Yoga, a 5,000-year-old ancient practice and discipline stemming from India, has become increasingly popular among today’s busy society. In fact, the number of people practicing yoga in the U.S. rose by nearly 50 percent between 2012 and 2016. Just last year, the Global Wellness Institute crowned yoga the world’s “most popular workout.”
While people often associate all types of yoga with Hatha yoga, the practice of physical yoga postures (asana), there are many other types of yoga rooted in breathwork (pranayama), spirituality, or meditation.
Today, millions of people use yoga to improve their quality of life, relieve stress, increase vitality, promote physical well-being, and enhance mental clarity. For many, yoga provides a necessary retreat from their increasingly busy lives.
If you are new to yoga or just starting out, here are 3 things to know before unrolling your mat.
A Beginners Guide to Yoga: 3 Things You Need to Know Before Unrolling Your Mat
1. Yoga is for everyone.
Whether you’re young or old, and regardless of your physical ability, the benefits of yoga extend far beyond the mat. While it can be intimidating to start something new, beginning a yoga practice is a great way to jumpstart your health and improve your quality of life.
2. Yoga provides physical and mental benefits.
Physical Benefits of Yoga
- Increased flexibility
- Improved and balanced metabolism
- Increased strength, muscle tone and athletic performance
- Injury prevention and improved posture
- Increased cardiovascular and circulatory health
- Healthy weight management
- Increased energy and vitality
- May decrease chronic pain and lower inflammation
- Better digestion
- Enhanced quality of sleep
Mental Benefits of Yoga
- Calms your nervous system
- Decreased stress
- Lessens the symptoms of anxiousness
- Improved mood
- Improved focus
- Promotes a sense of inner peace
- Improved relationships
- Encourages self-care
3. Yoga can suit your unique needs.
Like vitamins, yoga isn’t one-size-fits-all. There are numerous types of yoga and hundreds of different styles of practice. Whatever your starting point, you can find a class to suit your needs.
What Are the Different Types of Yoga?
If you’re up for a physically challenging practice, we recommend trying a vinyasa, Ashtanga, power, or Bikram yoga class.
Vinyasa is a dynamic type of yoga that synchronizes movement with breath. Vinyasa classes are commonly referred to as “flow classes” and have become incredibly popular in recent years. Vinyasa yoga classes are usually different each session.
Like vinyasa, Ashtanga yoga places a strong emphasis on movement and breath. However, unlike vinyasa style classes that vary each time, Ashtanga classes go through a series of fast-paced and physically challenging poses practiced in the same order. In traditional Ashtanga style classes, you can only move onto the next pose or series of poses after you’ve achieved the previous one/s.
An offshoot of Ashtanga, power yoga is a vigorous fitness-based vinyasa style practice that syncs breath with movement. These classes can be different each time and are recommended for anyone looking to break a sweat.
Commonly referred to as “hot yoga,” Bikram consists of a series of 26 poses repeated in the same order for 90 minutes. Bikram yoga is often practiced in a room heated to 105°F (40.6°C) to help sweat out toxins.
If you prefer something more relaxing, we recommend trying Iyengar, yin or restorative yoga.
Lyengar yoga combines standing and seated postures focused on anatomy, alignment, and posture. This type of yoga is ideal for someone looking to improve their range of motion. Poses are normally held for long periods and often modified with props for support and precision.
This gentle style of practice is intended to help you sit longer and more comfortably in meditation by stretching connective tissue around the joints (mainly the knees, pelvis, sacrum, and spine). Typically, poses are held for 3 to 5 minutes or longer.
Similar to yin yoga, restorative or gentle yoga is a helpful practice for anyone living with chronic pain, dealing with injuries, or feeling overly stressed. Gentle poses are held for an extensive amount of time (usually 10 minutes or more) and can incorporate the use of props like blankets, bolsters, and straps for added comfort and support.
If you’re looking for a happy medium between physically demanding and relaxing routines, try Hatha yoga.
Like Ashtanga, vinyasa, and power yoga, hatha yoga combines a series of yoga poses and breathing techniques to align and calm the body and mind in preparation for meditation. While classes are commonly slower-paced and poses are held for a longer period, Hatha classes can be physically demanding.
One of the benefits of yoga, as has been detailed above, is that there are many types you can try. If you select a form of yoga that isn’t right for you, pick a different one. With so many variations to choose from, you’re sure to find at least one kind of yoga that nourishes your mind, body, and spirit.
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