Yoga has many benefits, from relaxation and mindfulness to weight loss and flexibility. With so many forms of yoga, it can be difficult to choose which one is best for you. Whether you’d prefer a faster-paced yoga class or you simply want to touch your toes, here’s how to choose the right yoga for your personality.
The Benefits of Yoga
People come to yoga for many different reasons. Maybe you’re having back pain and you want to avoid pain medication. Or maybe you want a workout without the impact of running. Perhaps you want to learn more about deep breathing and the relaxation that it promotes. The original purpose of yoga was to exercise the body so that it could sit for long periods of time in meditation, but today people do yoga for exercise, flexibility, relaxation, spirituality, and a host of other reasons.
Spiritual Forms of Yoga
If you’re interested in the deeper spiritual benefits of yoga, forms like Integral and Kundalini yoga are good choices. Integral yoga is slow paced, using pranayama (breathing techniques), yogic diet, meditation, selfless service, and a love of the Divine to promote a healthy, balanced, quiet mind. Kundalini yoga is another intensely spiritual practice that focuses on using inner stillness cultivated from yoga postures, meditation, breath work, and chanting to expand awareness of the self.
More Active Forms of Yoga
Many forms of yoga are good for the physical body, but some are more active than others. For example, Power yoga moves quickly through the poses, using Chaturanga Dandasanas, or yoga pushups, to connect sometimes difficult postures. Power yoga is often done in the heat to further amplify the intensity of the workout. Ashtanga yoga is another physical practice that moves through a set series of poses daily.
Yoga for Flexibility
Yoga is wonderful for expanding the body’s range of motion, whether you’re trying to turn back the clock or you’re an athlete looking to heal or prevent injury. All yoga is focused on flexibility but Yin yoga takes it a step further—poses are held for 3 to 5 minutes in an effort to soften the body’s fascia, a sheet of connective tissue that’s located between the muscles.
Alignment-Based Forms of Yoga
Both Iyengar and Anusara yoga are alignment-based forms of yoga. Instructors tend to spend a lot of time on the technical structure of a pose to ensure that students get the most out of the posture while avoiding injury. Props like blocks and straps are often used to align the body correctly while in a pose. Both postures are good for alleviating chronic injuries.
Becoming an Activist with Yoga
Jivamukti yoga uses diet and a focus on environmentalism to promote activism. Yogis are encouraged to take up a vegan diet, and teachers often talk about the importance of environmental protection. The founders, Sharon Gannon and David Life, are both vegans who talk openly and frequently about animal welfare issues.
Yoga for Deep Relaxation
Stress is really harmful to the body; for many yogis, deep relaxation is just what the doctor ordered. Restorative yoga is less about movement and more about promoting the restoration of the body. Using props such as blankets, bolsters, and eye pillows, yogis enjoy a deep relaxation, holding poses for up to 20 minutes. Yoga Nidra is a deep yogic sleep that moves past the dreaming state. Students remain still while listening to a guided relaxation sequence from a teacher or recording. Once awakened, you should feel rejuvenated and vibrant.
No matter what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find a form of yoga that’s the perfect fit. Or you may want to become a yoga mutt who does a number of forms of yoga to fulfill various needs. In the purest sense, the practice of yoga is meant to connect the body and mind, which can result in many other welcome benefits. And although you may have started practicing for one reason, you may discover other perks that you weren’t even looking for in the first place.