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Integrative health myths & facts: yoga

Jan 30, 2017


One of the most popular integrative health approaches is yoga, but that one word encompasses a variety of practices. For many of us, it can be confusing figuring out which style is best for our abilities, interests and healing needs. Below are some of the main types of yoga offered and a short explanation of what each class might be like. 

Anusara Yoga

This a newer type of yoga developed in the late 1990’s. This type of yoga uses the “physical practice of yoga to help students open their hearts, experience grace and let their inner goodness shine through” (Gaiam, 2017). It is a rigorous workout with some difficult poses that aim to balance your attitude, alignment and actions, a process called the “Friend’s Universal Principles of Alignment” (Keller, 2001).

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga is another rigorous type of yoga linking every pose and movement to a breath. The poses are always the same and in the same order. For those of you who like repetition and are able to physically do the poses, this might be for you!  But for those looking for a less demanding yoga, Ashtanga Yoga may be too much.

Bikram Yoga

Get ready to sweat. The room is kept heated to about 105° with a humidity level of about 40 percent. There are 26 poses that you go through in a sequence and the class is usually lasts about 90 minutes. The motion is slow, so it is not terribly demanding and most classes help beginners with easier poses to get used to the style. If you get overheated easily, DO NOT try Bikram Yoga!  If you like to sweat and can handle high temperatures, the heat does assist in loosening your muscles and giving you great range of motion. Bring water, lots of water.

Hatha Yoga

This is a somewhat generic name for any kind of yoga teaching you physical postures. Almost all of the other categories of yoga are, in fact, a form of Hatha Yoga. When Hatha Yoga classes are offered in gyms and yoga studios, it usually means that you will be in a beginner style class that gently introduces the basic poses and allows for the instructor to walk through the class and help each person. It typically is not physically demanding and allows for all levels. For most of us, Hatha is the place to start.

Hot Yoga

Hot Yoga is similar to Bikram Yoga but with more variation in the types and order of the poses. If you don’t love repetition but do love the heat, Hot Yoga will give you the same temperature and workout as Bikram Yoga but with more variety.

Iyengar Yoga

This type of yoga focuses on proper alignment in your poses. You will likely use props like blocks and straps to make sure you are aligning your body and holding poses exactly as you are supposed to. While it doesn’t feel like a heart-pounding workout, the ability to get to a pose and hold it does take a lot of strength and ability. Because the movements are slow and deliberate, this yoga is suggested for people with injuries or chronic disease.

Restorative Yoga

Restorative Yoga uses props so you can be in a “passive pose,” where you are in the correct alignment for the pose but you aren’t actually exerting any energy to maintain it. It’s generally used for relaxation and stress relief, and many report leaving feeling like they took a good, long nap!

Vinyasa Yoga

While no two Vinyasa classes are the same because each instructor is different, they are usually physically demanding. The class is meant to use “fluid, movement-intensive practices” and requires you be able to move from one pose to the next quickly. Vinyasa Yoga will test your physical limits, so it should not be a class for the beginner or the physically limited. 

We recommend that you speak with your physician if you are considering trying yoga, and be sure to communicate any potential limitations you might have to your instructor before starting. 

Gaiam (2017), A Beginner's Guide to 8 Major Styles of Yoga 
Bikram Yoga (2017),  About Poses
Keller, D. (2001), Anusara yoga: hatha yoga in the anusara style. South Riding, VA: Do Yoga Productions

Written by: Massey Communications Office

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