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.

Ayurvedic Medicine for Balance and Optimal Health

Ayurvedic medicine is the most ancient system of medicine. “Ayur” means life and “Veda” means knowledge or science. So the whole word “Ayurveda” means “the science of life or knowledge of life”.

Ayurveda aims to achieve balance in the body and the mind by restoring the balance of elements of which the body is made.

The distinctive principle of Ayurveda is that each person has their unique constitution according to the elements: air, space, water, fire and earth.

When the elements are combined, it creates the doshas:

  • Vata controls movements- air and space elements
  • Pitta controls metabolism- fire and water elements
  • Kapha controls structure- earth and water elements

When the doshas are in harmony, health and well-being are maintained. When the doshas are out of balance, the body does not function properly, and illness can become present. Although the three doshas are present in each human being, one usually predominates.

Ayurveda is a holistic medical system which includes herbal medicines, a healthy diet, yoga, massage and breathing techniques. It can also help restore emotional and spiritual balance through meditation, mantras and changes in lifestyle and psychological mindfulness.

Ayurveda is a highly elaborate system of healing and it firmly believes and puts emphasis upon the role of individuals in taking care of themselves to maintain good health and prevent illness.

Is your interest peaked? For more information on Ayurveda Medicine check-out this great documentary below!

With love,

Mélika Emir Baccouche

Mélika is an Ayurveda Practioner and Sivananda Yoga Teacher practicing at Shanti Yogi who studied under Dr. Anita Sharma, founder of the Centre d’Ayurveda Holistique and Institute of Ayurveda and Wellbeing in Montreal.

Yoga to the rescue!

Every now and then we all need to be reminded of the reasons why we continue to make the time and space for yoga in our over scheduled, hectic lives. Luckily, with the increased research into the health benefits and therapeutic applications of yoga, the reasons to return to our mats have never been so widely reported by mainstream media and supported by the medical community.

Research into the science of yoga has shown that moving our bodies mindfully in and out of the physical postures we call asana, in synch with our breath, puts healthy stress on our joints warding off osteoperosis, improving flexibility and strengthening and toning the nervous system. We have also learned that yoga provides a pumping action of lymphatic fluid and blood throughout the entire body, improving detoxification and immune system functioning.

The practice of yoga has been demonstrated to help in the treating of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, migraine headaches, asthma, chronic back pain, arthritis, constipation, diabetes, menopause, multiple sclerosis, varicose veins, the management of chronic pain as a result of disease and injury, and the ease of menstruation and child birth. A recent study has even demonstrated that a regular yoga practice can help slow the deteoriation of telomeres, which are the end caps of our chromosones who’s slow deteoriation is associated with the aging process. So yes, there is now scientific proof that yoga helps us age more slowly! And if you want proof of that, take a look at this 3 minute video about a 96 year-old yoga teacher living in New York who is clearly defying the aging process!

But beyond the myriad of physical benefits that the practice of yoga has been shown to induce, we don’t often discuss why and how yoga helps us mentally and emotionally. In yogasana we learn to channel our breath and mind in a more conscious direction.   We teach the mind to not waste energy on thoughts that don’t pertain to the present moment. We learn to breathe more consciously and move more consciously – not just on the mat but off the mat too. The training in focus helps us perform tasks with more clarity and purpose.

We learn to relax with increasing ease in both movement and stillness; which helps us tap into a sense of inner peace that exists within us all even during times of intense stress, conflict and tragedy. We become more connected to the wisdom of our emotions and felt sense, and learn to use this guidance system to connect more deeply with the hidden aspects of ourselves, with the people in our lives, and with the roles, responsibilities, and tasks we undertake.

We learn to pay attention to and accept our changing mental, emotional, physical and spiritual states and approach these elements of ourselves with increased curiosity, compassion and honesty. And finally we learn to tap into a deep well of love that connects us all and by staying tuned into this love, experience ways of interacting with the world with greater authenticity, empathy, trust and integrity. Looking forward to seeing you all at Shanti sometime soon.

Namaste, Sari LaBelle MA (HSI), CYT, nd