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Beginners Guide to Choosing a Yoga Practice

yogastylesThere are a lot of different styles of yoga. It’s hard to know where to begin. I’m not an expert on this but here’s a basic guide to 7 of the most popular yoga practices to help you decipher which one is right for you.

Ashtanga – This is the style that I’m working on right now. I find it very challenging, frustrating, and rewarding. This style of yoga is very physically demanding. This class flows through a series of poses with synchronized breathing that will leave you sweating out all those toxins. The goal of Ashtanga is improved circulation, flexibility, and stamina. This is an athletic style that should not be attempted by beginners but is something to work towards.

Bikram – In traditional Bikram classes you’ll do a series of 26 poses and you’ll run through the series twice. You’ll know what to expect each week. You’ll also be practicing in a ‘hot’ and humid environment. The predictability of Bikram classes make them perfect for a beginner who’s just getting used to yoga.

Hatha – Hatha yoga classes are very classic. You’ll do basic yoga practices with a focus on breathing correctly with each pose. This is a ‘parent’ style of yoga. Because of it’s slow style, Hatha is a good class for beginners.

Iyengar – This type of yoga uses props like yoga blocks, wheels, and incline boards to help you get into proper poses. If you’re working on taking your practice to the next level, this is a good class to take. It will allow you to practice those more difficult poses with the help of a prop until you can do them on your own.

Restorative – This is a very relaxing form of yoga that moves slowly through each gentle pose. You should feel like a new person after this class. If you’ve been tense or stressed regular restorative classes can really help. Everyone from beginners to advanced yogi’s can benefit from a restorative class. It can be particularly good for people who lead stressful lives or struggle with anxiety.

Vinyasa – In Sanskrit, Vinyasa means movement or position of limbs. This is a very powerful style of yoga that matches breath with movement. These movements are all linked together in such a way that the student have a balanced experience physically, mentally, and spiritually. This is not a class for a beginner. You need to have a good knowledge of yoga and proper form in order to avoid injury in this class.

Yin – In these classes you’ll find yourself holding poses for a longer time. The teacher will encourage you to relax your muscles and let gravity pull you into a deeper stretch. A Yin class should be a good compliment to a muscle forming yoga class such as Ashtanga. Yin yoga will require you to practice quietly, patiently, and meditatively.

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While many gyms or studios will simply list ‘yoga’ on their class schedule, it’s important to get a clarification on what type of yoga is being taught. Not all yoga is created equal and knowing what to expect when you go in will help you have a better experience. Better yet, look for establishments that list the style of the yoga class right on their schedule and are true to each form.


Have you tried yoga? Which style sounds like a good fit for you?

Kimberly Lynne
Librarian - History Nerd - Nature Lover - Notebook Hoarder - Mom - Wife