Yoga has been around for over five thousand years, and yet with the rise of the internet and social media, it appears that it has just begun to boom in our mainstream culture. It is not uncommon to scroll past multiple stretchy pant donning, upside down “yogis” a day on your various social media accounts.
Yoga at its core was created with eight limbs: yama, niyamas, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. That being said, the main focus of modern day yoga is asana – body postures, pranayama – breath work and dhyana – meditation, although you will find other aspects of yoga sprinkled into different studios and classes.
Like any new pursuit, your initial class can be a bit intimating. I remember nervously laying my smelly borrowed mat on the ground for my first class, palms sweating and thinking to myself, “I do not belong here – I can’t even touch my toes!” Now, as a yoga teacher, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, “I’m not flexible enough for yoga” My response? “That is exactly why you’re here.”
Whether you’re nervously considering your first class and have no idea where to begin or you’re a tenured yogi busting out sun salutations like Patanjali himself, here is a helpful overview of just a few of the most popular yoga classes today.
Iyengar – For the first time yogi
BKS Iyengar, the father of Iyengar yoga, was one of the first men to bring yoga to the west. Iyengar instructors break down the anatomy of each pose and link movement and breath to guide you through the class. Iyengar is highly alignment (or form) stressed and will give anyone a fantastic base understanding of yoga. Expect to use props such as blocks, straps and blankets to help you through your practice.
Vinyasa – For the active yogi
Vinyasa is perhaps the most popular style today, offered at most studios and on multiple levels. Vinyasa covers a broad range of classes and influences many of the different types of classes you see in studios today. It is often times a quicker paced yoga class that will challenge your balance and breath. You may also see this class labeled as “flow”.
Hot yoga – For the sweat loving yogi
The popularity of hot yoga has risen dramatically over the past 10 years. Today, it is rare to see a studio that does not offer hot yoga. Hot yoga is typically a vinyasa style taking place in a room that is heated between 80-108 degrees. Bring a towel and prepare to sweat from places you’ve never sweat from before. Whether you want to burn a few extra calories or detox from a night of drinking – hot yoga will ring out all your regrets. Hot yoga may also be described as “power yoga”.
Yin/Restorative – For the stressed out yogi
So you’ve had a hectic week, rather than wind down with a glass of vino and a tub of ice cream, opt for a yin or restorative. In a yin class you will hold deep “stretching” poses anywhere from 3-5 minutes. This is made to get deep into the fascia, or connective tissue, that holds your muscles to your bone. I like to think of restorative as a nice long guided nap. Expect to feel relaxed and restored when you leave the studio.
Ashtanga – For the experienced and willing yogi
Ashtanga is a specific kind of vinyasa yoga created by K. Pattabhi Jois in the 20th century. It is a rigid style that follows a strict sequence each time, offered at a beginner level – primary series, moderate level – intermediate series, or for the seasoned Ashtanga practictioner – the advanced series. Don’t let the Sanskrit scare you, Ashtanga is a perfect way to truly understand the basics of yoga, deepen your practice, and learn to flow without the guidance of an instructor.
Acro Yoga – For the touchy feely yogi
If you follow any “yoga celebrities” on social media, you have probably seen a couple doing acro yoga on your feeds. Acro Yoga is a less traditional style of yoga that is typically practiced with 1-2 partners as you balance and hang on each other. Extended human touch is proven to release “feel good” chemicals (like oxytocin and dopamine) in our body and acro yoga is not short on touch. Whether you want to get connected with bae, get silly with your girlfriends or make new friends, acro yoga is sure to get you out of your comfort zone. You won’t find many acro yoga classes at your local studios but just type in “acro jam” in your favorite search engine and you will find a slew of acro yogis willing to throw you in the air.
Yogis don’t bite. Pop into your favorite studio and ask them which class they would recommend to a newbie. You will find that most classes listed above are offered on many different levels. Yoga can be serious practice used to get fit and it can be a fun, easy way to bring awareness to your body and mind. It is all about perspective. So get upside down and get your asana moving, yogis!