Yoga has always had a reputation for being a softer form of exercise, but in recent years it’s had a revival. Not least because several studies have revealed its endless health benefits, including a recent one in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, which found that it can be more effective for weight loss than resistance training. In 2013 the same journal reported that doing 20 minutes of hatha yoga regularly can boost your brain power.
“A yoga practice can be as much about strength as flexibility; you’re not just looking to get bendier, but to move with control,” says yoga instructor Adam Hustler. “We spend most of our lives sitting hunched over our phones, computers and bikes and yoga helps correct this both mentally and physically.” Yoga instructor Niki Perry, who counts Kate Winslet as a regular agrees, “Yoga strengthens your core and improves your balance, which helps straighten your posture and boost your confidence.”
Olympian athletes, including Jessica Ennis Hill, have said that they complement their training with yoga, which has helped boost its popularity. It’s no surprise that most gyms offer at least one, if not more, type of yoga class and is can be tricky to know which one will work best for you. Here is an easy guide to the top five types to help you decide.
Different types of yoga – and which is best for you?
Traditionally ‘hatha’ is the word for yoga, but in the past few years hatha classes have cropped up. In most cases hatha classes tend to be gentler sessions, ideal for beginners.
This is a more athletic style of yoga and is more physically demanding. Each pose is held for five breaths and ends in a sun salutation, so if you’re not keen on downward dogs and planks this might be one to skip.
If you want to recharge, but also feel like you’ve worked out then a vinyasa flow yoga class is a great option. The instructor goes through a series of poses that flow together. It bridges the gap between hatha and astanga styles.
Generally Bikram yoga sessions tend to consist of a series of 26 poses, which are performed in 40°c. It goes without saying, but you should be prepared to sweat, a lot. Drink plenty of water before and during, and pack a couple of towels (one to keep your grip on the matt and another to keep dry).
If you’re feeling seriously stressed or are recovering from an injury, restorative yoga can be a game-changer. Expect to spend a lot of time supported by a bolster as individual poses are held for between eight and 20 minutes, for each side of your body. It’s as effective physically as it is mentally.
It is worth noting though that no two yoga classes are the same and often it’s just as much about finding the right instructor as it is finding the right type.