the most popular with classes being easily found.

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HATHA

You’ll find this term used very loosely in the yoga world, as every style is technically Hatha in practice. It refers mostly to being introduced to the very basic postures of yoga. This would be perfect for a beginner or someone looking to get a little more limber before jumping into a full-blown style.

 

ASHTANGA

Popularized in the 1970s by K. Pattabhi Jois, this style focuses on sequencing each posture with your breath. Although superfluid, this is a demanding style that will definitely work up a sweat.

 

VINYASA

Translated from Sanskrit as “to place in a special way,” this style also follows a specific sequence of movements as with Ashtanga but allows for an infinite combination of those sequences. Think of this as the pick-your-own poison type of yoga – no two classes will be the same. Promise!

 

BIKRAM

A.k.a, hot yoga—sort of. Introduced by Bikram Choudhury, Bikram yoga is all about the sequence of its 26 poses. Taught in heated rooms, this class is very specific in how each pose flows into the next, which is why not all Bikram classes are hot yoga classes. Any class that deviates from the exact 26 pose sequence Choudhury established cannot call itself “Bikram.” However, all Bikram classes are technically hot yoga classes. Confused yet? See “80 buckets of sweat” above for clarification.

 

IYENGAR

This style is hyper-focused on proper alignment and breath in each pose. Yoga props are often used to assist in the ultimate stretch and, being such a meticulous style, the instructors must go through rigorous training to gain certification. This style is also touted to be the best style if you have an injury or chronic condition because of the steady, focused hold and stretch challenges. Bingo!

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It may look way over your head at first, but yoga is one of the best forms of exercise you can do for your health. Not only does it involve your core and many of your muscle groups, but it also brings mental clarity and relaxation. So don’t be afraid to try it—start slow and easy, doing only the exercises you feel comfortable for the amount of time you can hold it. The beautiful thing about this practice is that it is very much an individual experience (in a group setting), which allows you to focus on incremental growth and personal improvement.

 

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