It’s that time of year! We’re seeing school uniforms, heavier traffic and shorter evenings. Autumn. The season where routine kicks back into gear and a sense of organisation descends following months of letting loose and enjoying the long evenings that summer has to offer. With more structure to the days ahead, September can become synonymous with embarking on a new hobby or fitness regime. Those considering trying yoga can become overwhelmed as they hit ‘search’ in Google and discover a world of variations and types of classes that seem to be on offer. Let me take you through the most common styles you may encounter.
Hatha yoga, as it's practised in the West, covers nearly all types of modern yoga. One of the six original branches of yoga it is commonly referred to as just ‘yoga’. Classes described as ‘hatha’ or simply, ‘yoga’, will generally take a basic and classical approach incorporating breathing exercises and physical postures. A great place for beginners to get a feel for the practice, each class will work through a variety of poses, not necessarily the same as the last.
Ashtanga yoga can be a strong, physical practice. Fast-moving, the yogi flows from one pose to the next with each movement linked by the breath. A typical Ashtanga class will work through a couple of Sun Salutations following by a sequence of standing poses. After which, the practitioner completes one of six established pose sequences or ‘series’ followed by a closing sequence. Only when the yogi has mastered the first or ‘Primary’ series can they move on to the next. This can take years of consistent practice.
Warning! Prepare to sweat! Bikram yoga, invented by Bikram Choudhury, takes place in a room heated to 40oC with 40% humidity and is a series of the same 26 yoga postures each performed twice during a 90 minute class. Best results physically are seen when practised at least 3 times a week though this can also prove costly.
Derived from Ashtanga, Vinyasa yoga is quite active and athletic though unlike Ashtanga, does not adhere to the same sequence of poses. Often referred to as ‘flow’ classes, the style of class will vary from teacher to teacher but generally each movement is linked with the breath and originates from Ashtanga.
Named after founder B.K.S. Iyengar, this style of yoga focuses on exact alignment and methodical sequencing. Props such as blocks, bricks and straps are used to get the yogi perfectly into position.
Advice for Beginners:
There are many different styles of yoga not mentioned here but for the complete beginner I recommend attending a Hatha yoga class for at least six months to understand the basics. After that, exploring different styles and teachers is a great way to find out what approach suits your needs. Most studios offer drop in classes so you can explore your options before committing to a particular style. Whatever class you decide on, you are guaranteed to find a physical practice that also focuses on mindfulness and breathing. Attending a regular yoga class can bring about better sleeping patterns, increased energy levels, improved physical health, an overall feeling of well being and it’s never too late to start so, what are you waiting for?!