Are you asking yourself what style of yoga is right for me? Then this breakdown of styles and questions to ask yourself is the perfect way to find out
Do you want to start yoga but don’t know where to start? Ruth Delahunty is here with a breakdown of each different yoga style as well as who they’re best suited for. If you’re wondering what style of yoga is right for me, this article has the answer
Find your formula
There are countless answers to the question ‘why try yoga?’, and that ‘why’ changes as we progress through our journey. Everyone’s reason is different. Ranging from physical benefits like mobility, back problems or pain management, to mental benefits like stress relief and self care. Regardless of your ‘why’, finding a yoga formula that works for you is a life changer.
The right yoga practice is more than just finding the right style of yoga. When, where and with whom all play an important role in finding your perfect fit. The time of day you practice impacts your experience. A morning practice has very different benefits compared to those of an evening practice. Try to practice at a time that not only suits you, but also feels right for you physically.
Find a yoga studio that makes you feel completely at ease. This might take a few visits, especially if you are completely new and feeling a bit of nervous about your first yoga class. Find one or two yoga teachers that you feel comfortable with and supported by. A good teacher will help you evolve your practice and allow you to grow. Even if you think you are getting no closer to reaching your toes, your practice is constantly evolving each time you come to your mat.
Read more: How to master tree pose
Balance your activity
The doorway to yoga is through the physical body, so for the purpose of finding your yoga we’re going to look at how you habitually move your body. Balance is about finding movement practices that suit you and compliment each other.
Start by asking yourself is yoga your main form of movement or are you combining it with another activity?Use the questions below to help you work out what style of practice will suit you.
- Is it your main form of movement? What is the rest of your day like? Are you on the go all day and need a gentle mindful yoga practice? Or are you working a desk job and need a vigorous yoga practice?
- Are you combining it with other forms of movement? What is the quality of your other movement? Is it high intensity like running or cycling? If so you’ll need a calmer focused practice. While with low intensity activities like walking you’ll need a dynamic practice.
- What is the muscle pattern of your activity? Are you lifting weights in the gym so need to balance the strength you are building? Or do you participate competitively in sports and need a combination of strengthening your weak areas and stretching tight areas?
Tailor to your needs
Regardless of what style of yoga you choose, every time you come to the top of your mat, either at home or in a class, you will feel different. Ask yourself, ‘what do I need today?’ The answer will probably be related to your energy levels. Base your approach to your practice for that day on your answer. If you are physically or mentally fatigued, be kind to yourself and move gently. If you are feeling well rested and ready to go, move with intensity and focus.
You might think led classes are beyond your control, but there is plenty you can do to tailor them to your energy levels. There are always options given for the stronger poses and you can decide how many child’s poses you take.
Read more: How to master downward dog
Experiment with practicing at different times of the day, different studios, different styles of yoga and different teachers. Once you find a formula that works for you enjoy the process as your practice unfolds.
Yoga styles 101
There are many forms of yoga. They come from the same origin and are more similar than they are different. You will notice a lot of the poses are the same, what differs might be how long you hold the poses and if the sequence changes or is set. Below are the main types of yoga styles you will come across on studio class schedules.
All physical yoga is in essence considered hatha yoga. In terms of a class type hatha is generally a gentler form of yoga with slow mindful movement and is suitable for all levels of experience.
Great for: an introduction to yoga and those looking for gentle mindful movement.
Not great for: those looking for a strong physical practice.
Vinyasa is a dynamic flowing practice with a strong emphasis on connecting breath with movement. The sequence is not set, it is mainly theme-based and tailored to physical or mental requirements.
Great for: those looking for a movement based active practice which will help you achieve a meditative flow.
Not great for: can be quite a fast paced class and requires an element of cardiovascular fitness.
Yin is a slow-paced class where poses are held for 3 to 5 minutes. It works on the meridian lines, gets deep into the connective tissue and encourages ‘playing with the edge’.
Great for: those who partake in competitive sports with a repetitive movement that has caused areas of tightness.
Not great for: those who have some muscle attachment issues that will be further irritated by long holds.
Ashtanga is a vigorous practice with a set sequence of poses which consist of a primary and secondary series. There is an emphasis on mastering each pose in order to progress to the more challenging poses.
Great for: those looking for a strong practice with plenty of vinyasas and slightly longer intense holds.
Not great for: those who have shoulder or knee issues due to the repetitive movement in repeated vinyasas and strong hip work.
Iyengar has a strong focus on correct alignment and use of props to better your alignment. Because of its accuracy Iyengar teachers are highly qualified and it has the potential to be used for therapeutic purposes. Great for: beginners and teacher trainees to help get a good grasp of correct alignment in each pose. Not great for: those looking for a flowing class and space to switch off the thinking mind.
To help you get started have a listen to my recent interview on ‘Yoga for you’ with the fabulous Ciara Kellys on her inspirational podcast The Irish Balance.
Ruth Delahunty is a 200hr Yoga Alliance certified teacher and founder of Yogaru.ie, a yoga lifestyle website that promotes a yoga way of living both on and off the mat. For more information visit yogaru.ie.