Yoga is a fantastic form of exercise. It improves strength, balance and flexibility. It calms the mind, helping us to deal with stress, think more clearly and feel more positive. And as the evidence for its many health benefits accumulates, yoga has become more and more mainstream. Most gyms now offer yoga classes alongside more traditional exercise classes.
Trouble is, there seem to be so many different kinds of yoga. Trying to choose a class can feel a bit daunting. If you've ever fancied trying out the amazing benefits of yoga for yourself but don't know where to get started, this guide is for you.
There are many different types of yoga, but the three that you're most likely to come across in the UK are Hatha, Bikram, and Ashtanga. Here's the lowdown on each of them.
Hatha yoga is one of the gentlest forms of yoga around. You're unlikely to break into a sweat during a Hatha yoga session, but you'll leave feeling stretched and relaxed. There's a strong emphasis on breathing techniques and stress release, and the focus is on easier postures. If you're concerned that you're not fit enough for yoga, battling with serious stress issues, or just fancy some relaxation, this is the yoga class for you.
Bikram yoga is often referred to as hot yoga as it's practised in studios heated to 40 degrees centigrade. It's a very demanding, fast-paced, intense workout and it's not for the faint-hearted. Fans rave about how many calories they burn, how energised they feel afterwards, and how quickly they see results.
Ashtanga yoga involves constant moving between postures whilst using controlled breathing, with each posture typically held for only five breaths. It's physically demanding and will give you a great low-impact cardio and strength workout. You need to concentrate hard to get the postures right, which makes it a good technique for clearing the mind as well.
The list doesn't end there. There's also Iyengar yoga (a bit more intense than Hatha but not quite as fast-moving as Ashtanga), Vinyasa (a more intense version of Ashtanga without the heat of Bikram) and Yin yoga (a more meditative form than Hatha), to name but a few.
Whatever your fitness level and personal priorities, the right yoga class is out there for you. Get yourself to your nearest gym and explore what's on offer!
This can happen in the 'gentler' fitness classes, Matthew - don't worry, you'll still be welcome!
Do any men do yoga? Everytime I see a picture of people doing yoga or stretching it's women! I would love to try it out but to be honest I'm worried I will be the only bloke there!!
I saw a great big rugby player of a man faint during one of my regular Bikram yoga classes once. He clearly shared your prejudices, Bradley. I took even greater pleasure than usual in completing my workout that day!
I see yoga as a women's exercise. More about looking cute in those floppy trousers than anything else...
I'm a bit of a yoga addict and enjoy doing a mix. Roger, you can't go far wrong starting out with Hatha yoga as it's so gentle and relaxing, and it's a good introduction to the breathing techniques. Go for it!
what a useful guide - I've been baffled by the choices. Does anyone know which form is recommended for those of us on the grown-up side of forty?