Choosing a yoga style is like trying to find a great pair of jeans. You may have to test out a few dozen styles before you find a pair that fits your body and your personality.
Here are five of the most popular yoga classes and an introduction into the philosophy, history and style of each.
Ashtanga Yoga: One of the oldest form of yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, is Sanskrit for “eight limbs,” which represent the eight aspects of yoga as outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. Even though Ashtanga yoga is believed to be 5,000 years old, if not older, its modern popularity is credited to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who in 1948, under the guidance of his guru, Krishnamacharya, created The Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India for teaching this specific style of yoga.
What to expect: Ashtanga yoga is often referred to as being the athletic form of yoga because of its discipline and dynamic system of vinyasa, a process that links breath to movement. It is a set series of specific asansas or postures that are performed in a sequential manner. Classes start by performing ten Sun Salutations followed by a standing, seated and finishing sequence. Once in the full expression of the posture, the asana is held for a minimum of five breaths.
Overall, the series emphasizes strength, flexibility, balance and endurance. Madonna , Sting, Gwyneth Paltrow, Willem Dafoe and Donna Karan are all fans of Ashtanga yoga.
Ashtanga yoga is traditionally taught in a Mysore-style whereby the instructor assists each practitioner along his or her practice according to their own pace and level. In the West, you can find both Mysore-style classes as well as led classes taught by instructors.
Iyengar yoga: Like Ashtanga yoga, Iyengar yoga is rooted in Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga. Created by B.K.S. Iyengar, this form of yoga is known by its use of props like belts, bolsters and chairs as well as its precise focus to structural alignment. Perhaps one of the most researched forms of yoga, Iyengar yoga has been shown to be a therapeutic practice for those suffering from back pain, musculoskeletal injuries and disorders, cardiovascular disease , depression and anxiety. Iyengar instructors must complete at least two years of rigorous training before teaching.
What to expect: You can expect to perform a number of standing postures with the assistance of a variety of props as well as verbal instruction from your teacher. Since there is much attention made to alignment and structure, verbal as well as physical corrections are a regular part of class.
Anusara Yoga: One of the newer form of yoga, Anusara, which means “flowing with grace,” was created by Texas-born John Friend in 1997. The emphasis of Anusara yoga is on Friend’s own Universal Principles of Alignment whereby all postures aim to open and soften the heart and a...