Female doing backbend by the oceanAre you a Yoga newbie? Still having trouble deciding which style to try out first? I understand that it can be difficult in the beginning – the amount of information out there and the huge variety of classes on offer can be overwhelming!

I’m going to teach about; the origins and benefits of Yoga practice, the different styles you have to choose from, and why a particular style might work better for you than another. Keep reading to not only learn about this incredible way to achieve optimal health and but also how to pick the best style for you.

Yoga FAQs

Here are some basic facts about Yoga that will help you more about this ancient practice.

What is Yoga?

Let’s start with what Yoga is not; Yoga is not a religion, neither is it necessary to become a vegetarian to benefit from Yoga practice.

Yoga is a collection of physical, mental, and spiritual practices that date back thousands of years. Yoga is intended to create greater physical health while providing its practitioners with mental clarity, tranquility, and focus.

Do I Need to Be Flexible?

Many Yoga styles demand a degree of flexibility to be considered proficient – but you don’t need to be flexible to begin practicing Yoga. A better way to look at it is; Yoga can help develop your flexibility. Being more supple is a benefit of Yoga practice, not a prerequisite.

Do I Need To Practice Every Day?

Of course not! Even one hour of Yoga practice per week will let you reap the health and mental benefits of this extraordinary approach to strength and health.

What Does Namaste Mean?

Namaste is a traditional greeting in Yoga that is basically you recognizing the divine spark in another person. It has very deep spiritual roots in Hindu culture and literally means: ‘I bow to the divine in you.’

The Roots of Yoga – Upanishads and Vedas

Girl doing a one armed side plank

Vedas

An intrinsic part of Yoga practice is the recitation of mantras (repetitive phrases/words); the mantras are traditionally extracted from Indian holy texts called the Vedas. Vedic mantras are used to praise and invoke spiritual powers to act in our lives.

The Vedas are both a spiritual core and the philosophical foundation of Yoga, as well as Hinduism.

The Upanishads

Although the Vedas are the most valued sacred texts in Hindu culture – the Upanishads are the vehicle used to transfer their wisdom into pragmatic teachings that Yoga practitioners can benefit from every day.

Traditionally there are about two-hundred Upanishads, but only eleven are considered as ‘principal’ to Yoga. The Yogic practices taught by the Upanishads are meditation based, and the philosophy is a component of the core beliefs in all styles of Yoga.

What Science Says About Yoga

Female doing the tree pose by the water
There are many ways that Yoga promotes health; many of them based originating from the physical movements and postures used, and others from learning better stress management. Here are some scientifically based benefits of Yoga.

Back Pain

Back pain is a common health problem in the US. 80% of Americans will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. This study published in The Clinical Journal of Joint Pain strongly indicates that Yoga can help.

Arthritis

In a controlled study, Hatha Yoga practice provided women with knee osteoarthritis significant relief from pain and increased levels of joint mobility.

Depression

Research at the University of Westminster has demonstrated that practicing Yoga can reduce perceived levels of depression in the subjects tested. The University researchers concluded that Yoga is an effective alternative treatment for depression.

Yoga Styles

Female doing yoga, standing on one foot while her other one is in her hand
Now, let’s examine the most popular Yoga styles and explain why each may be the right choice for you.

Hatha

Hatha simply means ‘physical’ Yoga; which describes just about all the Yoga styles you’ll encounter in our part of the world. Hatha Yoga is an umbrella term for the different styles you’ll see listed on any studio’s schedule.

Ashtanga

Ashtanga is a physically demanding Yoga that is based on 6 strenuous pose sequences called the series. They are performed sequentially as you progress. You’ll be moving rapidly from one pose to another with each Vinyasa: the series of poses you practice linked by inhalations and exhalations of breath.

Bikram

Bikram Yoga (hot yoga) is named for its creator; Bikram Choudhury. You practice under sauna like conditions (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit) as you move through 26 basic Yoga postures – twice. Bikram is appealing to newbies because the classes are predictable; allowing you to focus more on the workout, than remembering the sequence.

Vinyasa

Do you like to feel the burn? Vinyasa Yoga has a lot in common with CrossFit.

The class is dynamic as you link movement and breath in a manner that is dance-like and quick. There’s a strong cardio component to Vinyasa Yoga; your heart will be pumping!

If you like an intense exercise session – then Vinyasa is for you.

Kundalini

Kundalini Yoga is growing in popularity. This isn’t a typical Yoga class; its based on Kriyas, which are repetitive physical movements coupled with intense breathing – while meditating, singing, and chanting.

It’s both physically and mentally demanding.

The goal of Kundalini is to release the untapped energy within you and raise your level of self-awareness. If you want to focus as much on the spiritual aspect of Yoga as the physical – this could be the right style for you.

Restorative

This is a slow moving and tranquil style of Yoga intended to create a deep state of relaxation. You’ll hold poses longer to have a chance to tap into your parasympathetic nervous system.

Restorative Yoga is a style everyone can benefit from at one point or another. If you have a hard time winding down, struggle with insomnia or are frequently anxious, then Restorative Yoga could be the answer.

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George Citroner

GW Citroner is a Hudson Valley, NY based writer whose work has appeared in over 20 publications and on an incredible range of Health & Wellness topics.

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