Yoga was established more than 5,000 years ago. Techniques were passed from yogi to student and, today, this complex practice has spread from India, all over the globe. This spiritual and physical exercise focuses on strength, balance, meditation, and clarity. There are many types of yoga; some focus on spirituality, while others are more physical. All stem from the same basic principles but shift their focus to different areas and methods.
Restorative yoga is one of the best types of yoga for beginners. It focuses on slowing down and relieving stress and tension through passive stretching. In restorative yoga, it’s not uncommon to only take a few poses in the span of a one-hour class. Other types of yoga place a lot of focus on athleticism, but restorative yoga allows for deep relaxation; it uses props for support to keep things as stress-free as possible, and this makes it suitable for people of every ability.
Hatha yoga is a flowing practice that incorporates slightly longer holds for many of its poses. Sessions typically last 45 to 90 minutes and consist of posing, breathing, and often meditation. The slow, focused movements and time to sink into each pose can make hatha a good option for people just learning yoga postures. It’s physically and mentally challenging and helps relieve stress, improve emotional health, and enhance sleep duration and quality.
Vinyasa yoga flows through poses as well, with much of the focus being on the smooth transition from pose to pose. Many of the postures are held for a single breath, so practitioners are moving on both the inhale and the exhale. This strengthens the connection between movement and breath. Almost every vinyasa practice begins with repeated sun salutations, which bring heat into the body.
During a hot yoga class, the temperature of the room is between 95 and 105 degrees. This heat is intended to help loosen the muscles and encourage sweating to cleanse and release toxins. Hot yoga is usually in a vinyasa style, with constant flowing movements closely linked to breathing. It is important to hydrate well before a hot yoga class, bring a towel, and dress appropriately.
Aerial yoga uses silk hammocks suspended from the ceiling to support various poses and flows. The instability of the hammock helps increase strength, while also facilitating flexibility and making more challenging poses possible with less strain. Aerial yoga builds upper body and core strength with less risk to joint health and can help improve skills in other types of yoga as well.
Iyengar yoga focuses on precision and aims for perfect alignment in each and every pose. It builds balance, strength, and flexibility and can be effective in treating lower back pain. Iyengar yoga uses props such as pillows, chairs, straps, and blocks to achieve and maintain perfect alignment and balance. Poses are performed in a specific order to maximize benefits and track progress.
Yin is the opposite of yang, and together, the two represent the duality of nature. Yang is masculine energy, light, and warmth. Yin is feminine energy, darkness, and coolness. In yin yoga, practitioners hold poses from one to ten minutes, and during this time focus on releasing the muscles and connective tissue involved in the posture, for deep ease and relaxation. The idea of sitting with discomfort is key in yin yoga, and the main distinction between it and restorative, though both styles may use props.
Katonah yoga combines yoga poses with geometry, Taoist principles, and Chinese medicine to transform perspectives on life. It incorporates props and the belief that the body is designed to fit into itself from top to bottom and side to side. For example, when lunging, placing the knee into the armpit brings stability. It does not focus on muscle development but instead emphasizes bones and alignment, along with optimizing organ function.
Kundalini is the untapped energy at the base of the spine that individuals can move up the body through locks or chakras. This yoga style uses a preset series of poses called kriyas to tap into this energy. Some sequences are rapid, while others are held for several minutes. Coordinated breathing and reciting mantras are also a part of kundalini. This type of yoga focuses on many aspects beyond postures, making it one of the more spiritually driven varieties.
Ashtanga yoga is a specific style of vinyasa that focuses on slow, flowing patterns. Rather than varying sequences, however, ashtanga is a defined sequence, with each posture being held for five breaths. There are three sets of postures, each more challenging than the one before. The first focuses on forwarding bends, the second on backbends, and the third on arm balances. Dedicated students of Ashtanga must perfect one set of postures before moving on to the next.