Choosing a Yoga style

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The amount of yoga classes on offer today would confuse even a die-hard yoga fan. Pick a letter of the alphabet and chances are you’ll be able to find a yoga class beginning with that letter. Anusara, Ashtanga, Bikram, Iyengar, Kripalu and even Chair yoga. You may not be blessed with such a vast choice. The neighbourhood may only have a Sivananda class on offer. What are the factors that should determine your choice? The obvious answer should be what suits you.


Why are there so many Different Styles?

Yoga has evolved tremendously over the centuries, with several different styles emerging over time. Yoga evolved because different people wanted to gain different things from yoga. Yoga was essentially a way of life, or a means to better living. But modern times have necessitated its new avatar as a form of physical fitness. The asanas remain the same, with a few additions. What changes is the emphasis, such as focusing on strict alignment of the body, coordination of breath and movement, holding the postures, or the flow from one posture to another. No style is superior to the other; it is simply a matter of personal preference and going with a style that best suits your requirements.

How Old are You?

Even though yoga is a discipline that is open to people of all ages, certain yoga styles suit people of a particular age. Younger, physically active people can look at Ashtanga, Bikram, or Tantra yoga. Older people need to start slowly with basic postures and more importantly correct alignment in poses. Iyengar, Anusara or a Sivananda class is more suitable for the not so fit among us. Each student’s abilities and limitations are taken into account in these classes.

What is your Goal?

Are you are looking to loose weight or do you wish to immerse yourself in the philosophy of yoga? Are meditation and a spiritual focus important to you? If you are looking for a workout, a class that focuses on meditation may not suit your needs. The benefits of meditation cannot be realized by a closed mind. You cannot force yourself to meditate and neither can your yoga teacher. Integral, Kundalini and Sivananda yoga are more suited to people who wish to get a more complete experience. Meditation and Pranayama are an essential component of these yoga classes. Whereas Bikram yoga pays more emphasis on the asanas.

Who is the Teacher?

More than a yoga style, one should be influenced by the teacher imparting the knowledge. Find a qualified, registered teacher who can pay attention to you. When you start with yoga it becomes important to practice the asana correctly. Class sizes should not be too large; the teacher must have time to align your body correctly and to rectify mistakes.

What is your Physical condition?

If you have a physical condition like arthritis, weak knees, suffer from blood pressure or are pregnant you need to be circumspect about your choice of yoga styles. Yoga is thought to be good for pregnant women, but one glove doesn’t fit all. Different pregnancies require different cautions. Be sure to contact your medical practitioner before you sign up for any class. Chair yoga is a gentle style of yoga where the mat is replaced by a chair. People with disabilities or physical ailments are made to perform modified asanas either sitting on or using the chair as a prop.

Have you Tried a Class?

Educate yourself about the different yoga styles to determine what is appropriate for you. Better still watch a class in progress or take a trial class before you commit yourself. Talk to the people taking the class to get a better picture of what to expect. Yoga is like the akshayapatra, it is a store that is inexhaustible. You take from it what you require. “Words cannot convey the value of yoga. It has to be experienced.” BKS Iyengar


  • Yoga Styles Guide
  • Choosing a Yoga Style

See Also