Yoga has been practiced by millions of people for 1000s of years. In our fast-paced society that involves a lot of sitting and working from a desk. It is a much-needed practice to add to our lives. According to a national survey done by Yoga Journal, the number of people practicing yoga grew by more than 50% from 2012 to 2016. In this article, we will be going through the different types of yoga and their benefits. Keep on reading to learn more about what type of yoga you should add to your life.
Also read: Functional movement training
What is yoga?
Before we go into detail on the different types of yoga and their benefits. Let’s first talk about what Yoga is. When you translate Yoga from Sanskrit its literal translation means Union. Some people describe Yoga as bringing together the mind and body through breathing. Which is honestly the perfect way to look at it. People usually think of yoga as just another workout when in actuality it is an entire lifestyle.
Yoga began in India 5000 years ago. In the beginning, it was taught one on one to people from high casts but now anyone and everyone has access to this practice. Even though yoga is a system to foster well-being on the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. It has no religious affiliations attached to it. And so it is practiced by people from different religions and beliefs.
Who is yoga for?
Yoga will help people from all walks of life improve their physical and mental health. Whether you are going through an illness, dealing with chronic pain or recovering from surgery. Yoga can be an important part of your healing process and potentially hasten healing altogether. There are also yoga therapists available to put together individualized plans to help you experience the full benefits of yoga in a faster time.
Does yoga count as exercise?
Yoga wasn’t considered an exercise at its origin. Though, some yoga styles have been adapted into workouts that will focus solely on the physical parts of yoga practice. Yoga won’t increase our heart rates the way aerobic exercises will. But certain yoga positions have to be held up for about 30 seconds to 2 minutes. This in turn challenges the muscles to get stronger and become more elastic. You could consider some of the advanced yoga positions to be calisthenic training. Because the muscles are kept under tension for a period of time which will challenge them to grow and become stronger.
Health benefits of yoga
Before we talk about the different types and styles of yoga and their benefits, you should learn about the benefits of practicing yoga to start with. There are so many benefits to yoga practice. Keep on reading to find out more.
First of all yoga practice improves flexibility. You don’t have to be flexible to practice yoga. The beautiful thing about yoga is over time you will notice a huge difference in your flexibility if you keep practicing the different movements. Even in just a few minutes a day you will see some improvement in your flexibility whether you started incredibly flexible or completely rigid in the beginning.
A lot of people think of heavyweights when it comes to building strength. But weight training is not the only way to build strength. You can tone your body and strengthen your muscles by practicing yoga as well. Exercises like the plank tone up your arms, core, legs and shoulders also. As long as your body is being challenged through the different poses you will build strength over time.
Having good posture and improving flexibility is a connected benefit for yoga practitioners. Practicing yoga consistently will help you sit up straighter and walk taller. With improved posture, you will also have more confidence in your steps.
Having a consistent yoga practice helps to increase energy. This will give you an extra energy boost to get through long days. Daily yoga practice opens up the main energy centers or chakras in your body. Poses that help to increase energy are those that extend the spine and allow energy to circulate throughout the whole body.
Breathing is an important part of yoga. Yoga breathing techniques which are called pranayama focus on slowing down the breath. Making sure that we fully breathe from the pit of the stomach to the lungs. This pranayama helps to feel more relaxed and balanced throughout the day. You can even practice working on your breathing throughout the day. Like when you are in the office or school and also when you are feeling stressed. This will help you stay relaxed in stressful situations. So that you can be more alert and stay focused on the task at hand.
Yoga is made up of 3 elements; poses, breathing, and meditation. Doing these things help to improve concentration. Being able to observe your breathing especially when meditating helps to calm the mind and keep you more relaxed. These exercises will also help you retain and recollect more information.
When there is less mental stress and physical tension it’s easier to think clearer. Practicing yoga helps us have clearer more organized thoughts. From this clear state, you will be able to think more efficiently.
Different types of yoga and their benefits
Over the years yoga styles have increased to the point where there are now about 30 different types of yoga being practiced today. In the next part of this article, we will be going through 8 different types of yoga and their benefits. From here you can decide which type of yoga will be best for your needs. Keep reading to find out more.
Hatha yoga is the most popular form of yoga. It is also offered in most gyms. Hatha yoga is also the perfect yoga for beginners. Hatha has all the traditional aspects of yoga practice. Things like body awareness, breathing and also meditation. Hatha covers all the basic postures and the class progresses in a slow manner. This means it will be easy for all beginners to follow the movements easily. The asanas are simple and basic with the aim of teaching all the fundamentals of learning how to breathe, relax and meditate as the class progresses.
Vinsaya yoga is a dynamic form of yoga. This yoga is perfect for active, restless people who like to challenge themselves. It’s perfect for people who prefer faster movements to music. Vinsaya yoga connects asanas to breathing. It consists of a lot of athletic yoga postures. Each movement is coordinated with breathing. It is also a very demanding type of yoga. The pace is very quick and you won’t have to be in the same pose for too much time.
This form of yoga is good for people who want to tone up. It also works the core and upper body and gives a good aerobic workout. But keep in mind there is no set structure and it will be a bit different depending on the instructor.
Kundalini is a more spiritual form of yoga. Where it is not as physically demanding because the postures are simple but the focus is always on clearing the mind and finding inner peace.
This yoga is perfect for those who are looking for a way to reduce stress and learn more about their inner self. If you are looking for something that is a little bit more than a workout. Then this is something you should definitely consider. The sessions are intense. It’s physically and mentally tasking and involves meditation, chatting, mudras and breathing exercises. The main goal of Kundalini yoga is to release the Kundalini energy through the spine.
