How to choose the right style of yoga for your stay-at-home practice
A starter guide to the different types of yoga so you can pick one that best suits your fitness level and goals.
From apps and websites to livestreams on Instagram, Facebook and Zoom, there are now multiple ways to get your wellness fix without even stepping out of your front door.
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Yoga, in particular, is especially easy to do at home as it typically does not require much equipment besides an exercise mat. Sometimes, props like yoga blocks or belts are needed but if you do not have them, you can easily substitute them with folded towels, thick books or any belt you have in your wardrobe.
Also, as yoga promotes a mind-body connection, it is also a good way to reap both physical and mental wellbeing benefits all at once.
But with a mind boggling variety of different types of yoga available, it can be hard to figure out which class to pick to suit your needs. Whether you are accustomed to practicing just one or two types of yoga or are a beginner looking to try something new to make productive use of your extra time, it can be annoying to spend fifteen minutes following a video class, only to decide that you are just not feeling it.
So we’ve put together a guide to some of the more common yoga styles you will encounter when browsing digital classes, so you can figure out what works best for you.
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TO WORK ON YOUR TECHNIQUE OR TO LEARN THE BASICS: HATHA YOGA
Hatha yoga is probably the most common style of yoga that most instructors teach, with a focus on the postures, such as downward dog, warrior and triangle. This is a good starting point for complete beginners as instructors will typically give more detailed alignment instructions so you get the most out of each pose.
But even regular practitioners can benefit from following along to hatha yoga classes, as it gives you the opportunity to focus on your techniques when getting in and out of poses, particularly those you are not so familiar with. Tip: When streaming a class from a teacher you are not familiar with, experienced practitioners can look out for keywords like “intermediate” or “advanced” for a bigger challenge.
FOR STIFF, INFLEXIBLE MUSCLES: YIN OR RESTORATIVE YOGA
Now that you have to work from home and have to give up your fancy ergonomic computer set-up in your office, you might notice your shoulders and neck aching from being hunched over your tiny laptop. Slouching in bed all day will not do your back or hips any favour either.
To relieve these aches and to improve your flexibility, try yin yoga. Other keywords to look out for in class descriptions include stretch or restorative yoga. During this slow-moving, deliberate practice, the instructor will guide you through postures that you will hold for anywhere between two and five minutes.
The goal is to not just stretch out your muscles, but also the connective tissue including the tendons, ligaments and fascia to relieve tension. Most of the poses are done seated, so this is also a meditative practice that will have you feeling stretched out, limber and more relaxed. It’s probably the next best thing to going for a Thai massage right now.
TO GET YOUR BLOOD FLOWING: VINYASA OR FLOW YOGA
During a vinyasa practice, you will “flow” through a sequence, while synchronising your movements to your breath. The fluid movements and postures are a good way to work up a sweat without having to step off your mat, making it a good active practice, especially if you are getting some cabin fever from being confined indoors all day.
If you are a beginner, be sure to take breaks whenever you need it – simply hit the pause button and resume your session when you are ready.
For those who prefer an even more intense cardio practice, look out for hybrid classes like HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) yoga or power flow.
WHEN YOU WANT TO MEASURE YOUR PROGRESS: ASHTANGA YOGA
Ashtanga yoga is a fixed flow-based sequence which takes about 90 minutes to complete.
Unlike vinyasa yoga, where the sequence is created by the teacher and varies from class to class, the ashtanga sequence never changes. This makes it the ideal practice for perfectionist types who prefer having a benchmark to measure their improvement.
The energetic, fast-paced sequence, which includes progressively challenging postures such as inversions, backbends and deep twists, is great for those who are ready to further their yoga practice.
To level up once you have familiarised yourself with the practice, try doing it Mysore style, that is by doing the sequence on your own without a video guide.
TO BUILD STRENGTH: POWER YOGA
If you currently do not have access to weights equipment due to gym closures, fret not. You can still use your own body weight for a semblance of resistance training.
Look out for power yoga classes, where you will be required to lift and hold your own body’s weight in a variety of postures such as planks, chaturangas (push-ups) and unsupported lunges.
Focusing on keeping up with the fast-moving vinyasa-style pace can also help in temporarily keeping your mind off the incessant deluge of worrying COVID-19 related news. Plus, by the end of this sweaty, challenging practice, you will certainly feel the burn in your muscles too, in a good way.