Yoga is a fantastic way to bring your body into balance, helping you to tone your muscles, improve your posture and increase your flexibility, at the same time as giving you a host of mental health benefits.
If you want to condition your body and your mind, adding yoga into your weekly exercise routine is a great plan. There are many different types of yoga to choose from, and each has distinct benefits and challenges. Here’s an overview of some of the most popular yoga styles:
Hatha yoga is a good choice for beginners, as it tends to be quite slow-paced and gentle, with a focus on relaxation and the mind. A Hatha yoga class will usually begin with some deep breathing exercises to help you let go of any built-up stress and tension, then progress into some sitting and standing poses designed to increase your strength and flexibility. Class formats will vary, as Hatha draws on a number of different yoga styles.
Ashtanga is an intense, fast-moving type of yoga based on a progressive series of poses that are synchronised with your breath. Because you move constantly from one pose to the next, Ashtanga is a more physically demanding form of yoga and can give you a good cardio workout.
This style of yoga is focused on the correct alignment and form of the body and helps you to stretch and strengthen different muscle groups. Each pose is held for up to two minutes before moving on to the next, so it is more slow-paced than Ashtanga, and the deep, strong poses challenge your core strength. Some Iyengar classes will use props such as straps, ropes and foam blocks to help beginners get used to new positions.
If you’re up for a bit of a cardio challenge, bikram hot yoga might be the style for you. This popular style of yoga is performed in a room heated to almost 40°C – so be ready to sweat. The heat helps you stretch deeper into the muscles and increase your flexibility. It also warms up the whole body, including the heart and lungs, giving you a good cardio workout. A typical Bikram class lasts 90 minutes and will go through 26 poses, with some relaxation in between each one.
Vinyasa is another fast-paced type of yoga and focuses on the synchronisation of the breath with movement. Usually, a vinyasa yoga class will begin with sun salutations, then progress into more intense stretching, balancing each pose with a counter-pose.
This is a Westernised version of Ashtanga yoga, based on the format of practising a series of poses in quick succession, without stopping and starting in between each one. The types of poses used may vary from class to class