22 September 2019
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

How to choose the right yoga for you

November 4, 2008

In the last ten years, yoga has emerged from the shadows to take up centre stage in the fitness and well being arena. Sportsister looks at the different kinds of yoga to help you pick the right one for you.

No longer seen as the sole preserve of hippies or celebrities, there is growing awareness of the importance of yoga, not only as a holistic exercise to balance the mind, body and spirit but as a way of improving flexibility, which can be enormously beneficial in complementing other sports training.

But with the bewildering array of different yoga styles out there, it can be extremely confusing for those new to it. And pick the wrong type, and you may never try it again. So, here’s our guide to the most well established forms of yoga and who it’s best for.

Best for a dynamic work out: Ashtanga Vinyasa

What is it? This form of yoga originates in India and is characterised by flowing movements that link every asana, or posture. Vinyasa, meaning breath, is crucial to this practise as it is deep and forceful and must be practised to help you move from one posture to the next.

There are three stages to this yoga style, each consisting of a set number of set postures which you follow in sequential order. Most people will spend many years practising the Primary Series, before developing the strength, flexibilty and awareness to progress to the Second Series, with only a handful of people worldwide – Madonna among them – who are advanced enough to practice the Third Series.

For more information visit www.ashtanga.com

Best for rehabilitation: Iyengar

What is it? If you do a lot of running or any other form of activity where your body is consistently repeating the same movements, it’s likely that you’ll develop injuries from biomechanical faults. If so, it may be worth giving Iyengar a go as this focuses on developing precision and postural alignment.

Unlike other types of yoga, it uses props such as blocks and straps to help you into the correct posture. Teachers can be a stickler for precision and won’t let you advance until your body is ready for it though. This can be frustrating at first for those used to pushing themselves, although letting go and only going as far as your body will allow is all part of the learning process.

For more information visit www.iyengaryoga.org.uk

Best for developing spiritual awareness: Kundalini

What is it? Kundalini represents the energy of consciousness that practitioners of this yoga believe is coiled, ready to be awoken in all of us. This form of yoga uses chanting, meditation and asanas designed to awaken spiritual consciousness, and help to balance mind, body and spirit.

It may sound a little bit hippy dippy – and it can challenge you to move out of your comfort zone – but make no mistake, this style can be extremely hard as you are made to hold positions until you can be shaking with the exertion of it!

For more information visit www.kundaliniyoga.org.uk

Best for the inflexible: Bikram/Hot yoga

What is it? Bikram or hot yoga is practised in rooms heated to around 40 degrees centigrade. The 90 minute class involves completing 26 postures and two breathing exercises all of which are designed to help improve flexibility, detox the body and help bring balance to mind, body and spirit.

The heat can be difficult to cope with at first and make you feel dizzy. But once you’re used to it, the benefit is that it helps the muscles to relax and lengthen, which is particularly good for those who run or do strength work and have tight hamstrings.

For more information visit www.bikramyoga.co.uk

Best for fun: Laughter yoga

What is it? Started in Mumbai by Indian physician Dr Madan Kataria, this school of yoga has grown to 6000 clubs in 60 countries across the world. You won’t arrive to one of these classes and find yourself having to bend over backwards though. This is all about exercises –  including the lion breath which involves sticking your tongue out and roaring – which are designed to make you laugh.

It may sound like a bit of a joke (excuse the pun) but letting go of your inhibitions can help unlock tensions and release emotions that are often held in the muscles, resulting in tension. Don’t believe in that? Just think how painful your shoulders become when you’re stressed.

For more information visit www.laughteryoga.org

Best for trying out postures: Sivananda

What is it? Most people new to yoga imagine classes of people standing on their head. So it can be a little bit of a letdown when you attend a class and all you get to do is a few gentle stretches. That’s why Shivananda style is always a good one just to try, as of the 12 asanans included in a 90minute class, two are inversions in the form of headstands and shoulder stands.

Don’t be intimidated though – for those new to Shivananda, the postures are broken down into manageable stages and you won’t be expected to be able to perform a headstand from the word go. Simply playing with your centre of gravity though can challenge your body in ways it hasn’t been since school.

For more  information visit www.sivananda.co.uk

Your essential yoga kit

K-Swiss Stripe Vest (£10.99, 8-14, White/Yellow/Grey and Pink/Red/White – pictured above left) – a stylish, versatile racer back tank top. Buy online here

Manuka Yoga Yoga Rib Hooded Tee (£30, XS-XL – pictured below left) – fitted but not clingy giving you great freedom of movement. Comes in a great apple green colour. Buy online here

Nike Studio Layering Long Sleeve Women’s Top (£25, XS-XL, Red, White and Black – pictured below centre) – this feminine wrap top features lightweight Dri-FIT fabric to wick away moisture and adjustability at the sleeves. Get Free delivery on all Nike orders. Just enter code NS966 at checkout. Offer expires 30th November 2008. Click here to shop.

elliegray genie pant (£25, 8-20, silver grey marl, vino, grey, navy and black – pictured above right) – flexible, comfortable versatile pants perfect for yoga. The genie pant has a fantastic, flattering fit in smooth, drapey cotton-rich jersey with lots of stretch. Buy online here

Warrior Yoga Mat (£16, Pink, Blue, Purple and Aubergine – pictured above right) – good quality, well priced yoga mats in a variety of colours. Buy online here

Yoga dictionary

Hatha yoga – this is the umbrella term for all types of yoga. Ashtanga, SunPower and any other style is a form of hatha yoga but that has been developed by a different guru or teacher.

Asana – the name given to the postures performed in a yoga class.

Pranayama – prana means life force, yama is control. This literally means control of the breath and involves breathing exercises designed to help steady the mind and aid in meditation.

For more information about yoga in general visit The British Wheel of Yoga at www.bwy.org.uk

Rachel Woolston, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

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