Many beginners like to start with Iyengar yoga, where positions are held longer to provide maximum stretching and minimal injury. Unlike "flow" yoga styles, there are breaks between positions and an emphasis on long, deep stretches for people of all levels. Props like mats, blankets, straps and blocks help take some of the strain off the body.
Fitness yoga aims to increase flexibility, muscle strength and improve energy and cardiovascular systems. This is a more modern approach to the ancient principles and targets certain areas like the gluteus muscle or abdomen to tone and strengthen. Similarly, Pilates yoga is one of the most popular forms, with over 11 million regular practitioners in the US and over 14,000 instructors. The core postural muscles and spinal cord are emphasized, in addition to utilizing flowing movements to strengthen and define.
Ashtanga Vinyasa (also known as "power yoga" or "Raja yoga") is derived from an ancient Indian manuscript called "the Yoga Kurunta." The word "ashtanga" literally translates to mean "eight limbs," which refers to eight positions: yama (moral codes), niyama (self-purification and study), asana (posture), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense control), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (contemplation). Vinyasa means "breath-synchronized movement." After warming up with "Sun Salutations," the different postures are repeated with smooth flowing movements and specific breathing patterns. This advanced style of yoga attracts people who may typically be the cardio types, participating in kickboxing or step classes, and is intended to help extroverted high-stress personalities find their inner quietude.
A couple of forms of yoga are used for therapeutic purposes. Bikram yoga (also known as "hot yoga") occurs in a sauna-like room maintained at 95-100 degrees to induce sweating, leading to body cleansing and additional weight loss. These twenty-six positions loosen the muscles in a relaxing way. The Forrest style meditation yoga from Santa Monica California is intended to release inner emotional pain, purify the body of toxins and strengthen the abdomen through deep breathing and stretches.
Some styles focus on the spiritual side, with chanting, meditating and contemplating, borrowing inspiration from the eight principles of ashtanga. Jivamukti and Kundalini use chanting and rapid repetitive movements to free trapped energy. Karma yoga is derived from the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient sandskrit Hindu scripture and is based around the idea of "union through action." It is believed that one can express love for God by giving up selfish desires and participating in "detached, selfless action," which will eventually result in liberation. The Anusara style is a form of meditation yoga for beginners because teachers believe in positive communication to open the heart and mind. All levels are welcomed and there is a philosophical belief in the intrinsic goodness of humankind. This light-hearted approach to alignment is a good springboard to more intense forms.
Many participants report increased happiness and energy after a yoga class. While you won't get any major weight loss assistance or a heart workout with yoga, it's good to add in one class each week to strengthen your spirit and connect mind with body.
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