As an ancient tradition, yoga takes many forms. Here in the West we are perhaps most familiar with Hatha Yoga, or Vinyasa Flow. However, with so many options available including Yin, Restorative and Power Yoga, it can be difficult to decipher which option is best for your personal practice, particularly when you are new to yoga.
Here I break down just some of the options available to you and why you might choose each particularly class. It could be that you find yourself practicing a little of all the different strands of yoga or you could focus solely on one. In the early days experiment with different practices to discover the one that works most for you.
Hatha Yoga / Vinyasa Flow
Vinyasa Flow is perhaps one of the most common forms of yoga in the Western world today. It combines moments of stillness in asanas (postures) alongside flowing, free movement. Focus on the breath is key to make the movements truly mindful and each class will finish with Savasana in which you lie in stillness and quiet to rest at the end of class.
What can you expect in a vinyasa flow class?
The class will usually begin with a suggestion of what to focus your mind on in class. The teacher will usually have a theme which will be referred to throughout class and you can use this to try and experience the asanas in new ways. You will then do some seated postures or postures close to the floor, before flowing through sun salutations and different standing postures. This part of the class is usually the warmest. Then you'll move towards the ground and begin to relax before savasana.
Who is vinyasa low for?
This class is easily modified for most people so is a great option for those new to yoga of all ages. If you are in the early stages of pregnancy it is best to avoid this practice unless you are a regular, but after 12 weeks most asanas can be modified and further along there is pregnancy yoga. For those with injuries, speak to your yoga teacher as there are adjusments available for many injuries.
This form of yoga is very different to a vinyasa flow. Asanas are held for five to ten minutes a a time to work into the deep muscles and fascia. This style of yoga was established and popularised in the West by Paulie Zink. Yin is a challenge for the body and the mind as you stay in stillness in postures, trying to find complete quiet in body and mind.
What can you expect in a Yin class?
Just like with haha yoga, the class will begin with a theme or focus that the yoga teacher will refer to throughout the class. Then you will work through five to ten postures using props to support your body throughout. This may be blocks or straps, bolsters or blankets. The teacher will refer to your first, second and final edge, suggesting that you start with your first edge and half way through the timer head towards your second edge, this simply means deepening your physical expression of the pose. As you hold the poses for longer, your flexibility may increase but by avoiding the deepest edge you will avoid unbearable discomfort. It is important to remember some discomfort is to be expected (both in mind and in body) but pain should always be avoided. Not every pose is for everyone, so if it hurts, come out of the pose. Finally, you will enjoy savasana, usually supported by props.
Who is Yin for?
Yin can be fantastic for many yogis and can help increase flexibility. However, it should be practiced when cold otherwise you risk working too deeply into the muscles and joints and causing injury. Don't follow a hatha class with a yin class as this will heighten the risk of injury.
Nurturing Yoga / Slow Flow
Vinyasa Flow's cousin, slow flow is one of the most accessible forms of yoga. Moving through similar movements to a vinyasa flow class, the pace is slowed right down and there are moments of yin-like stillness. This gentler class is a great way for beginners to take their first step up from a beginners class or for well-practiced yogis to slow down their practice and explore a gentler approach.
What can you expect in a slow flow class?
This class will also begin with a theme from the teacher, then you will usually spend a little longer in seated postures and close to the ground before moving through sun salutations. Often slow flow will involve pausing and closing the eyes to feel the body and focus on the breath. There may not be as many standing postures, but the class will maintain a slow, flowing pace throughout. Finally, there will be some reclined postures to help you relax before an extended savasana.
Who is slow flow for?
Perfect for most people, slow flow is a gentle yoga practice suitable for new and regular yogis of all ages and abilities. For those with injuries it is best to inform your yoga teacher so that adjustments can be put in place if necessary. This is a fantastic way to move on from beginners classes, return to yoga after injury or take a more mindful approach to yoga if you are use to more intense classes.
This fitness-based approach to yoga is the most vigorous form of yoga. It focuses on fast-paced movement, core strengthening postures and aims to see yogis sweat! It uses movements similar to vinyasa flow, but moves at a far quicker pace and can sometimes include exercises similar to pilates.
What can you expect in a power yoga class?
Power Yoga includes all the same elements of a vinyasa flow class but there are variations within this style, including Rocket Yoga and Mandala Yoga. You can expect to move at a quicker pace, moving from one asana to the next with little pause between sun salutations. There will still be a savasana and a theme for the lesson, but there is less focus on alignment and the breath and more of a focus on building stamina and strength.
Who is power yoga for?
Practised yogis with strong stamina will enjoy this class the most. There is an expectation that you will have a good idea of the postures as there isn't time to explain alignment as in a slow flow or vinyasa class. The fast movements also mean you need to be physically fit. However, just as with any yoga class the teacher will be happy enough to see you take a break in childs pose whenever you need and if you want to try this style but are new, just talk to the teacher and they'll be able to make modifications and advise you on how best to build up to this practice.
To book vinyasa flow or slow flow classes with me, head here!