Yoga has grown exponentially in popularity in Western culture over the last few decades. Many cities have studios for the practice and most gyms now offer several forms of yoga as group fitness classes. So many options can make it difficult to decide which style would be best for your fitness needs. I’ve done the hard work for you by creating a comprehensive breakdown of four of the most popular forms of yoga here in the West.
Vinyasa is one of the most widely practiced forms of yoga in the US. With, what is known as, the Sun Salutation as its backbone, it works to synchronize breath with the continuous flow of movements, known as postures. The purpose of this is to unite your physical body with your consciousness throughout the hour-long practice.
There are other physical benefits as well. Vinyasa is a fast paced practice that works well with the Western mentality of fitness. You can expect your cardiovascular system to get a good workout and your respiratory system to play a lead role along with it. Vinyasa yoga is excellent for people who are looking to relax their mind, ground their consciousness; as well as incorporate cardio, strength building, and increased flexibility, all at once.
Bikram yoga is similar to regular Vinyasa, in that it is fast paced and provides strengthening, toning, cardio, and encourages increased flexibility. Two of the key differences between these practices are temperature and the length of the practice. Bikram, or hot yoga, is usually done in a room with a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 minutes, rather than just an hour. A total of 26 poses and two breathing exercises are repeated twice within each session.
The high temperatures in Bikram yoga help to facilitate detoxification through your open pores while also loosening muscles and allowing your postures to become deeper. Your heart rate will also become further elevated, increasing the intensity of the workout. It has been suggested that Bikram yoga may help heal joint pain from previous injury, arthritis, and general aches and pains, though this has not yet been scientifically proven.
Restorative yoga, as the name suggests, is centered on relaxation and restoration. As few as five postures are held for five or more minutes during the practice. The nurturing postures are intended to help you reach optimal alignment through the use of props. The props provide complete support of the body, allowing a passive and relaxing restoration of the body to occur. The parasympathetic nervous system is also stimulated through the complete relaxation of the body.
This practice is among the gentlest forms of yoga. Restorative yoga can be beneficial to anyone from the most active athletes to those with chronic pain or limited mobility.
Yin yoga appears very similar to Restorative yoga with its long postures, but that is where the similarity ends. The deep poses are meant to use gravity and body weight to access the joints, connective tissues, and bones. This is the complete opposite of Vinyasa yoga, representing the balance of yin and yang. While Vinyasa focuses on the muscular systems of the body, Yin yoga promotes healing, mobility, and suppleness of joints and connective tissues. Yin yoga is a wonderful way to bring balance to anyone’s physical practices, but it is especially beneficial to those with aged or previously injured joints.
There you have it! A quick overview to help you decide which practice fits your needs the next time you’re checking out the group fitness schedule at your local gym.