When you walk into your first yoga class, it won’t be long before you realize that the experience is like no other sort of fitness activity you’ve been to. Everyone rolls out their mats, quietly, stacking their shoes in the corner as they silence their cell phones. There are no ipods, no headphones and no bulky sneakers. Instead, all the students will cram into the small space and the instructor will introduce him or herself in a quiet but friendly fashion.
Yoga is mellow, yoga is friendly and yoga is serene. Perhaps this is what draws so many people to participate in yoga classes year after year. Yet, there is more. Yoga has been around for centuries as a form of meditation and fitness, and as it has grown more and more popular in the Western world it has evolved into dozens of different forms. Each form of yoga class you visit will be slightly different than the last, but the one thing they’ll keep in common is the ability to help you grow fit—both mentally and physically.
All yoga stems from the same core of Eastern practice. Historically, yoga was looked to as a way for Monks and soldiers alike to meditate and keep their body sharp. It was, and in many circles still is, considered a method of reaching internal enlightenment—a happiness and complacency with life that starts from within our minds and souls.
As years went on, people started looking at the balance and upper body strength that yoga delivers and began focusing on yoga as a form of fitness. Now, there are more than 25 types of yoga that are practiced regularly across the world. We’ll highlight a few of the most popular versions here.
Bikram yoga is often referred to as hot yoga. This is a form of yoga that follows the same 26 poses in every class, providing consistency across classes and studios. The room is heated to 105 degrees to promote sweating and weight loss.
Often, vinyasa classes are called “flow” classes, as the vinyasa flow encourages swift movements from one pose to another. This class encourages balance and upper body strength. During a typical vinyasa class you will do many sun salutations, which will have you shifting from the floor to your feet repeatedly.
The hatha yoga class is great for beginners as it is focused very much on slow and steady movements. The hatha yoga classes are great for building balance, as the pace provides you with time to maintain a pose and build strength.
This form of yoga is known for being intense. It maximizes the role of the upper body and really builds core and arm strength while using vinyassa flow movements to keep the body constantly moving. The standard power yoga classes are given in a typical air-conditioned studio.
This is a branch of power yoga that is completed in a heated room, though not as hot as the bikram classes. Baptiste classes are held in a room heated to 95 degrees, which is a full 10 degrees cooler than the bikram studio, and the temperature may be adjusted for the need of the class and instructor. This form of yoga focuses on building strength and holding balance poses.
This is a powerful form of yoga that is most popular among athletes, retired athletes and even some body builders. It involves a set of physically demanding poses that work the full body.