Beginners may feel intimidated by pictures of more advanced yoga poses, yet the practice of yoga has withstood the test of time largely due to its versatility and accessibility. Anyone can find a form of yoga which will help them reach their personal goals for gaining strength, flexibility and a clear mind. Learning some yoga basics will help you decide if the practice is right for you.
While they share several basic elements, there are many different types of yoga. Each style has its own particular focus, but yoga generally offers many benefits for your muscles, joints and connective tissue, all of which contribute to overall better health, especially in your active adult years. Specific poses, or asanas, are used to build strong muscles, stimulate blood flow, stabilize joints and improve flexibility. Learning to pair steady breathing with your movements also helps clear your mind and reduce stress.
When looking for a yoga class, you may find descriptions for styles such as: Hatha, Vinyasa, restorative, Yin Yoga, Ashtanga, power yoga, Bikram or hot yoga. This can be confusing, but it’s more important to read the description than rely on the name of the class alone. Talking to the teacher about your goals and health condition can also help you know if you’ve found the right style. Most active adult communities offer yoga as part of their fitness offering.
In any yoga practice, regardless of the style, you will be encouraged to modify your practice to meet your body’s needs. Yoga is about finding your personal edge; the place where you are challenged but not overexerting yourself.
Many yoga styles are named for the yogi who developed them, but other terms are more general. Classes described as Hatha yoga typically follow a slower place and may combine several yoga styles. Hatha classes are often a good way for beginners to learn yoga basics and gradually work toward their fitness goals.
Classes described as Vinyasa, Ashtanga or power yoga will likely be a more vigorous, athletic practice. These classes move quickly, emphasizing steady breathing to keep up with the fast pace. Ashtanga yoga follows a specific series of poses, always in the same order. Vinyasa and power yoga classes have a similar flow, but teachers choose their own set of poses for each class.
Bikram yoga or hot yoga classes are held in special studios where the temperature is kept at around 100 degrees. The heat is designed to relax tight muscles and produce a cleansing sweat. A Bikram practice follows 26 set poses, while general hot yoga classes are more versatile.
More specific classes may target special needs. Iyengar is a challenging style which focuses on body alignment with a small number of poses held for long periods. Yin Yoga also uses poses held over several minutes, yet they are designed to focus mostly on your connective tissue and joints.
Yoga is also available for those who are more physically limited or who want a less vigorous practice. Restorative yoga uses props like blocks, blankets and rolled towels to support your body in passive stretches. Chair yoga offers a highly accessible practice for those who have trouble standing or sitting on the floor for long periods. Adding a chair provides extra support throughout the practice.
When wondering if yoga is right for you, keep in mind that there are many different types of yoga practices. Research local classes and talk to the yoga instructors to find the program that will help you safely meet your fitness goals.