Finding Your Yoga Match

Wellness and fitness expert, Lisa Raleigh, breaks down the most popular types of yoga and their benefits.

Every effective workout regime has days that include rest, or active rest. Depending on the type of yoga that you choose, it can form part of your active rest or rigorous training. Yoga is naturally easier on your joints, ligaments, and tendons, allows for low impact training and both lengthens and strengthens your muscles. Long, lean muscles are less susceptible to injury.

A common stumbling block to beginning a yoga regime is the confusing array of options out there. The class names are broad, and each has a particular style or benefit promise. Whilst navigating your options as a novice or seasoned yogi, try to align with a style that suits your goals, personality and the kind of training atmosphere that suits you. As with all health and wellness elements, one size does not fit all.

Benefits of Yoga

The health benefits of yoga have been documented by many leading medical and fitness experts over the years. Once considered a fringe training regime, it is now accessible all over the world and fully embraced as a training technique that assists with healing, posture correction, flexibility, core strength and mindfulness. Studies have shown yoga to boost circulation, improve heart health and prevent cartilage and joint breakdown. I always advise that you keep your training varied, and be brave enough to try something new, particularly if you are feeling bored or unmotivated within your current workouts. Yoga really can bring a sense of calm through deep breathing, meditation, mood balancing and anxiety management.

Start at the Beginning

If you’re working through the yoga options around you, ask about a beginner or entry level class. Whether you’re training online or in a studio, if you’re new to yoga or trying a new type, start with a class that introduces you to the basics, including all the terminology. Don’t be put off if your first attempt is not exactly what you had hoped for, it could mean that you need to work with a different instructor or online platform. Look at the online reviews of the studio or instructor and ask around for referrals. Match the yoga to your personality and training goals.

Some will tell you that there are 12 types of yoga, others will say eight, and more traditional yogis will quote just five. I’m going to touch on the types of yoga most commonly offered in South African studios.

Hatha

Hatha is the frequently used name for any type of yoga that teaches physical postures. “Ha-tha” meaning “Sun-Moon” is also described as the foundation of yoga, harnessing body and breath to detox and obtain mindful stillness. In contemporary yoga lingo, Hatha has come to mean a slow-paced and gentle way of practicing. Hatha classes can be a good place to begin a yoga practice because they offer an introduction to the basic poses.

Vinyasa / Flow

Like hatha, Vinyasa is a general term used to describe many intersecting types of yoga classes. Vinyasa tends to be a more vigorous style of yoga incorporating a series of poses called sun salutations, in which each movement is matched to the breath. Vinyasa, probably the style you’re confronted with most on studio timetables, is also often referred to as “flow”, which refers to the continuous movement from one posture to the next.

Ashtanga

This is my personal preference. Ashtanga is a traditional practice based on ancient yoga teachings. It’s a rigorous style of set sequences, primary series and secondary series. Like Vinyasa, in the sense that breath and movement are matched. Ashtanga practitioners will perform the same poses in the same order each practice. It’s intense and physically demanding, suited to a more experienced yogi.

Bikram

Like Ashtanga, Bikram is based on a set sequence, but with a series of 26 poses which are performed twice each within a 90-minute class, in a heated room. Room temperature is usually around 37 degrees. Things get hot and sweaty! Absolutely fine for beginners who will enjoy learning the sequences, and anyone who wants to work on flexibility whilst getting a sweat up.

Hot Yoga

Not quite like Bikram. Your primary difference is that Hot Yoga has more varied sequences. Still heated, still a sweat-fest. Could be combined with other styles like Hot Vinyasa. The room is also heated, and it is very much a cleansing workout. Great for experienced yogis who want to build up strength and flexibility.

Power Yoga

Power yoga is another general term used to describe a vigorous, fitness-based approach to Vinyasa-style yoga. Some consider power yoga to be superficial “gym yoga,” this style of yoga practice was originally closely modelled on the Ashtanga style.

A combination of the athleticism of Ashtanga, lots of Vinyasas but with the flexibility to allow instructors to teach poses in a sequence of their choice. Each class will be unique. Great for a high-intensity workout, getting your heart rate up and a sense of powerful movement.

You really don’t have to be a purest or a hard-core yogi to begin this journey. Try a few styles, visit a few studios, and work with a few instructors before you decide if it is for you. Yoga can be a wonderful addition to your current workout regime, and a great way to condition your whole body, and mind.

You really don’t have to be a purest or a hard-core yogi to begin this journey. Try a few styles, visit a few studios, and work with a few instructors before you decide if it is for you. Yoga can be a wonderful addition to your current workout regime, and a great way to condition your whole body, and mind.

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Start at the Beginning

Benefits of Yoga

The health benefits of yoga have been documented by many leading medical and fitness experts over the years. Once considered a fringe training regime, it is now accessible all over the world and fully embraced as a training technique that assists with healing, posture correction, flexibility, core strength and mindfulness. Studies have shown yoga to boost circulation, improve heart health and prevent cartilage and joint breakdown.

I always advise that you keep your training varied, and be brave enough to try something new, particularly if you are feeling bored or unmotivated within your current workouts. Yoga really can bring a sense of calm through deep breathing, meditation, mood balancing and anxiety management.