Ashtanga yoga is one of the most demanding types of yoga. It’s known as the yoga of warriors. Sequences of Ashtanga flow with breathing in this technique. This yoga improves strength and flexibility. But it also helps to improve self-control over the body and mind. Fun fact, this yoga was popularized by celebrities. Some yogis know it as the “eight limb path”.
Iynegar yoga is good for people who want to work on joint and injury problems. It focuses on correcting the alignment of the spine so that posture becomes better. This is why it is a good type of yoga for people who have suffered an injury, people who do not engage in much activities and also beginners or elderly people.
In these yoga sessions, asanas are executed slowly. Yoga poses are kept for about a minute. Tools like blocks, balls, and elastics are options to use to help align the body while it’s becoming stronger. Tools are always available for movements that are still uncomfortable or force you to be in a flexed position. Iyengar yoga helps increase flexibility, improve posture and tone up the body.
Bikram Yoga is a good option for those looking to lose weight and eliminate toxins. The form of yoga goes through a sequence of 26 postures in a room at a temperature that is set at about 105 degrees at 40% humidity. These asana’s goals are to strengthen the muscles, eliminate toxins from the organs through sweating and also increase flexibility. Many studios have moved away from Bikram yoga to the popular yoga we all know today as hot yoga. This is because the founder Bikram Choudhury faced sexual assault and harassment lawsuits in the US.
Hot yoga is very similar to Bikram Yoga. This is the form of yoga you will usually find when you are looking for yoga with the heat turned up. Though unlike Bikram Yoga, hot yoga is not restricted to the 26 asana sequences.
To practice hot yoga safely make sure to drink lots of water, don’t try to do too much in the classes until you are ready. And leave the room if the heat becomes too much for you. Hot yoga has caused some people to overstretch and suffer from dehydration. So practice hot yoga with caution.
Yin is a good Yoga type for beginners. Postures are held for 45 seconds to about 2 minutes. These classes are also relaxed because gravity is expected to do all the work. Also, there are a lot of seated poses and a focus on spirituality, inner peace and relaxation. When poses are held for longer periods. It stretches out the connective tissue and makes the muscles more elastic.
Using props also helps to keep the body in the right postures instead of having to stay flexed. The Yin yoga style is also usually practiced in a hot room as well.
Easy yoga poses every yogi should know
Now that we have gone through the different types of yoga and their benefits. The next thing you should know is some examples of yoga poses that are easy for beginners to start. With this knowledge, you can go on to start practicing the basic yoga poses on your own. And if you ever decide to attend a yoga class you will have a better idea of some of the asanas before you even start. You start and little by little you will be experiencing some of the awesome benefits of yoga.
What is asana?
Before we list out the different poses though. Let us explain what an asana is. So that this article continues to make sense. Asana is another name for the poses or postures in yoga. You might have noticed we used asana interchangeably with poses a couple of times in this article. Some also define asana as the physical practice of yoga and its relation to the body. There are 84 different asanas or poses in yoga. But we are not going to overwhelm you with all that in this article. So for this article, we will only focus on 12 different asanas that are good for beginners. And you can start practicing these asanas as soon as you finish reading this article.
12 basic yoga poses for beginners
When you do the mountain pose to people that don’t understand it looks like you are just standing there but that is not the case at all. The mountain pose is a fundamental asana for all future yoga movements you will do. This pose helps to increase balance and also focus your attention on the present.
This classic yoga pose is harder than it looks. It opens up your shoulders, lengthens your spine and also stretches out the hamstring.
The plank is one of the best core movements to practice. It is not as easy for beginners but you can improve in your plank form over time. Planks strengthen your whole core and increase your stability. Our balance comes from the core. The stronger your core the better for you.
The cobra pose increases the mobility of the spine and strengthens the support of the spine. It also helps open the lung which is helpful for those with asthma.
The child pose is also another asana for the back, hips, thigh and ankles. In this position it’s good to relax and focus on your breathing.
This warrior 2 pose strengthens your ankles and legs. It also helps to increase stamina.
This pose would probably be hard for people with tight muscles. This is why it’s also a perfect pose to have in your routine. It will create a feeling of expansion in the body.
The tree pose improves balance and creates external rotation in the hips. This pose improves your ability to balance by strengthening the arches of the feet and outer hips.
Seated forward bend
To do this you have to sit on the ground and straighten your legs in front of you. Then grab and hold on to the outer edges of your feet. This helps to stretch out the back of your body, lengthen the spine and also stretch out the hamstrings. You will feel less tension in your back and hamstrings just after a few minutes of doing just this.
Seated twist pose
This pose promotes spinal mobility and is also good for digestion. Make sure to do these movements on both sides to get the full benefits.
If you have any experience working your legs. You probably know this pose already. A bridge pose is a version of a hip thrust. This movement helps to build size and strength in your glutes. But in yoga, it also helps to open up the chest and stretch the neck and spine.
Savasana (lie flat on your back)
This is the last from our list of yoga poses for beginners. Usually, you do this as the last pose to complete the session. Lie on your back with your arms by your side and legs extended in front of you. Place your feet to turn out to opposite sides of the room and leave your palms facing up to the ceiling. In this relaxed state focus on your breathing. Inhale and exhale deeply through the nose. Stay in this position for a few minutes just to appreciate that your session is over.
A lot of the 12 asanas we discussed in this article helped to open up the back. For those that sit on a chair all day at the office or school. Doing a couple of these poses every day before or after work will really help to remove some of the tightness in the back.
There is no doubt the number of people practicing yoga will continue to increase. There are too many benefits and positive results that take us to that conclusion. We have gone over a lot of different types of yoga and their benefits. From these different yoga types, you will definitely find something for yourself.
Also read: Regular exercise contributes to mental health