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May 20, 2019

A breakdown of the five major types of yoga

Fitness Yoga

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Limited - Independence LIVE Yoga on the Mat March 2019 Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice.com

Yoga on the Mat at Independence LIVE.

Yoga has become one of the country’s most talked about fitness trends, popularized by hip studios, mobile apps for the on-the-go yogi, and the persuasive urgings of yoga evangelists. It’s practiced by roughly 37 million people in the United States—an impressive one out of ten. But what about the rest of us?

The Hindu practice of aligning different postures and stretches with breathing can feel pretty intimidating to someone who’s new to the yoga community, and skimming a class schedule for that new yoga studio down the block can feel like reading a different language. Understanding the different types of yoga and the distinct benefits of each can take the stress out of beginning a new practice.

Here are five common types of yoga to get you started:

Hatha

Hatha yoga is an umbrella term for any type of yoga that teaches physical postures, which is basically every type of yoga taught in the West. If a class is marked Hatha, you can expect a light introduction to basic yoga positions, like tree pose, downward dog, and child’s pose. These classes are generally slower-paced and gentle, making them ideal for anyone looking to unwind, release tension, or take an active rest day between higher intensity workouts.

Vinyasa

Vinyasa, the Sanskrit phrase meaning “to place in a special way,” refers to a fluid yoga practice made up of a repeated sequence of poses. While the specifics of a Vinyasa yoga class will vary from teacher to teacher, the emphasis on linking a “flow” of movement with the breath will remain the same. Vinyasa yoga is often a more rigorous practice, requiring higher levels of stamina and strength. If you’re looking for a good workout, Vinyasa classes are a great option.

Bikram

Bikram yoga is a unique physical experience, made distinct by its set of 26 poses and 105-degree setting. Anyone teaching this class professionally is required to be a Bikram-certified instructor, so you can expect to learn from someone who knows what they’re doing. The classes run for 90 minutes and feature poses like the standing bow and half-moon. The moves are low-impact and evenly paced, making it a good option for runners or anyone experiencing sore joints. The heat, however, can be dangerous for people with cardiovascular issues, high-blood pressure, or those more susceptible to dehydration or heat stroke.

Yin Yoga

Yin yoga is primarily focused around release. The poses and breathwork specific to this type of yoga are focused on increasing the flexibility of joints and ligaments and helping muscles lengthen and become more mobile. In a Yin yoga session, poses are often floor-based and held for up to several minutes. While you might not get as sweaty in Yin yoga as you would in a Vinyasa class, it’s great for senior citizens, people with a decreased range of motion, or athletes recovering from an injury.

Ashtanga

Designed to build core strength, tone the body, and increase the connection between movement and breath, Ashtanga yoga is one of the more vigorous styles. The practice is made up of five series, and each student must learn and master each pose in the first series before moving to the next. These classes are frequently taught in the “ Mysore style,” meaning students are encouraged to memorize a sequence and work through it individually during class. If you’re comfortable with yoga and looking for a challenge, Ashtanga is the class the for you.

Whether you’ve been committed to yoga for years or are just getting started, practicing yoga is a great way to reduce stress, gain strength, and increase mobility. If you’re a beginner, it can be hard to know where to start—but familiarizing yourself with the types of yoga and their vocabulary will make the process less nerve-wracking.

Take a yoga class at Independence LIVE:

Yoga on the Mat – Mondays at 12:15 p.m.
Learn more and register

Chair Yoga for Seniors – Thursdays at 11:15 a.m.
Learn more and register

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