Start at the Beginning

If you’re working through the yoga options around you, ask about a beginner or entry level class. Whether you’re training online or in a studio, if you’re new to yoga or trying a new type, start with a class that introduces you to the basics, including all the terminology. Don’t be put off if your first attempt is not exactly what you had hoped for, it could mean that you need to work with a different instructor or online platform. Look at the online reviews of the studio or instructor and ask around for referrals. Match the yoga to your personality and training goals.

Some will tell you that there are 12 types of yoga, others will say eight, and more traditional yogis will quote just five. I’m going to touch on the types of yoga most commonly offered in South African studios.

Hatha

Hatha is the frequently used name for any type of yoga that teaches physical postures. “Ha-tha” meaning “Sun-Moon” is also described as the foundation of yoga, harnessing body and breath to detox and obtain mindful stillness. In contemporary yoga lingo, Hatha has come to mean a slow-paced and gentle way of practicing. Hatha classes can be a good place to begin a yoga practice because they offer an introduction to the basic poses.

Vinyasa / Flow

Like hatha, Vinyasa is a general term used to describe many intersecting types of yoga classes. Vinyasa tends to be a more vigorous style of yoga incorporating a series of poses called sun salutations, in which each movement is matched to the breath. Vinyasa, probably the style you’re confronted with most on studio timetables, is also often referred to as “flow”, which refers to the continuous movement from one posture to the next.

Ashtanga

This is my personal preference. Ashtanga is a traditional practice based on ancient yoga teachings. It’s a rigorous style of set sequences, primary series and secondary series. Like Vinyasa, in the sense that breath and movement are matched. Ashtanga practitioners will perform the same poses in the same order each practice. It’s intense and physically demanding, suited to a more experienced yogi.

Bikram

Like Ashtanga, Bikram is based on a set sequence, but with a series of 26 poses which are performed twice each within a 90-minute class, in a heated room. Room temperature is usually around 37 degrees. Things get hot and sweaty! Absolutely fine for beginners who will enjoy learning the sequences, and anyone who wants to work on flexibility whilst getting a sweat up.

Hot Yoga

Not quite like Bikram. Your primary difference is that Hot Yoga has more varied sequences. Still heated, still a sweat-fest. Could be combined with other styles like Hot Vinyasa. The room is also heated, and it is very much a cleansing workout. Great for experienced yogis who want to build up strength and flexibility.

Power Yoga

Power yoga is another general term used to describe a vigorous, fitness-based approach to Vinyasa-style yoga. Some consider power yoga to be superficial “gym yoga,” this style of yoga practice was originally closely modelled on the Ashtanga style.

A combination of the athleticism of Ashtanga, lots of Vinyasas but with the flexibility to allow instructors to teach poses in a sequence of their choice. Each class will be unique. Great for a high-intensity workout, getting your heart rate up and a sense of powerful movement.

Hatha

Hatha is the frequently used name for any type of yoga that teaches physical postures. “Ha-tha” meaning “Sun-Moon” is also described as the foundation of yoga, harnessing body and breath to detox and obtain mindful stillness. In contemporary yoga lingo, Hatha has come to mean a slow-paced and gentle way of practicing. Hatha classes can be a good place to begin a yoga practice because they offer an introduction to the basic poses.

Vinyasa / Flow

Like hatha, Vinyasa is a general term used to describe many intersecting types of yoga classes. Vinyasa tends to be a more vigorous style of yoga incorporating a series of poses called sun salutations, in which each movement is matched to the breath. Vinyasa, probably the style you’re confronted with most on studio timetables, is also often referred to as “flow”, which refers to the continuous movement from one posture to the next.

Ashtanga

This is my personal preference. Ashtanga is a traditional practice based on ancient yoga teachings. It’s a rigorous style of set sequences, primary series and secondary series. Like Vinyasa, in the sense that breath and movement are matched. Ashtanga practitioners will perform the same poses in the same order each practice. It’s intense and physically demanding, suited to a more experienced yogi.

Bikram

Like Ashtanga, Bikram is based on a set sequence, but with a series of 26 poses which are performed twice each within a 90-minute class, in a heated room. Room temperature is usually around 37 degrees. Things get hot and sweaty! Absolutely fine for beginners who will enjoy learning the sequences, and anyone who wants to work on flexibility whilst getting a sweat up.

Hot Yoga

Not quite like Bikram. Your primary difference is that Hot Yoga has more varied sequences. Still heated, still a sweat-fest. Could be combined with other styles like Hot Vinyasa. The room is also heated, and it is very much a cleansing workout. Great for experienced yogis who want to build up strength and flexibility.

Power Yoga

Power yoga is another general term used to describe a vigorous, fitness-based approach to Vinyasa-style yoga. Some consider power yoga to be superficial “gym yoga,” this style of yoga practice was originally closely modelled on the Ashtanga style.

A combination of the athleticism of Ashtanga, lots of Vinyasas but with the flexibility to allow instructors to teach poses in a sequence of their choice. Each class will be unique. Great for a high-intensity workout, getting your heart rate up and a sense of powerful movement.