It’s hard not to notice the rising popularity of yoga within the past couple of years. Being a practice that is over 5,000 years old, yoga has branched off into many variations and it’s tough to tell them apart. Here’s what you should know before heading to class:
According to Alex Bollag, manager at The Yoga Studio, the benefits of yoga are numerous. “Yoga increases flexibility, improves strength, tones your muscles, increase joint motion which decreases the chances of injury and reduces stress. Yoga also balances your endocrine system which is your hormonal system, tones and cleanses your inner organs, promotes focus and concentration, and promotes an overall awareness of your body.”
For Cassie Richards, practicing yoga for over 10 years has improved her body and mind. “Going to yoga twice a week has significantly improved my flexibility – and I need that with two kids to run after. When I’ve had a stressful day at work, going to a yoga class for 60 minutes allows me to clear my mind and concentrate on myself.”
What’s Out There
Most Western styles of yoga are a form of Hatha Yoga, which is the main school of yoga. Each style varies slightly, whether it’s the breathing ritual, length of time postures are held or the meditation process. Read up on the following types of yoga to find out which is right for you:
1. If you need to relax
Ananda Yoga: This gentle yoga focuses on breathing and deep relaxation. The postures move from body awareness to energy awareness to inner awareness. Although the physical routine of postures is not extremely demanding, you benefit from an overall feeling of strength and vitality.
2. If you get bored easily
Ashtanga Yoga: “This style of yoga is for people who prefer a physical challenge – those who enjoy being athletes. This styles appeals to those who have A-type personalities,” says Bollag. Beginning with sun salutations, Ashtanga yoga is light on meditation and focuses on a series of fast-paced sequential poses to build strength and flexibility.
3. If you can handle extreme heat
Bikram Yoga: Also know as “hot” yoga, bikram yoga is a series of 26 postures that are done in a heated room to a high temperature between 38 to 41C. The high temperature reduces the chance of injury or overstretching and also detoxifies the body by cleansing it through sweating. The 26 postures are done sequentially so each part of the body is worked preparing for the next movement. Every muscle, gland and joint is exercised, moving fresh oxygenated blood to 100 per cent of the body and restoring all systems to healthy working order. The focus is on the physical postures rather than on meditation or deep relaxation.
4. If you’re traditional
Hatha Yoga: Focusing on simple poses that flow from one to another, hatha yoga is a gentle style of yoga that incorporates breathing and meditation. “To reduce stress and anxiety, hatha yoga is a classic style of yoga to practice,” says Bollag.
5. If you like a variety of movements
Kripalu Yoga: This is a three-stage yoga practice incorporating and mind, body and spirit. The first stage focuses on posture alignment and coordination of breathing and movement; stage two involves holding postures for longer periods of time and meditation; stage three focuses on a free flow of postures; postures become more spontaneous.
6. If you don’t mind using props
Iyengar Yoga: Emphasis is placed on the proper alignment of the spine, placement of the hips and feet. Fewer postures are practiced because the focus is on holding each posture for longer periods of time. Props such as blocks, belts, pillows, balls are used to used to perform postures.
What to Wear
“As long as you’re comfortable, it really doesn’t matter what you wear to a yoga class. I do recommend that people don’t wear large t-shirts as they can get in the way when performing certain postures,” says Bollag.
Any clothing that is breathable, stretchy and lightweight is ideal for practicing yoga. Since most styles of yoga involve sweating, look for apparel that has a moisture-wicking fabric and those that have a Lycra blend. Yoga apparel with flat seams is also recommended, as it won’t be rough on your body when practicing yoga.
Where to Shop
- lululemon athletica (www.lululemon.com) This stores offers a wide range of functional tops and bottoms in the latest styles and colours for each season.
- Roots (www.roots.com) carries a line of yoga wear that is comfortable to wear when practicing yoga.
- Mountain Equipment Co-op (www.mec.ca) has quick-drying tops with shelf-bras in an array of styles.