Yoga is more than your standard exercise. It’s about changing your lifestyle, your mind set and in some cases even more than that.
People used to believe that yoga was only 500 years old but evidence suggest it has over 5000 years of history behind. It yoga is more than just a way of exercising and it can help measure and level out your mental activity too. Yoga can be low intensity or high and can be used in a number of ways to work on different parts of your body and mind.
There are several different types of yoga which have been developed in the 20th and 21st centuries based upon the ancient teachings. Each type benefits you in different ways and below we’re looking at key reasons you may want to take up yoga and the type which is best for your needs.
If you want to take up yoga for a spiritual and mental reason then try Hatha. Hatha yoga has been around since the 15th century and has been studied in depth. Two recent studies in Canada have shown women who do two 75-minute yoga sessions for eight weeks felt reduced stress and improved mood. It’s a very simplistic form of yoga with very simple moves so it’s also ideal for complete beginners.
Hatha yoga is the most traditional form generally practiced these days and therefore if you want to experience ‘the real thing’ then this may be your best choice too.
Ashtanga yoga, also known as raja yoga, is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy (Dharmic). Its history is deep and it has become one of the main yoga choices by professional athletes. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning has research the art and found that athletic ashtanga yoga can increase your running time, natural strength and it’s designed to help counteract all the repetitive motions the body does throughout the normal day.
Iyengar Yoga was name after its developer B K S Iyengar and was developed in the 1970s. It was developed from Hatha yoga and places great emphasis on detail, alignment and precision in the performance of posture as well as breathing.
Iyengar yoga utilises props such as blocks and bolsters which allow you to release muscle tension from your body. You can let it all go physically and research suggests this encourages your mental stress to be released too.
Power yoga is a high power version of ashtanga yoga and relies upon vigorous effort for an all over body work out. It’s not for beginners or the faint hearted! Power yoga helps build lean muscle and helps increase your mental strength and stamina too. Take your fitness to a new level with this style of yoga.
Power yoga has become popular because it’s less traditional and less meditative than the traditional styles and it was designed and developed in America to make ashtanga yoga more attractive to Western students of the discipline. Strength and flexibility are the key areas where power yoga focuses.
Vinyasa yoga too was developed from hatha yoga but is very different. It moves at a much faster pace and each of the poses or moves is linked together in a series which are synchronised through the breathing techniques. Emphasis in Vinyasa yoga is upon the breathing techniques used and transition in and out of each move.
This type of yoga can help you trim down as it burns up to 450 calories an hour. It’s all about movement and breathing working in combination and yoga is fast becoming known as ‘meditation in motion’ with the breathing and meditative thought as important as the moves themselves.
Bikram yoga is one of the most famous types out there and was developed by Bikram Choudhury from traditional hatha yoga in the 1970s. Bikram yoga classes last 90 minutes and are made up 26 exact postures and two breathing exercises. Bikram yoga is different from other types as it is practiced in heated rooms over around 40.6°C with a humidity of 40%.
Warm muscles are known to burn fat more easily and is gives your body the natural high that you’d experience during an intense cardio workout. You’ll need water though and be prepared to feel invigorated.
The majority of local fitness centres will offer a standard version of yoga which may be a mixture of any of these and you may need to find a specialist centre if you’re committed to trying out a certain type.
Any yoga is better than none of course and if you want to try it out and change your outlook on life as well as building up your fitness then it’s certainly worth getting along to a beginner’s class as soon as you can.
by Jessica Ward
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