Finding the Style of Yoga That’s Right for You

Friday, October 04, 2013 1:11 PM comments (0)

yogaIntrigued by yoga but not sure where to start? For beginners, yoga’s many styles and moves might be a bit overwhelming but don’t be deterred. Yoga is a great exercise for people of all ages, activity levels and body types; it’s just a matter of finding the one or combination of styles that’s right for you.

Finding the right style of yoga comes down to assessing your current level of fitness/ability and determining what you hope to achieve by adding yoga to your fitness routine.  Some styles are better suited to athletes looking to increase flexibility and stamina, while other more gentle styles are ideal for those with injuries or chronic medical conditions. But no matter the style, all yoga increases strength, flexibility and balance, while also releasing tension and calming the mind. After all, the goal of yoga is to create a bond between the mind and the body. 

Polly Liontis, Yoga Instructor and Licensed Massage Therapist, highlights some popular styles of yoga and discusses the health benefits and required fitness levels of each:

Hatha yoga focuses on breathing exercises and basic poses. Its more basic approach makes it an ideal style for beginners who need to accustom themselves to yoga’s poses and relaxation techniques.
Benefits: Hatha reduces stress, increases concentration and promotes a feeling of overall relaxation. It’s also great for the core.
Who can do it? Anyone, regardless of age or ability, can do Hatha!

Iyengar yoga is a form of Hatha yoga that focuses on alignment and precision during movement. Often straps, blankets and blocks are used to enable beginners and those with injuries to achieve the correct positioning without putting excess stress on muscles and joints.
Benefits:  Like all styles of yoga, Iyengar is a mind and body exercise. It promotes balance, builds muscle and can help with recovery after an injury.
Who can do it? Iyengar yoga is a gradual yoga. By including props and allowing one to progress slowly from one move to the next, it’s great for just about anyone, especially those with less mobility after an injury.

Vinyasa yoga seeks to synchronize movement with breath. The key to Vinyasa is to flow smoothly from one movement to the next, which is why it is also frequently referred to as Vinyasa Flow.
Benefits: Vinyasa gets you moving more than Hatha so there’s the added cardiovascular benefit. It also builds lean muscle, improves strength and flexibility, and tones abdominal muscles.
Who can do it? It’s a bit more physically demanding and fast-paced than Hatha, but Vinyasa is still great for beginners and those looking to move from beginner to intermediate level. 

Ashtanga yoga is a form of power yoga that is fast-paced and intense with lunges and push-ups. The six-move sequence flows rapidly from one strenuous pose to the next and is paired with Vinyasa-style breathing. 
Benefits: Like with any style of yoga, Ashtanga reduces stress and improves coordination and balance. It’s quite a workout too, which means the added benefit of potential weight loss and full-body toning. 
Who can do it? Ashtanga yoga is best for fit people who wish to maintain or increase their strength and stamina. It would be helpful to be familiar with the six basic poses in the Ashtanga sequence before jumping into an Ashtanga class.

Bikram yoga, also known as hot yoga, is practiced in a humid room with temperatures kept at 95 - 100 degrees. All Bikram sessions are 90 minutes and consist of the same 26 poses and two breathing exercises.
Benefits: The heat of Bikram facilitates a deeper stretch, and increased perspiration helps flush and cleanse toxins from the body. It’s a gently intense workout with weight-loss possibilities.
Who can do it? The heat might make it a bit of a stretch (no pun intended) for beginners but after you’ve gotten the hang of the heat and the poses, it’s a good yoga style for intermediates looking to push themselves to new levels.

Have you tried yoga? Do you have a favorite style?

Yoga – More Than Just Stretching and Flexibility

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 4:57 PM comments (0)

Do Downward-Facing Dog, Plank, Warrior I and Child’s Pose sound familiar? While you’ve probably heard of at least one of these popular yoga poses, maybe you’ve even done a few of them yourself.

Yoga—originating in India—is a practice that has been around for centuries. Yoga is a vast body of knowledge which includes physical exercise done through the practice of yoga poses, breathing exercises to calm the nervous system, meditation practices to focus the mind, dietary practices to detoxify the body, herbal oil massages to nourish the skin, philosophy for living a peaceful life and the Science of Ayurveda (The Indian Medical System which includes Ayurvedic Acupuncture, Ayurvedic Herbs and Ayurvedic Massage Therapies). Yoga is an entire system of self-care and self-realization which was one of the first paradigms of Energy Medicine known to man.

Hatha Yoga is a type of exercise, that when done correctly, can be good for people of all ages and physical abilities. Polly Liontis, Yoga Instructor (Certified by the Himalayan Institute and a Licensed Massage Therapist/LMT), identifies some of the health benefits of practicing yoga:

  • Helps balance the nervous system. Something which distinguishes yoga from any other form of physical exercise is that the movement is always coordinated with the breath. Moving the body through yoga poses while practicing deep diaphragmatic breathing allows the body to oxygenate the blood and muscles and keeps the mind focused on the coordination of the movement with the breath. This calms the mind and moves the body out of the stress response.
  • Builds strength and increases flexibility. Many yoga poses require you to bear your own body weight in different positions for various periods of time which builds bone and muscle strength. Also, many poses focus on developing and using core muscle groups and enhancing your range of motion. These poses increase both strength and flexibility within and around the spine and improve your posture.
  • Alleviates stress and relaxes the body.  An entire branch of yoga is dedicated to breathing exercises, many of which engage the parasympathetic nervous system and naturally slow the heart rate, lower the blood pressure and bring the entire nervous system to a deep state of relaxation by inducing a profound relaxation response in the body. This enables us to take the body out of the “fight or flight” response.
  • Calms the mind. Meditation is another branch of yoga that teaches many different ways to focus the mind, calm the breath and systematically relax the body. This induces a deep state of relaxation and takes the body out of the “stress response.”
  • Improves the quality of your sleep. The regular practice of yoga has also been shown to help you sleep better and reduce insomnia by calming the nervous system.


Have you ever practiced yoga? What are some of your favorite poses?

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