Monday, April 27, 2009

Yoga Styles and Differences

When you visit a yoga studio for the first time you may be overwhelmed by the number of yoga styles. There are more than 20 different types of practices.

The best way for you to narrow down what class to take is to discuss your goals with the director of the program or an instructor. Usually it is more important to make sure the class matches your level (e.g. beginner, intermediate, advanced) than to try and pick a particular method of practice.

In the United States many teachers have studied more than one style. You will find that the poses offered in one class overlap the poses taught in a class based in a different style. So go ahead and just dive in.

Still, it may be helpful for the more curious to know a little background about yoga styles before entering the studio. Here we discuss Bikram and Iyengar styles to give an idea of the how the many different practices may vary.

Bikram is a modern form that was developed in Los Angeles. It is practiced in a heated room with the temperature at approximately 105F and the humidity set to 40%. Classes include approximately 25 postures and one to two breathing exercises. They run between an hour and an hour and a half.

Iyengar is a form of Hatha yoga, and focuses on alignments of the body. Iyengar uses props like blocks and belts for performing postures which are called asses. Practitioners strongly believe that encouraging the building of strength, flexibility, balance and stamina through meditation will unite the body, mind and spirit to promote overall well-being and health.

For those looking to escape the rush and stress of modern life Iyengar can be a welcome distraction. People with back pain or other chronic physical ailments often try this style of yoga to relieve stress. Since the practice is calming and postures can be adapted with props, it is also popular with pregnant women.

Beginning practitioners should note that these are brief overviews of just two styles. Articles, Internet sites, philosophies, doctrines, and books have been written regarding these. Imagine if you had to do all that research just to pick one! Now consider again that there are 20 plus styles.

Studios recommend you not be overwhelmed with the amount of information about different ways to practice . Instead, simply drop in on a class that fits your level. Studios typically feature dropping payment plans that allow you to pay for each class that you take as you go. That way you are not committed to any one style and won't get stuck working in a practice that you will not enjoy.

Beginners should try to go with a friend who can prep them on what to expect. Even if your friend has not tried that particular class you can both calm each others' nerves and have a casual debriefing on what you liked and didn't like about the style and then decide what to do next together.

Anne Clarke writes numerous articles for Web sites on gardening, parenting, fashion, and home decor. Her background also includes teaching, yoga, and heath and fitness. For more of her useful articles on yoga, visit Breathe Yoga

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