More and more people are studying yoga and for some it’s their primary form of exercise.
For those who practice Hatha Yoga, the traditional and ancient style that promotes breathing, flexibility, and healthful centering, thinking of yoga as “exercise” may seem odd. Not that Hatha cannot be strenuous, but rarely is it on a par with say, running or circuit training.
Some styles of yoga meet these criteria, though, and for those who choose to practice them, they are effective and satisfying. For others, these styles may fit into an overall yoga plan, with the more physically challenging classes interspersed with more serene ones.
All yoga strives to balance the mind, the body, and the spirit through the proscribed poses, called asanas.
If you are in the market to try a strenuous yoga class, look into any one of the styles below. Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen, and it’s also a good idea to talk to the yoga instructor about the class and your abilities:
Ashtanga Yoga is fast moving and requires that practitioners move through a progressive set of asanas without much time between each pose. It’s intense and promotes stamina as well as strength and flexibility. This yoga is not recommended for beginners, unless you happen to be in tiptop shape — and even so you should talk to the instructor first.
Bikram Yoga is the hot new workout. And hot is the operative word. It’s practiced in a room heated to 100 or 105 degrees with humidity of about 40 percent. If that sounds like a sauna, there’s a reason. During the intense workout, which is a sequence of 26 different asanas (poses), the heat loosens your muscles so that flexibility improves. You also sweat out toxins, say practitioners of "hot yoga." And you work hard. At the end of a session, even college football players report being worn out!
Power Yoga is another name for Bikram Yoga, although generally it is not as disciplined. It’s conducted in a hot room but the 26 asanas required by Bikram may be repeated out of order, and some may not be used at all from one session to the next.
Vinyasa Yoga is similar to Ashtanga but probably because it’s not as well known, is not as popular. It’s a fast-moving yoga that concentrates on intense stretching and synchronized breathing as each asana flows into the next without a break. The word “vinyasa” means “flow” and how the poses are structured so that they work together is up to each instructor — there is no set sequence as there is in Bikram Yoga.
Yoga is credited with relieving stress, reducing aches and pains, improving flexibility and strength and overall making you feel, think and sleep better. Those who practice it, swear by it. It’s never too late to start or to return to practicing it. You won’t be sorry!