Flowing sequences or holding poses - Which style of yoga is right for me?

Flowing sequences or holding poses - Which style of yoga is right for me?

Yoga can be confusing - with so many 'styles' out there, how do you know what is the right one for you? Some people love to get hot and sweaty, lots of moving sequences like vinyasa flow, repeated series of sequences like astanga, hot yoga to allow the muscles to become more flexible, sweat out toxins, get the energy flowing.

Acroyoga Acro Yoga

Kundalini yoga is based on moving the serpent power which sits at the base of the spine upwards towards enlightenment. Yoga props would certainly get in the way of all of the above, break the flow and be things to fall over so a yoga mat is all you need...and maybe a towel! In other styles of yoga, poses may be held for some time with emphasis on alignment and symmetry like in the Iyengar system, or held for even longer for a deep opening in the joints like yin yoga.

Slower styles give the mind time to observe what is happening - some mindful practices take time to move towards a pose with the actual pose itself being less important than the journey. Rather than pushing and straining to achieve an 'advanced' shape, the emphasis of what is often labelled as 'hatha' yoga is the balance of mind/body/spirit. Other forms of releasing and un-doing tension from the body and mind may be called 'gentle yoga', and to find freedom in the body, especially the spine, is taught by Scaravelli-inspired teachers.

Vanda Scaravelli Vanda Scaravelli

For those with injuries or certain conditions, yoga teachers have knowledge of how to modify poses to suit individual needs, how to use props to open and support students safely in their practice which is very much in the style of the Desikichar tradition (formerly vini yoga) which is taught 1-2-1 or in small groups.

Restorative yoga Restorative yoga

Many teachers work therapeutically, teaching restorative yoga for releasing, resting and rebalancing where props like yoga bolsters, blankets , blocks and straps are used to support the body in a pose, as opposed to using active physical effort - a very different approach to take stress off the body and recharge worn-down batteries. Then we get to yoga nidra, where you are asked to lie down and do nothing, intention is everything and all you need to do is be lead through a deep relaxation to bring you to a receptive state of consciousness.

That is just touching the surface - having read the above very generalised descriptions, you may have thought - 'ah that seems like my kind of yoga' - so find a class!

However, be warned

We love doing what we're good at. We are drawn to a class that feels familiar to our preferred life experiences - if you leave the class and you feel confident, the poses felt easy and familiar, the teacher praised you and adjusted you, you noticed real progress in your poses - you feel great and that's probably why you go back.

The fact is that what is beneficial for us is probably the opposite - if you're the kind of person who likes to keep busy all the time, don't like sitting around doing nothing, you may be drawn to a very active high energy yoga class when probably what you need is the opposite - a relaxing low level activity class where the focus is on stopping your busy body and mind, and going deeper into your Self. Well out of your comfort-zone? Good!

If you are sluggish and self-reflective, maybe even depressed, you may be happy to lie down under a blanket and concentrate on the pleasures of breathing in and out, or practice some seated meditation but what would actually be more beneficial is a warming practice with lots of sequences to get energy levels up, get the heart and lungs pumping, and will power activated. Or something playful like an acroyoga class with a partner to help you fly! Sound too much like hard work? Good!

The whole point of yoga is to balance the opposites - active and passive, ying and yang, masculine and feminine, heavy and light, ground and sky, serious and playful etc...

Why not try a class which you would usually dismiss - not as a regular class but maybe if you're having a week where you feel stuck in a rut, try something new...you never know where it may lead you.

By Judy Hirsh

For more advice about yoga styles, teachers and where to find them, watch out for the yogaunited community site...coming to your screen soon!

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