As yoga classes have become common offerings at gyms, health clubs and even churches around the country, it's helpful to know the differences between yoga styles. Here, I'll discuss three types of yoga and their differences. I didn't know the differences myself, so I've researched it and credited sources where needed. My basic learning? There's a lot of overlap between these three styles, and that might explain why my gym just calls yoga class "yoga" instead of a proper name. Still, all yoga types share these three elements: focus on posture, mindfulness and breathing. That is precisely what makes yoga different from simply stretching.
1. Ashtanga yoga is, according to ashtangayoga.com, a "method of yoga synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures." You'll sweat because that movement increases your body temperature. In this style, breath is very important; it's linked to each movement and posture, also called asanas.
2. Hatha yoga teaches physical postures. My research indicates that if your gym is offering "yoga," it's probably hatha yoga. It's said to be gentler than more specific forms of yoga, and you're less likely to work up a sweat. You'll feel different however - I call it (hokey alert!) an inner stillness. I just feel happier, but not quite as busy in my own head.
3. Vinyasa yoga is commonly also called "flow yoga." It generally means you'll do these three movements repeatedly in the class: plank, chaturanga and upward facing dog. You will do other poses - warrior I, warrior II and triangle to name a few - but you'll do chaturanga a lot! In fact, I am hard pressed to remember a single yoga class in which I didn't do those three asanas (plus many more) regardless of how the instructor named the class, though chaturanga was new to me when I began practicing flow yoga earlier this year.
If all of that is more information than you need, you might consider which part of your body needs the most "help." In nearly every yoga class I've attended, the instructor is very open to suggestions (it's the yogi's way!), sometimes even asking the class what it wants to work on. My answer? Hips. My hip flexors be tight, yo! Even when they're not particularly cranky, they always feel better after a good stretch.
How about it? Do you attend yoga classes? What's the biggest benefit you've found?
Want some more information about getting started with yoga? Check these resources:
Yoga for Beginners
3 Simple Yoga Poses for Recovery
3 Yoga Poses to Fix That Office Ache