Over the last 10 years yoga has bloomed prolifically throughout Canada, a wonderful sight to see for yogis like me who swear by the health benefits of this ancient practice. However, with this proliferation has come an abundance of choice and, in some cases, confusion from new students about the best yoga style suited for their specific interests and needs.
Because we offer many styles of yoga at Shanti Yogi we spend a lot of time guiding our new students in choosing the right style for them. Here are two important questions you should ask yourself when choosing the right style for you and a little cheat sheet on some of the most popular styles in the city right now!
What is our primary intention for your yoga class?
- Cardio work-out or weight loss : you may want to try Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Flow or Heated Yoga.
- Increased flexibility: you may want to try Hatha, Yin, Restorative or Kundalini.
- Time to relax: you may want to try Yin, Restorative or Kripalu.
- Spiritual awareness and/or awakening: you may want to try Kundalini or Kripalu.
- Physical or Emotional Healing: you may want to try a specialty class or one-on-one Yoga Therapy.
Do you have any health conditions that may affect your mobility or are contraindicated for rapid movement, heat sensitivity, sound sensitivity, deep breathing exercises or deep stretching?
- Ensure you note your health condition to the teacher of your class to ensure that specific movements, breathing exercises or the teaching environment of your class are not contraindicated for your condition.
- Ensure you have your physician’s permission to experiment with the style of yoga you choose in your condition.
- Explore the options available in the city for one-on-one Yoga Therapy or group classes designed for your specific health condition.
Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Flow Yoga
These are a more vigorous style of yoga guiding you through a flow of postures to help “you heat the blood”, purify the body and connect your movement with the flow of your breath. In Ashtanga specifically there are three foundational series of postures you are instructed through, with a particular focus on alignment in each. Where as a Vinyasa or Flow class sequence may change from one class to the next.
Hatha and Kripalu Yoga
These two styles of yoga offer a slower-paced flow through postures, holding each posture for longer periods than in a Vinyasa or Ashtanga class, while still moving through a full body sequence of movements. Kripalu yoga specifically is a form of yoga which emphasizes the development of an increased awareness into the physical and emotional sensations awakened during the posture flow.
Yin & Restorative Yoga
Both these styles of yoga are very relaxing, where you spend your whole practice on the floor exploring long posture holds. How they differ is that in Yin Yoga you will hold a posture for 2 to 5 minutes with just enough prop use to give the connective tissues a healthy stress while being able to maintain the pose. In Restorative Yoga you will hold a posture, supported by bolsters, blankets or blocks, for between 10 to 20 minutes, in order to unlock the body’s relaxation response.
Known as the yoga of awareness, a class combining meditation, mantra, physical exercises, and breathing techniques with an emphasis on moving the Kundalini (primal energy) through the body for spiritual awakening and liberation.
Hot Yoga was first brought to the West by Bikram Choudhury, who developed a style of yoga based on a series of 26 specific postures and 2 breathing exercises, taught in a room heated to 37C. Today there are a variety of yoga styles taught in heated rooms but the primary similar benefit of this form of yoga is the detoxification that happens due to the profuse sweating that takes place in the heated environment.
There are a number of forms of yoga therapy in the West including, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, Viniyoga, Irest yoga, Trauma Informed Yoga, Integrative Yoga Therapy and others. Essentially these yoga programs are designed to help you systematically address physical injury or pain, or mental and emotional stress or trauma to help you heal. Therapeutic yoga programs can be offered one-on-one or in small groups composed of specific populations or designed to address specific ailments. With the increase of clinical research into the power of yoga, meditation and mindfulness to assist specific health conditions and ailments, Yoga Therapy is becoming an increasingly popular form of alternative health care in the US and Canada.
Sari LaBelle is a co-founder and owner of Shanti Yogi.