It is often said that there are as many types of yoga as there are yoga teachers. Each class has a different vibe and focus of intention in addition to the various physical postures and level of intensity. Nonetheless, there are a few major distinctions that are worth knowing in order to choose the right class for your needs. Sometimes we are in the mood for an energetic class to build heat and muscles, other times our body needs rest and relaxation. Below are a few bullet points to sum up the basics of each style.
- About: The word vinyasa means to place in a special way (vi in a special way, nyasa to place). It is a dynamic class where the aim is to perform intentional movements that are coordinated with your breath.
- Purpose: Depending on the class, you train your coordination, balance, strength, flexibility and focus. Many teachers also include a bit of yoga philosophy.
- Example of a class: This style provides a bit of everything. It usually starts with a few minutes of meditation and breathing exercises, followed by sun salutation variations. Hence the teacher will propose various standing and sitting postures that will differ depending on the teacher and class. Savasana wraps up the practice and allows your body to relax at the end.
- Intensity: The pace and intensity highly depends on the teacher and the level of the students. It is often medium to high.
- About: This is a slow paced class where each sitting posture is held for several minutes.
- Purpose: The aim is to stretch your connective tissue (fasciae, ligaments, tendons and surrounding tissue). This is why each posture is held for 1-7 minutes. The class also promotes focus and yoga philosophy.
- Example of a class: Often starts off with a gentle meditation to set your focus before each posture is introduced in turn. Most postures are seated, and often require props (bolsters, blankets, ribbons, blocks and eye covers).
- Intensity: Slow
- About: This is a pure relaxation class where each posture is held for 4-20 minutes.
- Purpose: Stress tends to activate our nerves. When we sit in front of the computer, the neck muscles are often contracted. If this persists over a longer period of time, one will generate muscular tension and pain. In this class we are essentially re-teaching our muscles to relax. In addition the class promotes mindfulness and philosophy.
- Example of a class: In this class, the teacher will often set aside some time to explain each posture. We are using props (bolsters, blankets, ribbons, blocks and eye covers) in order to set the best conditions for the muscles to relax. When the props support the body, we are “tricking” our muscles to relax. There is usually a little pause in between each posture where the teacher illustrates the next asana. It is not unusual to fall asleep in this class if that is what your body needs.
- Intensity: Super slow
- About: This is a higher pace yoga practice where you follow the very same sequence of postures every class, called The Primary Series. Traditionally Ashtanga teachers would not allow you to move on to the next posture before you had mastered the one before. Today, teachers often offer modifications. Some classes are led by an instructor. In “Mysore”-classes people come and go as they want, and follow their own breath. A teacher will be there to give personal guidance when you need help.
- Purpose: Strength, balance, flexibility, coordination, focus, philosophy. When you know the sequence by heart, the ashtanga classes become very meditative because you focus at observing the smaller changes that happen within. Even though the asanas are the same, you will soon discover that each practice is different.
- Example of a class: Since the ashtanga practice follows a set sequence, you can look up “The Primary Series” online to see the asanas and the order. It starts with sun salutation A and B, followed by standing and sitting asanas before the finishing sequence and Savasana. Each asana is typically held for 5 breaths, and are connected with a “vinyasa” (chaturanga – upwward facing dog – downward facing dog).
- Intensity: High