Thinking about trying yoga? Smart idea. The benefits of yoga range from better flexibility to less stress. In fact, a recent study found that practicing yoga regularly (once or twice a week) may lower a number of harmful compounds in the blood as well as reduce inflammation linked to aging and stress. Yet starting out in the yoga world can be intimidating because there are so many different styles and types to choose from. Terri Kennedy, MBA, PhD, founder of Ta Yoga in New York City and board member of the Yoga Alliance, breaks down the six main styles to make your choice a little easier.
1. Vinyasa Yoga
A flowing (and active) style that has a lot of variety. There are no set sequences, so each class can be a totally new experience, which teachers can tailor for beginner or advanced yogis. The classic vinyasa sequence starts with the standard 12-position sun salutation, which includes moves such as downward dog, cobra and lunges. To make it more challenging, the teacher may add a warrior pose or two into the middle of the sequence.
Best For: Those who like to dance would find this style appealing, and it is accessible for all levels.
2. Iyengar Yoga
A therapeutic form that focuses on concentration, flexibility and balance. Not necessarily easy, the poses are very specific and focus on alignment. The movements are subtle and do not flow from one to the next. A classic Iyengar pose is the triangle, which is when you stand with legs spread about 3 1/2 feet apart with one hand reaching down toward the same side’s foot and the other hand reaching straight up toward the ceiling. The classes tend to be more directed as well.
Best For: Beginners, seniors and anyone who needs to take it easy due to injury.
3. Kundalini Yoga
It comes from ancient tantric tradition and involves a lot of chanting and rapid repetitive movement. The movements are done in conjunction with very specific breathing techniques. For example, you might hold a bow pose (torso on the floor, both legs bent and hands reach back to hold feet) while doing the rapid Breath of Fire (deep breathing powered by abdominal contractions).
Best For: Those with an open mind (because of the chanting and repetition) who are already trained in the traditional styles. Total beginners might feel a bit uncomfortable in a Kundalini class.
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Do you already do yoga? If so, what is your favorite form of yoga? If not, will you be giving it a try?
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