Bikram, Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin – what’s the difference and what style of practice is most suited to you
My first ever yoga class was a Bikram yoga session with a girlfriend who convinced me I would love it. Mind you, I had never done yoga before in my life. We walked 2km to the studio, me blissfully unaware of what was in store, stepping into the hot room with excitement. Fast-forward 20 minutes later and I was already folded in Child’s Pose resisting all temptation to run for the exit. I had heat stroke for the afternoon.
Needless to say, my little yoga experience turned me off practicing for a while. I was familiar enough with yoga to know there were different ‘styles’ – but couldn’t really tell the differences other than the obvious: some were done in heated rooms, some were done in gyms, you could do yoga at home on your bedroom floor or at a beautiful studio.
It wasn’t until an Aerial Yoga studio opened in my area (4 years ago might I add, well before its time) – that I decided to give this yoga thing another go. As someone who is pretty hyperactive and, at the time, loved to push my body (I was also doing pole and daily weight training at this time) Aerial yoga seemed like something far more suited to me.
And it was. I stuck with my Aerial practice for 3 years. Until I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and told not to exercise for some time.
Once I regained my health, my relationship with yoga changed too. No longer did I crave the artistic ‘extremes’ of hanging upside down in contorted poses. I gravitated towards a more of a Yin practice – almost meditative. This was enough for me as I regained my strength and energy, and now, I am practicing a Vinyasa style of yoga.
My yoga journey has been extremely unique and triggered by various life circumstances – health situations, energy levels, social commitments (sometimes its fun to hang upside down with a bestie!), you name it.
I have learned that the practice of yoga is an extremely personal one – however, especially if you are starting out, it is great to have a basic understanding of the varying styles (there are a few!) and which is most suited to your life circumstances.
So I have done the work for you:
Aerial Yoga – For the creatives/dare devils
Otherwise known as ‘upside-down’ or ‘anti-gravity’ yoga, aerial yoga is a unique yoga practice involving hanging from silks connected to the ceiling of the studio.
The form of yoga offers all of the basic benefits of yoga, alongside additional flexibility, strengthened muscles (because you are working against gravity in many of the poses) and it is also wonderful for elongating and decompressing the spine and supporting your back, during many of the inversions.
Ashtanga Yoga – For the perfectionists
For those of you who love routine, ashtanga yoga is for you. Classes are made up of a repeated series of six poses – that are the same in each and every class. The objective of ashtanga yoga is to build heat internally as you move through the familiar poses. Expect to sweat and feel the burn!
Bikram Yoga – For the sweat lovers
Speaking of sweat, if you REALLY are looking to get the blood flowing, then Bikram yoga may be for you. Studios are heated to 40 degrees celsius with 40% humidity. There are numerous benefits of practicing yoga in a heated room, including purification of the entire body, toning muscles, building strength and flexibility, and weight loss.
Be sure to be completely hydrated prior to class, and continue to sip on water throughout the day after your class.
Hatha Yoga – For the beginners
Hatha yoga is one of the more common yoga styles advertised, as it encompasses a broad blanket of all yoga asanas (postures). Perfect for those of you starting out, or anyone looking for a slower-paced, basic yoga style.
Kundalini Yoga – For the spirit junkies
Kundalini yoga taps on the spiritual side of yoga – incorporating breathing techniques, chanting, meditation and Hatha yoga. The objective of a Kundalini practice is to exercise control over your mind and body – leading to untapping energetic blocks and overcoming emotional barriers.
Kundalini yoga is a beautiful practice for those interested in a holistic yoga practice tapping into the mind, body and soul.
Restorative Yoga – For anyone looking to relax and unwind
Restorative yoga is a beautiful practice suitable for anyone looking to stretch out and relax. A gentle and calm practice, Restorative yoga takes you through a series of relaxing poses suited to setting you up for savasana (my favourite pose just personally).
Vinyasa/Flow Yoga – For the ones who like to mix it up
Vinyasa classes are a faster-pace style of yoga, often unique in their structure, so that no two classes are the same. Set to music, these classes are suited to a more experienced yoga practice – flowing through a dynamic series of postures and poses.
Yin Yoga – For the stressed/anxious
Yin yoga is a beautiful practice to wind down after particularly stressful day. Focused on holding poses or postures for a few minutes at a time, the practice allows you to really focus your attention within. It is a moving meditation allowing stillness both in the body and the mind – and with a focus mainly on laying and sitting positions, it is a wonderful practice to wind down at the end of your day.
Like me, maybe you are more than one yoga style – which is a beautiful benefit of the practice. There is no one-size-fits-all and that is okay. Try a few styles and see what suits you now. You may look back in five years time and have a completely different practice.
image: Tully Humphrey from Tully Lou and Manoj Dias from Aspace