Updated: Aug 16, 2021
Stepping into a new fitness or self care routine can sometimes be a little overwhelming, we feel called to try something new, we might try it and love it, we might try it and dislike it but we have to keep on exploring until we find something that resonates!
I was never into 'fitness' until I found Yoga, what drew me to yoga was actually the meditation side, then after attending a few classes I became hooked on the focus, the benefits of getting strong and flexible at the same time and the final relaxation at the end!
I practiced religiously for two years straight before completing my first teacher training and have never looked back since. I teach many different styles and somehow they are always influenced by my own experience through my personal practice, they have an underlying foundation of emotional connections and philosophy. I like students to understand why they do what they do in class and what you practice on the mat can quite literally translate to life off the yoga mat.
Here are a few Yoga 'Styles' you may have heard of with a little breakdown to help you gain a little more insight of their qualities. To help you have a well rounded practice I always recommend trying all of them, variety is the spice of life after all! After a few explorations you will soon find a style that just 'makes sense'.
VINYASA FLOW YOGA
Vinyasa is a very common style of yoga that you may have unknowingly practiced! Vinyasa comes from the word Nyasa which translates as 'to place', within Vinyasa yoga we place the body from movement to movement, pose to pose, layer to layer guided by the breath. It is a continuous flow that unites the movement to each breath. We move with intention whether this is slow or fast, strong or within stillness. It honours the ebb and flow of life. You may have also heard it called a Yang practice, which means, movement, heat, flow. The opposite to Yin!
Increases flexibility & mobility in the joints.
Boosts circulation and can help detox the body.
Faster paced classes can increase the heart rate, boosting your cardio!
Unites the body and breath which calms the mind.
Strengthens the core, as well as every other muscle in the body!
A continuous flow brings us into a dance like practice, it can be very expressive which helps you to release held in stresses and emotions.
It brings you into the present moment as you're always focused on what your body and breath are doing!
One of my all time favourites! Ashtanga yoga is where Vinyasa was born, it's a continuous and challenging practice where we move through a specific sequence. The sequence can come from any of the series of Ashtanga (there are 5) commonly taught in a studio you will find series 1, it has an opening flow of Sun Salutations A+B, standing poses, seated poses, backbends and inversions. Every time you practice you repeat the same sequence, this instills deep discipline and you can feel your focus and drive increasing. I love the challenge and this was a practice that was a huge influence on my personal journey for many years. Ashtanga translates to 'eight limbs' in which you can find guidelines or philosophies of life, this is something that I abide by in life and teach within all of my classes!
Brings focus, discipline and purification to the body and mind.
Strengthens the WHOLE body.
Builds a strong sense of purpose and dedication.
Brings inner strength and clarity.
Its challenging, dynamic and will make you sweat.
The primary series takes about 90 minutes to complete so you will work incredible hard, it's all worth it!
Lengthens and strengthens muscles and keeps you young at heart.
One of the most beneficial of practices, Yin yoga primarily works with stretching the connective tissues, fascia, ligaments and joints rather than muscle. We will still feel a strong sensation of a stretch but rather than actively stretching we are still within this practice. We can use bolsters, pillows and props to support the body for long periods of time. You will often find about 5-6 postures within an hours yin class, all of these postures may target areas surrounding the pelvis, spine, upper body and shoulders. Once we settle into the pose we will rest here for 5,10 even 20 minutes. As the body relaxes this will increase the length of the connective tissues. Yin yoga is a practice that works closer to the core (bones) of the body, very similar to acupuncture it helps us to release deep held emotional stress and tension. You will honestly feel completely relaxed, sleepy, restful and completely open in more ways than one after a Yin class, it just may take a little while to get used to the sitting with discomfort!
Calms the mind and activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
Stretches the connective tissues (think of a tough spider web coating the muscles).
Increases the lung capacity.
Reduces stress and anxiety.
YANG & YIN YOGA
Yang & Yin yoga is a lovely combination class where you can enjoy a mix/contrast of flow and stillness. I personally like to teach the first half of the class as a flow, where you can increase the heart rate, warm the body through and shake of any stress and tension. Then the second half we allow the heart rate to drop, we move the body slowly into supported postures and we embrace long holds. This class is a great way of re-balancing the body and mind whatever day of the week. Yang means warmth, flow, masculine and Yin means cool, stillness and feminine energy, this is a great class to help you reconnect when you're feeling a little out of sorts, if you need a boost of energy you'll get it! If you need to clear your head and rest, you'll get it!
Yoga Nidra translates to yogic sleep, it's an incredible practice where you simple lie in a comfortable position and are guided into a deep relaxation/meditation. This practice can last from 20 minutes to a full hour, you do nothing, you don't flow or move the body in any way, you simply REST. The main priority in helping you heal your body and relax the mind is by listening and trying to stay awake for the whole thing! Don't worry, its super normal for you to fall asleep the first few times, you will also notice that you may drift in and out of hearing the words and then periods of silence. Yoga Nidra is a great way of acknowledging how you feel physically and emotionally, similar to meditation you may work through a body scan, giving you chance to direct your love and attention to each body part. The more we give our body love and attention we can help heal discomforts and pain. I would highly recommend trying a Yoga nidra practice, the practice 20-50 minutes can actually equate to a full night's deep sleep if practiced correctly.
Calms the body & mind.
Reduces stress and anxiety.
Allows you to naturally feel more at ease with your body and lifestyle.
Completely grounds the body.
Helps improve sleep disruptions.
Allowing the mind to follow the guidance it can help to regenerate and repair cells.
You can experience a deep profound sense of rest.
Helps to heal emotional discomfort and trauma.
Improves mental clarity.
Pilates is an amazing practice that I have taught and practiced for many years. It is one of the best forms of exercise that compliment any yoga practice. Pilates is practice in which we stretch and strengthen the muscles that support and carry the bones. We allow all of our movements to be initiated from the centre of the body (the core) with precision, poise, grace and deep awareness. In Pilates no part of the body gets overlooked, from pointing the toes the whole practice, to lengthening the legs and of course embracing slow and long holds! We move the body slowly while isolation specific areas, this may be the shoulder or pelvic girdle. We start from 4 postural (or foundational) poses, seated, supine, lying on the belly and lying on the side, we sometimes explore exercise in a table top position to. If you can imagine a sit up exercise, slowed down 90% and holding the pose every single step of the way this is what Pilates may feel like. The movements are small, precise and in control every single moment. Pilates is TOUGH and it is absolutely worth it, the benefits are incredible!
Reduces upper and lower back pain.
Balances both sides of the body.
Increases range of movement within all the joints.
Improves and increases flexibility.
Strengthens the body (incredibly quickly)
Tones and defines muscles.
Helps to tone and strengthen the pelvic floor.
Aids digestion (from strengthening core)
You will find that many yoga styles or lineages have their own interpretation or definition of yoga, but all encompass the deep connection to the body and mind. Yoga means to yoke, to unite and practicing yoga we can learn to connect to our bodies, minds, thoughts and environment around us.
Yoga & Pilates are mindful practice that may often feel like a work out but the magic happens from allowing it to become a really deep WORK IN. You learn to feel everything, your strengths, your weaknesses, your imbalances, you can notice the mind wandering. Over time all of these things allow you to become the person you are, they are no longer a problem or a hindrance, you allow them to make themselves known, you give them space and you work with them. Yoga allows you the time to reconnect, plug back in and really give your body and mind space to breathe.
I hope this post inspires you to try something new!
What are your favourite yoga styles?