The Many Faces of Yoga

You sign up for a yoga class at your gym only to discover it’s not what you expected. It’s 105 degrees and 40% humidity and you’re supposed to work out? Or maybe you’re a HIIT fan looking to try something new, so you join a yoga class only to find it’s mostly meditative and spiritual. There are many different faces of yoga; you just have to find one that reflects your own.

Hatha yoga is one of the most commonly practiced forms. It isn’t drill sergeant driven, and while it can give your heart and muscles a good workout, it’s not a more-is-better kind of yoga. It’s focus is on poses that are held for a few breaths (breathing is a primary focus) to help you connect your mind to your body. Doing Hatha yoga just three times a week can strengthen muscles, increase flexibility, and generally give you an improved overall feeling because of the hormones it stimulates in the brain.

Restorative yoga is similar to Hatha in that it is focused on breathing, but to a greater degree. This is a very gentle form of yoga that helps relieve stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, and help with healing. This is the most relaxing form of yoga, and that’s the point. No feel-the-burn here.

If you’re looking for more challenging yoga, you might give Vinyasa yoga a try. It’s a little more fast-paced, so you’ll need to learn fast. It definitely has more of a workout feel than Hatha yoga, but still follows a sequence of asanas designed to strengthen and increase flexibility. You’ll get your heart rate up in this class.

At the far end of the yoga spectrum (not including all the pop-up fad iterations) are things like Bikram and Hot Yoga. The studios are heated and humidity is about 40%. You’ll sweat like the Nile in these classes. Plan to purchase a high tack yoga mat to make sure your perspiration doesn’t cause you to lose your grip. Bikram yoga is predictable with its twenty-six repeated poses, so if you like repetition, this might be a good choice for you. Hot yoga isn’t limited to any poses; instructor’s choice is the name of this game.

The best way to discover the place where you feel comfortable living your Yoga Mat Life is to try a few different types of classes. When your mind and body agree on a particular style of yoga, you’ve found your home.