I think it’s quite a cool thing that yoga is so prevalent now. There are a lot of studios that are well-established throughout the US in many cities. The myriad of classes being offered gives us all options to try out different styles and find ones that best suit our body and mind.
However, it can be slightly daunting if you are new at this whole thing. I mean, which class are you supposed to start in? What is the difference between a level 1 or 2 yoga class? What is the difference between gentle yoga and restorative? What is Yin? Core? Power? Jivamukti? Vinyasa flow? Iyengar? Ashtanga? Hatha?
Ergo, say hello to Le List. I have compiled a list of commonly offered yoga classes and styles and have done my best to describe them. My hope is to help you, my dear readers, in discovering a yoga practice that works for YOU.
Always remember: yoga is a compassionate practice so please don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t doing an asana “perfectly” Take your time and be kind to yourself!
So onto Le List (I shall be using mostly English words for the names of poses)
In general, this class is offered as all levels (meant for everyone). This style is a classic form of yoga from which many other yoga styles have evolved. It’s like home base.
This is a GREAT class for everyone, whether you’re new or not (and my personal favorite)
What to Expect:
Hatha yoga classes usually start with some seated poses for warm ups (seated side stretches, seated twists, maybe some gentle heart-opening poses), as well as mindful breathing. Followed by which, there are a series of standing poses (such as Warrior 1 and 2, Tree, Triangle, Pyramid). There may also be some back bending poses such as Camel, and Hero (depending on your level, the teacher will offer modifications).
After the standing, balancing, back bending part of the class, the students cool down via restorative and rejuvenating poses (Seated Forward fold, Bound Angle, Bridge, Reclining twists) before coming to rest in Savasana.
Good for: Everyone – whether you’re new, seasoned, young, old-er, and more.
Ashtanga in Sanskrit stands for 8 limbs (Ashta – 8, Anga – Limb) which refers to the 8-fold path as described in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. The Ashtanga method was interpreted by T. Krishnamacharya and taught to his disciple, Sri K.Pattabhi Jois who has popularized this form of yoga.
Ashtanga yoga emphasizes a vinyasa (movement of limbs) practice which relies heavily on breathing, focus, and igniting the power of our pelvic floor muscles (mula bandha).
There a total of 6 series of Ashtanga asana sequences. A student starts with the primary series and once he/she has perfected the poses in this level, progresses onto the others.
What to Expect:
In a typical Ashtanga class, the teacher will lead the students through the primary or secondary series (Some yoga studios offer the advanced series) The poses are performed in a specific order with strict breath cues attached.
When a student and teacher both feel that the student has mastered the poses in a certain series, he or she may begin a practice that is self-led i.e the student will attend an Ashtanga class in a group setting but practice independently.
Ashtanga is quite a vigorous, inspiring and athletic style of yoga and its followers are fiercely loyal . If you are someone who enjoys a strict adherence to order, and independent study, then this style is for you.
Don’t be scared to try this style – it is challenging, but the teacher will work with you to modify your practice as needed, especially if you’re a beginner.
Good for: Those who are interested in a yoga challenge that is BOTH physical and mental. If you’re an absolute beginner to yoga and/or Ashtanga – please know that it takes many practitioners a long time to truly master one series before moving to the next one. Anyone can work towards this style of yoga, although I wouldn’t recommend that you start off with Ashtanga if you have shoulder and/or wrist injuries. The multiple Sun Salutation movements (and planks) can aggravate existing injuries.
Vinyasa Flow / Flow Yoga / Core Flow , etc:
Vinyasa yoga encompasses a broad range of yoga classes. The word vinyasa itself is derived from the Sanskrit word that stands for “movement, position of limbs”. Vinyasa aims to connect the breath with the body.
A vinyasa-style class involves movement from one pose to the next, timed with breathing. The classes are almost like a dance that is choreographed by the teacher.
A vinyasa movement can be something as simple as the cat / cow or a more complex series of asanas such as Sun Salutations. The key thing to note: movement with breath.
Vinyasa has inspired many different styles of yoga from Ashtanga, to Power, to Anusara, and Jivamukti.
What to Expect:
A class usually begins with warm ups that include seated warm ups, and Sun Salutations. Followed by which, the teacher will lead a sequence that links asana movement with breath.
Click below on the link to get a feel for what a vinyasa yoga class consists of
This style of class allows for a lot of variety. Each teacher has his or her own way of sequencing the asanas together at a certain pace i.e some teachers flow slower while others move quicker. It is a good way to build heat, and energy in the body. I often find myself sweating towards the middle of class.
As with any yoga class, there is quiet time towards the end to cool down the body.
Good for: Those who have a basic foundation in yoga poses. Due to the fact that this class does move through asanas at a quicker pace, those who are new to yoga might find it hard to keep up. Vinyasa yoga offers a creative outlet for many teachers and students as there isn’t a specific sequence of asanas that need to be followed. The unique combination of asanas taught by each teacher allows the students to experience yoga in different ways. Hence, it is important to find a vinyasa teacher that resonates with you. It also helps one to understand the importance of breathing with intention and control. If one loses focus on breathing, one begins to huff and puff, and not enjoy the class. Vinyasa yoga taught me to breathe properly in class and not rush through the inhale-exhale process.
There you have it for Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2 where we shall go over Power/Baron Baptiste, Iyengar, and a few more.
As always, thanks so much for stopping by and reading!