The best type of yoga for you may depend on your mood, age, body type, location or even your hormones. Here’s how to choose a practice that will keep you coming back to your mat.
Whether your goal is to loosen and limber up, tighten and tone, shed stress and lose weight or become calmer and more focused, yoga helps you get there. Certain styles may resonate more than others, however, and more mindful choices can help you along your yogic journey with grace—and without injury.
“Our physical and mental needs change with different phases of the month and seasons of the year, so if you’re feeling lethargic and low energy, it may be beneficial to fire up with a cardiovascular practice like sun salutations, core work and strong standing poses, which activate metabolism and can lift your mood,” says Santa Monica yogi Ashley Turner, MS, of Element’s 5-Day Yoga DVDs. “If you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, a slower, more restorative practice with deep breathing can help calm the nervous system and unwind tension.”
The type of yoga you need may depend on your mood, your age, your location or even your hormones, says certified instructor Stephanie Hechtman, who teaches both college students and senior citizens in Los Angeles, and modifies poses accordingly. Hechtman teaches a 90-minute “Hormone Yoga” class attended by pre- and menopausal women every Saturday afternoon in Studio City, CA. “The deep twists and longer meditations help ease bloating, mood swings and indigestion,” she says.
“No matter what style you gravitate to in this busy world, yoga helps take you away from the hustle and bustle in order to reconnect with yourself,” says Neelam Khatri, head of yoga programming for The Oriental Spa at Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, Thailand. Here is how to find the yoga style that matches your needs.
For Physical Yoga with a Calorie Burn
TRY: Hot Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, YogaFit: levels 2-3, Vinyasa Yoga (or flow), Viniyoga
“Sun Salutations and flowing yoga series with dynamic poses such as Warriors and Planks are usually needed to achieve that sort of caloric expenditure via yoga,” says fitness expert and yoga teacher Beth Shaw, author of the new book YogaLean and creator of YogaFit. Research suggests that the quantity, duration and consistency of any practice are all more important to building a healthy habit than how many backbends you can pump out. Shift your thinking and transform your body, says Shaw. “Decide if you like to practice to music or with only women in a studio—what type of classroom vibe will serve you best and keep you coming back to your mat?”
For Core Training and Toning
TRY: Core Fusion classes, Core Power Yoga, Yoga Barre and Pi-Yo classes, Yoga for Athletes, fitness gym-yoga classes
Many power hour or lunch yoga sessions span only 60 minutes, so teachers may minimize relaxation seated poses–or some inversions–in favor of core training. “Specific postures can actually stabilize your spine, soothe tight hamstrings, open the hips or help people with back pain,” says Shaw.
For Moderate Stretching
TRY: Kundalini Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Anusara Yoga, Kripalu Yoga, Ananda Yoga
Beneficial for those just coming back to yoga or returning from an injury, moving through major life changes or committing to yoga for the first time. “More therapeutic asanas help you move more efficiently and cultivate calmness in other areas of your life,” says Khatri. “By teaching someone to roll the shoulders back to open the heart and improve postural alignment, we also help to boost their golf game or tennis backhand,” she says. These types of classes offer varying degrees of asanas (postures) for a fit body; pranayama (breathing exercises) for balance and breath; and then dhyana (meditation) to silence the mind, she explains.
For More of an Inner Journey
TRY: Restorative Yoga, crossover yoga with tai chi, Forrest Yoga, Ishta Yoga, Tantric Yoga and “yoga therapy” classes designed to aid certain conditions, such as HIV
Try newer forms and fusion styles of yoga classes that highlight additional breathwork—think meditation over vigorous warrior postures—and gentler hip openers and lower-back strengtheners like cobra and seated twists. You’ll practice slower, deeper poses that use a range of props and tools including yoga blocks, straps, blankets, chairs and other gadgets, and repetitive feel-good mantras.