Shop for your yoga style
Thinking about trying yoga? With a class and style to suit everyone, it really is a ‘flexible’ activity.
Words: Megan Gamble
From an ancient Indian tradition to a mainstream health and wellness trend, yoga spikes curiosity and interest in all those who encounter it. The benefits of a regular yoga practice are many, and despite most people’s concerns about being able to touch their toes, it’s accessible to all.
“It’s rare that a person will enter a yoga class with amazing flexibility. That’s what yoga can teach you or help you to improve,” says Amy Leonard, Director of Yoga Corner, Melbourne CBD’s first hot-yoga studio.
Leonard says yoga is a great all-round workout for mind and body, with endless benefits for your health. “Regular yoga practice can help to reduce blood pressure, as well as reduce stress, anxiety and depression,” she says, “and it will help to improve core strength, balance, flexibility and bone density, not to mention improve your attention span and ability to concentrate.”
There’s no age limit on who can participate in yoga either. “Yoga is about union of mind and body, and with that ethos, there’s a type of yoga to suit every person, at every stage of their life,” says Rosie McCaughey, a physiotherapist and Director of Rise Yoga in Richmond, Victoria. “For example, vinyasa is a fast-paced, playful style of yoga; hot yoga is an intense practice with longer-held postures and a bias towards flexibility; and yin yoga is great for everyone, because it encourages a more balanced approach to our bodies, minds and lives.”
So, how do you know which type of yoga is best for you? “It depends on what you want from the practice – whether it’s more physical fitness or finding balance mentally and emotionally,” says Leonard.
Here’s a run-down on five of the most popular yoga styles, all of which will improve your strength, flexibility, balance and sense of wellbeing.
In its simplest form, hatha yoga means the physical practice of yoga. Any time you are practising a collection of poses (asanas) and applying breathing techniques, you are doing hatha yoga. Most of the yoga practised in the western world falls under this classification, with some styles branching off to follow their own path or unique principles. Poses are straightforward and common to all styles, the pace is slow and gentle on the body, and classes are static – you’ll perform one pose, come out of it and then move to the next.
Good for: Beginners and seniors; injury-prone people.
Developed by the late Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja (B.K.S) Iyengar, this type of yoga uses a mix of traditional poses with an emphasis on body placement and alignment. You can expect to use a lot of props in class, such as yoga blocks and straps. The props are particularly beneficial if you’re coming to the practice with an injury, a weakness or general inflexibility. Classes are slow, with a pause in between each pose, which allows you to really focus on alignment and makes for a dynamic practice.
Good for: Beginners; injury-prone people.
3. Ashtanga and Vinyasa
Ashtanga and Vinyasa are the most vigorous forms of yoga. Ashtanga is the more traditional of the two; classes usually begin with a short chant, then you’ll follow a sequence of set poses interspersed with sun salutations (another short sequence of poses that is performed quickly, in tune with the breath). Vinyasa yoga is a moving, flowing practice, which can be quite fast and athletic. “In a class, you’ll move from pose to pose, linking breath, and this creates power, heat and sweat in the body,” says Leonard. “From Vinyasa yoga, we get a physical workout as well as a deeper connection to ourselves and the world around us, differentiating it from a regular fitness routine.”
Good for: Those seeking a physical and mental transformation; weight loss, toning, flexibility, co-ordination and concentration.
Created by Indian yogi Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s, this system of yoga involves a set sequence of 26 poses that are performed in a heated room (40 degrees Celsius). The poses are designed to stretch and strengthen the muscles and compress and ‘rinse’ the organs of the body, facilitating the release of toxins. Bikram is for people who like to sweat and is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Expect a room that feels like a sauna, mirrors that will help you see what everyone else is doing (instruction is mostly verbal) and repetitive poses.
Good for: Highly energised, active people; anyone who likes a challenge.
With roots in Taoism and traditional Chinese medicine, this style is designed to increase circulation in the joints and improve flexibility. It focuses on passive, seated postures that are held for anywhere between three and five minutes, sometimes longer, to allow for a deeper stretch. “Yin is practised with relaxed muscles – it’s about getting deeper into the body and working with connective tissue, like fascia and ligaments, particularly in the hips, pelvis and lower spine,” says McCaughey. The poses also aim to improve the body’s flow of qi – a subtle energy that is said to run through the meridian pathways of the body.
Good for: Athletes; stressed individuals; people who suffer from adrenal fatigue and chronic fatigue or a hormonal imbalance.
Budgeting for the costs of yoga
The cost of yoga classes varies widely; you will need to contact your preferred provider for exact prices. Typically, you can expect to pay $15–$20 per session for a class held in your local park or community centre, and $20–$25 per session in a dedicated yoga studio.
Many yoga studios also offer deals to newcomers, such as $45 for two weeks of unlimited classes. A private one-on-one session with an experienced teacher can cost between $80 and $100. Yoga classes are also frequently offered as part of gym memberships, which is a cost-effective way to try it out.
A word of caution before you sign up
Yoga is a physical activity, which means it’s not completely risk free. Injuries can and do occur, quite often from body misalignment or overly enthusiastic attempts to force your way into a pose. The wonderful thing about yoga is that it is a fully adjustable practice – every style can be varied to accommodate an individual’s needs, whether it’s working around medical conditions, injuries, lack of flexibility or, for women, pregnancy.
If you have any existing medical problems or conditions, you should consult your doctor before undertaking a yoga practice.
Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.