Vinyasa, hatha, kundalini, ashtanga, bikram, jivamukti, anusara… do you really know what any of these mean or is it just double dutch?!
So you’ve decided you want to give this yoga lark try. You’ve seen all those other smug people swanning around with yoga mats on their back, basking in their post yoga glow and you want some of what they have. Good for you! So you look up your local yoga studio online excited to sign up for your first class and suddenly you hit a block: you just want to sign up for a “regular” yoga class, so what on earth do all these funny sounding words mean??
This was pretty much my own experience when I first set out to try yoga properly in Australia. Terrified by the idea of Bikram which was the only type of yoga I knew a tiny bit about (Sydney was already hot enough thankyou!) I didn’t know anything about the other types and in general was completely intimidated by the thought of all these super nimble, tanned and beautiful people wrapping their legs around their heads and other sorts of bizarre images I had created in my mind. That was until one of my work colleagues convinced me to come along to a class with her, which I did, and I was completely hooked from the very start. Unknowingly that first class I had attended was vinyasa style (which meant very little to me at the time), and I very quickly became a yoga fanatic, giddily leaving the office each evening to make it to my class. After about 3 classes I accidentally found myself in a yin class, eagerly ready to go through an energetic flow to blow off some steam from a busy work day. But hold on a minute, what was this?! Why were we moving so slowly and holding poses for what seemed like an eternity? After getting over the shock that I wasn't in a fast paced flow class, my initial frustration quite quickly dissipated, and I ended leaving the class with a floating feeling. After that I enthusiastically tried out lots of different types of yoga, curious to learn more, until I found what suited my body and needs.
A question I get asked a lot when I tell people that I teach yoga is “what style do you teach?” For many teachers their method and style develops over time as they find an approach that feels authentic and genuine to them, and this is what makes yoga so special: no two teachers will be ever same and every class will have a different focus and atmosphere. In general I teach the type of yoga that I love to practise myself, which is a vinyasa style. However there are days when I like to slow it down a little, bringing the focus on alignment, setting up a pose carefully and holding it for longer as you would in a hatha class. And in my own practise I have found myself more and more recently at the end of a busy day before going to bed relishing a quiet yin session to settle my mind and close out the day. I like to bring this blend of styles to my own teaching, not rigidly sticking to one specific approach, but at all times focusing on moving and connecting the body with the breath.
Navigating yoga termininology can be a little daunting and confusing, particularly for first timers. There are hundreds of different types and styles, so how do you know what will suit you? This can depend on lots of different factors such as how you are feeling on a particular day, if you have any injuries or your general level of fitness: sometimes you will want to be seriously challenged, dripping in sweat and other times you simply want to wind down, and turn off the busy world around you. I always say to people to try more than one class and different teachers: what one person might find slow and frustrating may be challenging and engaging to someone else. I’ve done up a little cheat sheet below of some of the more popular styles of yoga to give you a brief overview of what they basically involve. Hopefully this will make it easier to find your way on the path to yoga bliss!