No other fitness discipline has demonstrated the staying power of yoga. Practiced for thousands of years, yoga continues to grow in popularity.
A 2015 survey reported that one in ten American adults has tried at least one downward dog, a percentage that doubled from the previous decade.
Yoga has many mind-body benefits—increasing strength and flexibility, defining muscles and providing stress relief. The benefits begin with your first class.
Getting started is easy. All it takes are some workout clothes, a good class, and deciding which of the numerous types of yoga to practice.
Fortunately, the Hudson Valley offers classes in many of those varieties, with a focus on the five most popular in the US: Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar and Bikram yoga.
Whichever type of yoga you choose, there can be plenty of variation in classes of the same discipline.
Which practice is best for you? The only way to know for sure is to try a few classes. The positions in each class will be similar but the pace, order, and approach may differ. The style of each teacher may also differ. Here’s an idea of what you might expect.
Hatha yoga is really a general term that can be used to label any yoga practice, but most classes described as hatha yoga today offer a slow-paced, gentle type of yoga, with a focus on meditation and breathing. This gentle introduction to yoga postures is well-suited for beginners since it focuses on one pose at a time.
Vinyasa focuses on synchronizing breath with a flowing sequence of movements. A focal point in most vinyasa classes is the Sun Salutation, a series of 12 poses, which ideally transition in a graceful sequence. Vinyasa can be translated to mean gradual progression. It is good for strengthening the mind-body connection.
This type of yoga incorporates all eight branches of Ashtanga yoga and adds body alignment exercises. As a result, there’s more of an emphasis on standing postures. Besides offering the same benefits as other yoga practices, Iyengar yoga exercises can help improve balance.
This modern yoga model is based closely on the Ashtanga method and sometimes the terms are used interchangeably. However, the order of Ashtanga yoga classes is always the same, whereas the equally intense power yoga can vary with every class. Power yoga is good for maintaining strength and stamina and the aerobic approach might help you lose weight.
This cardiovascular workout combines yoga, calisthenics, and Pilates exercises, with the aim of building overall strength and flexibility, as well as improving posture and balance. If you can’t decide between yoga and Pilates, this class is perfect for you. Ask in advance if you need to bring a yoga mat and dumbbells.
Restorative yoga postures are slow and steady. Rather than moving quickly from pose to pose, restorative yoga uses props such as blocks and blankets to support the body so positions can be held for longer. The props help muscles relax deeply and stretch gradually into the posture.
This vigorous athletic form of yoga features a set of exercises that always take place in the same order. Ashtanga means eight branches. One benefit to taking an ashtanga yoga class is that once you learn the Ashtanga sequence of exercises, you can go to any class in the world and expect the same. Another benefit is that having the same sequence of poses in every class allows practitioners to perfect them. The room is often heated to a toasty 80 to 90 degrees, so bring a towel.
Some like their yoga really hot. Bikram, or hot yoga, is generally practiced in a room that’s heated to 95 or 100 degrees. The theory behind Bikram Yoga is that warm temperatures help tight muscles relax. Sweating is part of the practice and thought to help flush out toxins. Bikram Yoga classes are typically 90 minutes long and consist of a sequence of 26 postures.
Finally, there’s even a form of yoga you can practically do in your sleep. Yoga nidra is not really physical exercise but it’s a great way to become aware of your body and de-stress.
Yoga Nidra Yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, helps you focus on your breath, identify sensations in your body, and relax. Practitioners lie down comfortably and listen to a guided meditation led by their teacher. It’s not unusual for people to fall asleep during sessions, as relaxation can be deep. The end goal is to leave class feeling renewed and refreshed.
This story was originally published in VisitVortex.com.