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Beginner’s guide to yoga: Which style is best for you?
A guide to the different styles of yoga and which is best for your body.
Would you like to be stronger and more flexible, less stressed and anxious, better able to focus? And how about achieving all this at home with just a few square metres of floorspace and a rubber mat?
Welcome to yoga, the ancient Indian practice that has made its way around the world by teaching connection between body and mind. And if you need another reason to put it on your to-try list, research from the University of South Australia has recently found that movement-based yoga can significantly improve mental health.
“Our research shows that movement-based yoga improved symptoms of depression (or improved mental health) for people living with a range of mental health conditions including anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and major depression,” says lead researcher Jacinta Brinsley. “So, it’s very good news for people struggling in times of uncertainty.”
As many of us settle again into a slower pace of life and readjust to home workouts, many yoga studios have opened their doors (virtually), giving a chance to explore whether this practice is for you.
But with so many styles to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start, so we’ve broken down the most common forms of yoga to get you downward-dogging in no time.
Difficulty level: Beginner
Best for: Building core strength, fine-tuning alignment, understanding the poses.
What’s involved: Hatha is a common style for beginners is it focuses on getting techniques and poses right. As such, it tends to be a little slower than other styles of yoga. Hatha uses basic postures – some combined into a series – to build strength and flexibility while focusing on rhythmic, controlled breathing. Hatha can also be an umbrella term to describe many of the yoga forms taught in the West. It is a good gateway for entering into yoga as you spend more time setting up each pose, but be sure to look for beginner-specific classes as it can become challenging as you move into more advanced holds.
Difficulty level: Beginner, with scope to choose more challenging poses.
Best for: Those seeking a very mindful practice, with its slow, meditative movements of all parts of the body.
What’s involved: Yin is a slow, calming practice. It focuses on connective tissue rather than muscle, targeting areas such as your hips, shoulders and spine as you engage in deeper poses than you would with other forms of yoga. In Yin, the emphasis isn’t on moving freely through positions, but holding poses for longer (often three to five minutes or more) and connecting with your breath.
Difficulty level: Suitable for beginners, but poses can be adjusted to your skill level and flexibility.
Best for: Stress reduction, and an approachable introduction to yoga. This is a very popular form of yoga, particularly in the West.
What’s involved: Vinyasa is about learning to move with your breath. It’s a less static practice than others, where you ‘breathe your way’ from one pose to the next. The flow of movements are considered and continuous.
Difficulty level: Beginner.
Best for: People looking for an entry to yoga and stress relief, and those with chronic illness or fatigue.
What’s involved: Restorative yoga is a good practice to help ‘recharge your batteries’. It’s a very gentle, meditative form of yoga. A session will typically include props such as cushions or bolsters and a blanket, with poses held for a long time to practise stillness and allow muscles to relax.