Many factors impact which style of yoga is best for you. Some questions to ask yourself can include the following:
- What is my dosha (Vata, Pitta, or Kapha)?
- What style am I drawn to?
- What climate am I living in?
- How is my body? Is it flexible, stiff, or strong? Is it in need of strengthening?
- How is my energy level?
- What time of day is it?
In general, the style of yoga that is best for you is the one that fosters balance and harmony within your body and mind. It means that no one style is going to be best for everyone, and no one style is best for anyone all the time. Let’s take a look at some of the popular styles of yoga.
- Yin yoga is a style of yoga that is based on the notion of yin and yang, an ideology rooted in Daoism from ancient China and Taiwan. This notion asserts that the body has yin parts–parts that do not easily move (fascia, joints, and deep connective tissues), and yang parts– very mobile parts (muscles, blood, and mucus). Yin focuses on long holds and deep stretching. It is great for people with Vata doshas as they are naturally prone to Vata imbalances. Vata is represented by movement; therefore, a yin practice that focuses on the slower moving parts of the body can help bring harmony into a Vata individual. Yin yoga also helps individuals who are strong yet very stiff and inflexible.
- Hatha yoga is based on traditional yoga. It is all-encompassing and can take many forms. A specific example of this style is Sivananda yoga. It is a strengthening practice but is also very energetic. It focuses on strengthening the body, breathing properly (pranayama), and creating balance in each of the seven chakras. If you need more strengthening, you can hold poses longer and attempt more complicated variations. If you have low energy, elements like pranayama can be used to increase energy. Any dosha can benefit from a Hatha class, especially if they are aware of how their doshas can be balanced. For example, Vatas or Pittas may want to slow and cool themselves down with long and gentle holds paired with breathing. Kaphas may want to speed up their practice and invite quicker and hotter movements.
- Bikram yoga is a style of hot yoga. Often, individuals who are Pitta doshas or are inflexible are drawn to hot yoga styles because they match their constitution and allow for deeper stretching to occur easily. However, this can create a further imbalance in Pittas and even a risk of injury for those individuals whose bodies do not naturally stretch as far without heat added. Bikram could be great in the winters for a Kapha who is feeling stagnant and cold. Although Vatas are typically cold, they are also quick-moving, and so, the quick pace of this class could create a further imbalance. In Bikram classes, you will often see fewer people in cotton leggings and more athletic shorts for women, running shorts, and yoga shorts. It is a very hot practice!
These are just some styles of yoga. Hatha yoga can even be believed to include all of the yoga that we see in the western world. The most important things for you to consider when choosing your style of yoga is where you are at on that given day and what your natural state of balance is. Spending some time learning about Ayurveda and your specific dosha will help you to understand what your body needs to create harmony and how to know when you are not balanced. Then, you can create your own self-designed class to match your unique needs!