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Decipher Your Yoga Style

A Starting Point to Navigate Your Yoga Journey

You have heard all the great things about yoga, but where do you start? Yoga is more than mastering poses and increasing flexibility and strength. Its traditional purpose has been to bring transformation and self-enlightenment. If you find yourself confused between the yoga “lingo” and named classes, here is a starting point to  decipher your gym’s fitness schedule and learn what to expect. Each style is aimed to accommodate a yogi’s specific wants and needs. First ask what yourself want you to get out of a practice and remember that each class and instructor is different, so shop around and start experimenting!

Yoga is based on 5 principles named by yogi master, Swami Sivananda:

  1. Relaxation (Achieved through proper exercise, breathing, and diet)

  2. Exercise (Postures or Asanas are practiced to strengthen the body and improve physical fitness and flexibility)

  3. Breathing (Known as Pranyama, helps relax the mind and detox the body)

  4. Diet (Allows the body and mind to be clean and clear for practice)

  5. Positive Thinking and Meditation

There are many more styles and variations, but listed are a few styles you may recognized at a studio or listed on a fitness schedule.

  1. Vigorous Vinyassa sometimes called “flow yoga” combines a series of postures that flows into the next with rhythmic breathing. A few names of flow classes are Ashtanga, Power Yoga and Jivamukti

  2. Ashtanga –fast-paced series of sequential poses with six different series that increase in difficulty. There is no time for adjustments, and participants should be prepared to sweat and get a tough workout!

  3. Power Yoga developed in 1995 to bridge a gap between Ashtanga yoga and relatable fitness workouts American’s could understand. This class provides a rigorous workout that develops strength and flexibility similar to Ashtanga but has a more relatable structure for a common American health club setting.

  4. Jivamukti is a meditative but physically challenging form of yoga that introduces chants at the beginning and end of class, and emphasizes standing poses, forward bends, backbends and inversions.

  5. Iyengar Yoga began with B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the most influential yogi masters.  Chairs, straps, blocks, straps and other props are used to help the yogi accommodate their needs. Poses are typically held much longer to allow careful self-study into each pose.

  6. Bikram or “Hot Yoga” is a series of 26 traditional poses held for a specific amount of time in sequential order. Expect to sweat, as each studio cranks the heat to about 100 F .

  7. Hatha Yoga is popular choice in the fitness community and usually is a blend of different distinct types described above. This classic yoga style will increase physical and mental strength through traditional poses and breathing techniques.

  8. Yin Yoga can be hard to describe if unfamiliar with the description Yang, which is a more active, physical and high-energy side of practice. Yin Yoga is more relaxed and generally targeted at areas of the body between the knees, navel, and lower body. There are fewer poses and they are held for a long time helping the yogi to discover detail, variation, and changes.

I hope by deciphering some of these distinct types, you can better navigate what style you may feel comfortable with in starting. Remember however,

“Reading about yoga is like reading a menu when you are hungry: interesting, maybe even mouth watering, but until you actually partake of what you are seeing, your need will not be quenched” –


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