Why give yoga a try?
These days, yoga classes are more popular than ever. The practice is popping up in gyms, schools, online, not to mention actual yoga studios. But what is yoga? The best way to describe yoga is a practice that connects the body, breathing and the mind. The health benefits of yoga are numerous. Positions like downward dog and plank pose work your core and upper body, whilst the standing poses build strength in your quadriceps, hamstrings, and abdominal muscles. Most of what you do every day - working at a desk, watching TV, even running and cycling - shorten and tighten your muscles. Yoga lengthens and loosens them. Yoga also helps improve posture and balance, and it helps lower stress and focus your mind.
What is the history of yoga?
Yoga is an ancient practice originating from India that dates back over 5,000 years. The word yoga comes from the Sankrit word yuj meaning 'to yoke' or 'to bind' and yoga is often interpreted as a union.
Choose a style
There are many different styles of yoga. Because of this, it can be hard to decide on which style to choose. To get started, it’s helpful to begin with a list that clearly prioritises what needs you want to fulfill. Are you looking to sweat your way towards a slim, lean physique, or does a gentler, more meditative approach sound more appealing?
Hatha yoga - Hatha yoga refers to any form of yoga that's gentle and slow-paced, usually well suited for beginners. Traditionally, hatha yoga is seen as a practice to prepare the body for deeper meditation.
Yin yoga - Yin yoga focuses on connective tissues (ligaments and tendons) rather than muscles. It does not focus on warming the muscles or moving quickly; rather it encourages long-held poses that foster relaxation. Yin poses are very passive and often done with props.
Restorative yoga - Restorative yoga is all about healing the mind and body through simple poses often held for as long as 20 minutes, with the help of props such as bolsters, pillows and straps. It is similar to yin yoga, but with less emphasis on flexibility and more on relaxing.
Ashtanga yoga - The practice of Ashtanga that is getting mainstream attention today is a fast-paced series of sequential postures. It is a more vigorous style of yoga. It offers a series of poses, each held for only five breaths and punctuated by a half sun salutation to keep up the pace.
Vinyasa flow yoga - Vinyasa yoga is the general term used for faster-paced "flow" classes. These classes can cross various schools of yoga, and they will move faster than a hatha class.
Iyengar yoga - In an Iyengar class, poses (especially standing postures) are typically held much longer, so that the teacher can pay close attention to the precise muscular and skeletal alignment of students. Also specific to Iyengar is the use of props, including belts, chairs, blocks, and blankets, to help accommodate any special needs such as injuries or structural imbalances.
Bikram yoga - Performed in a hot, humid room - when you take a Bikram yoga class, expect to sweat. Classes last 90-minutes and consist of 26 poses.
If you're already doing lots of strength training, a yoga style that focuses more on flexibility, such as yin or hatha, may be the best choice for you. Individuals with sports injuries or chronic medical conditions might want to try Iyengar yoga, or one-to-one sessions with a teacher where you will be able to focus on your unique needs. For those who are physically fit and want a challenge, ashtanga vinyasa or vinyasa flow might be a good choice.