Find the correct yoga style that works for you
Get your om on, the right way
The benefits of yoga cannot be overstated. More than 800 forms, practiced across the globe, are evidence of its positive effects on the body, mind and soul. And yet, if your current class makes you want to get into full-blown savasana (also known as ‘corpse position’) within the first 10 minutes, you might just have picked the wrong kind. So how do you zero in on the right form for yourself? Start by defining what you want from it.
Are you looking for a sweaty workout or seeking more gentle restorative benefits? Second: understand your body’s flexibility and strength, and don’t ignore any injuries. Radhika Vachani, founder of Mumbai’s Yogacara Healing Arts studio, also believes finding the right instructor is paramount. “Competitive classes may push you beyond your physical limits, causing long-term damage to the body. Find a teacher who cares about you,” she says. Now that you know what you want, here’s a refresher on the most popular styles out there.
Find the right yoga style for you
Try it if: You feel experimental
Created by an American choreographer, Christopher Harrison, in 2007, this playful spin-off can be tailored to any fitness level. Somehow suspended in silk hammocks, two feet off the ground, makes it easier to do a headstand, even for a beginner. You don’t have to worry about ripping through the hammocks; they are made of high-density fabric that can support over 900kg. Besides being a great full-body workout, the inversion also helps lengthen the spine. Plus, nothing beats meditating in a silky cocoon.
Try it if: You’re a newbie in need of a strong foundation
Hatha yoga has inspired almost all forms of yoga and is good for those who seek a relaxed pace. It focuses on physical exercises like asanas, and breathing techniques. The key is to maintain the right stance since most poses act as weight-bearing exercises. With regular practice, you can reduce lower back pain, strengthen your core, boost flexibility and tone your body.
Try it if: You're an experienced yogi
Power yoga is literally vinyasa on speed. You transition through poses rapidly with no rest in between. Post a 40-minute session, your FitBit will indicate some serious calorie burn. Your cardiovascular health will improve and you’ll have a stronger core, too. But leave this one to the pros, since there’s a higher chance of injury if you’re new to the mat and are not familiar with the correct form.
Try it if: You're partial to sweaty workouts
Think basic yoga poses, but performed at temperatures of 37°C and above. The heat detoxifies the body and, over time, makes stiff muscles limber. You can perform the toughest asanas with ease, and even expect some weight loss. But you must be cautious, Vachani says, “These unnatural conditions may overstretch the ligaments and muscles once you leave the hot room.” To avoid this, always make sure you warm up before the class and maintain the correct posture.
Try it if: You prefer a regimen
Originating from Mysore, ashtanga is for the more experienced yoga practitioner. Though it’s similar to vinyasa, ashtanga follows a rigid flow that was set by the revered yoga saint Patanjali. Ashtanga expert Deepika Mehta, who has trained actors such as Deepika Padukone and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, says, “You’ll always start with eight surya namaskars, followed by standing and then sitting poses.” The session ends with tougher inversion asanas. “Ashtanga helps develop strength, flexibility and stamina, and leads to a toned core and body,” she adds.
Try it if: You need a helping hand
This specific branch of Iyengar yoga involves the additional support of wall ropes. The ropes reduce the strain of your body weight, allowing you to sink deeper into every pose, which makes it perfect for anyone with a stiff or weak body. Not only does it make it super easy for amateur yogis to experience inversions (along the wall, supported by the ropes), but it also helps reduce back pain and improve mobility in your joints.
Try it if: You hate routine
Vinyasa is a physically challenging workout in which you ‘flow’ seamlessly through a series of postures, holding each for four to five breaths. Founder of Tangerine Arts Studio in Mumbai and yoga teacher Tanvi Mehra says it’s her most popular workshop. “As you move, the poses get tougher and the body gets warmer—it’s moving meditation.” You’ll reap the benefits of a killer cardio workout that aids weight loss and boosts organ health. Beginners can opt for a hatha-vinyasa hybrid to get familiar with this style.
Try it if: You are stiff and injury-prone
Founded by BKS Iyengar, this healing form works on your flexibility as it prepares you for more challenging levels. Since it lays great emphasis on alignment and posture, it typically uses aids like blocks, ropes and chairs. “Iyengar is the only form of yoga that creates both physical and mental awareness by opening up the body, layer by layer, and working through the muscular structure without damaging it,” says Vachani. It does not have the heart rate-pumping benefits of some other styles, but holding poses for longer improves balance and is therapeutic for injuries.
Whichever style you pick, remember to consider your body’s limitations and check in with how you feel after a class. The strongest sign that a particular style of yoga resonates with you is if it makes you want to go back. Mehra recommends you give yourself some time, because, “Finding the right style of yoga is a journey.”