Yoga: a beginner’s guide
I’ve practised yoga for years in different styles and locations and with different teachers – from the hippy sort who played floaty music and left us poems to pick up after class to the strict workout-style yogi who took us through fast flows and yelled “you are not lying on the beach!” if she felt we weren’t putting enough effort into postures.
I’ve often been asked what’s the best type to try and that very much depends on what kind of a workout you prefer and what results you’re after. So, here’s an expert’s whizz through some of the different options that I’ve borrowed from Muddy Surrey.
Hatha (often just called….yoga!)
Hatha yoga covers a whole range of yoga asana (poses) – 84 in total according to some 17th century texts! Over time these have been added to and adapted with today’s estimates suggesting over 200 variations. Clearly you wouldn’t practice all of these poses in a single class – instead your teacher guides you through a series of static postures designed to mobilise, strengthen and stretch your whole body. Rounded off with a well-earned savasana (relaxation).
The relationship of breath with movement is key to a vinyasa practice. Interconnected postures are woven together for a flowing sequence that challenges your body and uplifts your soul! Great for upper body strength and stamina.
Hot yoga is not so much a style of yoga as a description of the environment in which yoga is practised. You will typically find both Hatha and Vinyasa style classes offered in a hot studio where temperatures are a balmy 38-42 c with a humidity level of around 40%. Students may choose to practise hot yoga for a variety of reasons – to detoxify, to get a little bit more stretch out of their muscles or to reap the benefits of a cardiovascular workout. Go to class well hydrated and expect to sweat!
Yin is characterised by its long holds and use of props (bolsters, cushions, even sandbags!) Your teacher will guide, adjust and assist you in positions that can be held for up to 5 minutes. The long holds allow muscles to truly stretch and relax. Expect to leave class feeling as though you’ve had a full body massage!
Mindful Flow/Mindful Glow
Great for those new to yoga, working with an injury or looking for a more mindful practice that nurtures and stretches but also offers optional challenges. Mindful classes typically include a slow paced vinyasa element (the ‘moving’ part of the practice, you may also hear them referred to as ‘sun salutations’) alongside static standing and seating postures. And you get to enjoy a yummy savasana at the end!
If you’re after a snappy, energised, flowing practiced to the soundtrack of funky beats then look no further. This class follows a sequence of poses to allow you to strengthen, tone and work towards peak postures with the addition of core drills that change on a monthly basis.
Ashtanga is a structured practice that observes a set, ordered sequence of standing and seated asana with an emphasis on synchronising breath and movement. You will emerge from your practice feeling light and strong in the body whilst calm in the mind. Mysore Ashtanga is a self led practice with students guiding themselves through the Ashtanga sequence.
Anusara classes combine a strong physical work out (vinyasas and static poses) with an emphasis on alignment and pranayama (breath work). A mindful thread runs through the class as your teacher gets you to think about the purpose and philosophy of yoga. An Anusara class will always provide a physical challenge, food for thought and spiritual entering. A perfect combination!
Advice from Julie Greasley of Guildford’s Red Hot Yoga and Pilates