The world of Yoga is so vast that it can be quite overwhelming. With so many different yoga styles, finding the yoga type that’s
right for you is a journey all it’s own. Something to remember is that the goal of all yoga, no matter the style, is the same. There is no “best yoga”. Yoga translates into “union” and this union has been defined in a variety of ways. Plainly put, the practice of yoga works to unify your body, mind and soul. It helps you connect your finite self to your Infinite Self while providing happy side effects like health, strength, flexibility, focus, balance and calmness. All paths of yoga will lead you to this union so finding the one yoga style that is enjoyable and sustainable for you is key.
Begin by considering your current physical state. If you are an athlete and enjoy vigorous physical activity, you may find a home with more physically demanding yoga styles like Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow, Power and Bikram. Ashtanga and Bikram yoga are built on following the same sequence of challenging postures every time. Both of these yoga types are very athletic and build great heat within the body. Bikram yoga is also taught in a heated room. Ashtanga Yoga The Practice Manual is a good way to introduce yourself to the postures of Ashtanga Yoga. Both of these yoga styles are perfect for those who enjoy a routine. If you like a little more freedom of expression and flowing movement, Vinyasa Flow may be for you. Instead of following the same sequence of postures each time, you can get creative and place them in various orders to achieve a variety of goals. Power Yoga tends to have more of an aerobic workout feel. It focuses on strength and flexibility. All of these yoga types are more suitable for those who are in good physical condition and want to get a strong workout during the practice. Having a little experience with Hatha yoga can also be helpful before trying these more vigorous yoga styles.
If you are recovering from injuries, need to ease into physical activity or just want to take a more gradual approach, yoga styles like Hatha, Yin, Iyengar, Viniyoga and Restorative will feel more comfortable. Hatha is really an umbrella term which all yoga styles fall under (except Kundalini). When practicing Hatha yoga, the goal is to strengthen the body so you can then move into long periods of meditation. A general Hatha practice can be as relaxed or as strenuous as you make it. Depending on the postures you choose and how long you hold them for, you can truly design a practice that fits your current fitness level. Yin is a yoga type that focuses on flexibility and incorporates postures that work to open up joints and tight muscles at a slower pace. Most of the practice is done on the floor and postures are held for long periods of time. To go more in depth, check out Yin Yoga by Paul Grilley. Iyengar is a yoga type that is very focused on precise alignment, making it great for those recovering from injuries. Many injuries occur because the body is moved without consideration for proper alignment of the joints and this yoga style helps you stay safe while gradually building strength in the body. Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar is a wonderful introduction to this yoga type. Viniyoga is a more relaxed and therapeutic approach to yoga. The sequences of postures can be very individualized and allow you to move in a manner that is just right for your body. Gary Kraftsow has an excellent book to help you understand this yoga style better, Yoga for Wellness. Restorative yoga is a practice that allows you to rest and relax deeply. The postures are done lying on the floor while using various props to support the body for deep relaxation and healing. All of these yoga styles are excellent since they allow you to enjoy the practice of yoga at any level of physical fitness.
Kundalini Yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, is a yoga type that is also easily accessible to all levels of physical fitness. This yoga style allows you to practice at your personal best from moment to moment. It incorporates physical postures, dynamic movements, powerful breath work, chanting, meditation and mental focus to give you a holistic experience of yoga. Through the practice of Kundalini Yoga, you can increase your awareness while strengthening the body from the inside out. All of these techniques in this yoga style systematically work to bring you into higher states of consciousness while stimulating the dormant energies within. It’s like an internal energetic massage. According to Yogi Bhajan, this yoga type is a science of the mind and body to elevate the spirit which has no boundaries; therefore it is for everyone, universal.
When making your way into the world of yoga styles on your own, having the right books and DVDs is priceless. Finding the right tools can also be overwhelming when you are new and trying to decipher the yoga types. To simplify this process, remember that most yoga styles are based on principles of Hatha Yoga. As an introduction to Hatha Yoga, Donna Farhi’s book Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit is unparalleled. For Kundalini Yoga, Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa’s book Kundalini Yoga The Flow of Eternal Power is an excellent introduction. Both of these books together will help you start building a foundation to more coherently understand the practice of yoga.
Sampling some DVDs can add great insight into yoga styles as well. This can help you get a feel for the way the styles are taught and how they come together as a whole practice. Nirvair Singh Khalsa has a great series of DVDs for beginners to Kundalini Yoga that are practical and comprehensive. For a more vigorous Kundalini practice, try Gurmukh’s Kundalini Yoga DVD. Shiva Rea’s Flow Yoga for Beginners opens up the world of Vinyasa Flow for those new to flow-based yoga. Ashtanga Yoga Introductory Poses by Nicki Doane can help you ease into an Ashtanga practice. Rodney Yee’s Yoga for Beginners is a wonderful introduction to general Hatha Yoga. Trying a variety of styles at first will show you what’s out there and can really help you decide what you truly enjoy.
You can take some time to read up on quite a few yoga styles right here on Spirit Voyage. Once you find a yoga style that you like, dive in! Remember that all yoga types are beneficial and will lead to the same goal. It’s merely a matter of enjoying your yoga style so you come back to it, again and again. With a committed and sincere practice, your life will never be the same!