Choosing the Right Yoga Style for You

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.

Kundalini Yoga

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.

Heated Yoga

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.

 Yoga Therapy

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.

Namaste, Sari

Sari LaBelle is a co-founder and owner of Shanti Yogi.

Using Mindfulness to Create the Habits You Desire

Right about now is the time when most of us (myself included) start to fall off the New Year’s Resolution wagon:( I’ve found mindfulness to be an awesome tool to help me climb back on for the long haul.

Mindfulness in its most simplistic essence is defined as a process and state of continually coming back to the present moment with non-judgmental awareness. The practice of mindfulness teaches us tools to bare witness to our thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions, and see them as a passing waves in the ocean of our lives; rather than ways of being that define us or are permanent.

So how can mindfulness help us create the habits we want and let go of the habits we don’t? The first thing is that mindfulness teaches us tools to tune-in to what is happening in the present moment with deeper attention; helping us catch ourselves when we fall into mindless behaviors (like going for that extra piece of chocolate, potato chip or glass of wine).

We learn to turn toward these behaviors with compassion and dive into the feelings and thoughts that may have triggered our mindless behaviors or old patterns. Rather than engaging in self-flogging for having fallen off the wagon, we learn to embrace these moments of imperfection as opportunities to learn more about ourselves. To dust ourselves off and hop back on the wagon with greater conviction to make the changes we desire, a deeper understanding of ourselves and patters, and most important, a lighter heart.

We also learn tools to help us reinforce the changes we want to make by paying greater attention to the baby steps along the way and progress we make towards our goals. We learn to use our breath and body sensations to tune-in to how great we feel when we are consistent with the exercise regime we have followed for a whole week – or even 10 minutes! This helps to build new neural pathways in our brain to connect the thought and action of doing these activities with positive feelings so that eventually the desire to engage in these new behaviors is transferred to the automatic part of our brains and the battle of finding the will, time, energy to get to the gym is partially won.

So to help you on your journey toward using mindfulness to create the habits you deeply desire, here are a few tips:

  1. Get clear with yourself about the real reason why you want to create the new habit or let go of the old one. Visualize yourself having been successful for a whole month. How does it feel in your body when you imagine this state of being? Do this everyday, first thing in the morning, for at least 30 days.
  1. When you fall off the wagon, rather than letting your inner critic take over, let your inner best friend take the lead. Remind yourself of the progress you have made, that you are in fact doing the best you can. Ask yourself why you may have been triggered into the old habit or away from the new habit. Remind yourself that this is the normal process of learning something new and remind yourself of why you want to make the change and how great it feels in your body when you do.
  1. Celebrate your successes along the way. Identify some specific ways you can reward yourself for milestones achieved and take the time to share these moments of success with the people you love. In the wise words of one of my mindfulness mentors, Thich Nhat Hanh “ Every time you recognize a moment of happiness, happiness comes.”

Namaste,

Sari LaBelle MA (HSI), CYT, n.d.

Curious about for learning more about mindfulness or shaping your future creatively, join Sari for two of her upcoming workshops: The Magic of Mindfulness and Flow into Your Heart’s Desires Vision Collage and Yoga Retreat.