Choosing the best yoga style for you

Whatever style of yoga you choose, being clear on your intention for practicing will help you get the most out of your time spent on the mat.

Whatever style of yoga you choose, being clear on your intention for practicing will help you get the most out of your time spent on the mat.

by Meagan McCrary — 

We are heading into the darkest days of winter with the promise of a new year on the not-so-distant horizon. As we make the transition, we have the opportunity to reflect on the closing year and set intentions for the upcoming one. Whether you want to become lithe and toned, address specific health issues, gain more clarity, develop a sense of peace, discover your life’s purpose or whatever it may be — choosing a yoga style that supports your intention is essential for staying on course. Here is a guide to get you started:

1. To become svelte, try Ashtanga-vinyasa yoga. Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic, physically demanding practice that synchronizes breath and movement to produce a strong internal heat designed to purify the body. With its many vinyasas (breathing-moving system), this style is great for building upper body and core strength while toning the whole body. Prepare to sweat as you briskly move through a set sequence of postures while remaining focused on your breath.

2. To gain stability and increase mobility, try Iyengar yoga. Iyengar yoga is the practice of precision and paying close attention to the anatomical details and alignment of each posture. Rather than moving quickly from one pose to the next, postures are built methodically with steadfast concentration and held for longer periods of time. Props are often used to modify the poses. This method is designed to safely and systematically cultivate strength, flexibility and stability, along with mind-body awareness. It is particularly therapeutic for individuals with specific limitations and conditions.

3. To detox, try Bikram yoga. Bikram yoga is a set series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises done in 105-degree heat with 40 percent humidity for 90 minutes — you are going to sweat. The specific sequence of poses systematically works every part of the body from “bones to skin,” bringing fresh, oxygenated blood to every internal organ, vein, gland and fiber, while the heat serves to speed up the natural detoxifying process.

4. To become more centered, try Integral yoga. Integral yoga is a combination of yoga disciplines designed to systematically address all layers of the body, from the physical down to the more subtle aspects of being — the emotional, energetic and mental bodies. Classes tend to be gentle, slow and accessible, placing equal emphasis on pranayama, deep relaxation and meditation, as well as asana practice. Transforming the whole person, Integral yoga aims to help students access the place of peace and happiness that resides within each of us.

5. To ignite your passion and creativity, try Kundalini yoga. Kundalini yoga is a spiritual practice aimed at expanding consciousness, igniting passion and increasing physical vitality by accessing kundalini-shakti and integrating prana throughout the body. The method is multidimensional, using rhythm, movement, breath and sound to effectively stimulate and shift your energy. Alternating between active exercises, known as kriyas, and mini-periods of relaxation, you will be guided to pay close attention to any internal sensations you are experiencing, to release stored emotional and psychological blocks, and allow the flow of creative energy.

6. To develop more self-acceptance and compassion, try Kripalu yoga. Kripalu yoga is a comprehensive and compassionate approach to self-study that uses asana, pranayama, deep relaxation and meditation as its primary tools for promoting physical health, calming the mind, opening the heart and developing deeper levels of self-awareness. The method is inquiry-based, using questions such as: What are you feeling right now? or What is your body asking for? Students are encouraged to move and modify the postures, discovering what works best for them. Above all else, Kripalu emphasizes compassionate self-awareness and acceptance.

7. To explore spirituality, try Jivamukti yoga. Jivamukti yoga is a physically dynamic, intellectually stimulating and spiritually inspiring method that incorporates chanting, meditation, deep relaxation and pranayama into a vigorous vinyasas practice with a heavy injection of philosophy, poetry, music and affirmations. The system emphasizes the living spiritual tradition of yoga, bringing ancient teachings alive in a contemporary setting and applying that wisdom to daily life.

Whatever style of yoga you choose, being clear on your intention for practicing will help you get the most out of your time spent on the mat. And do not beat yourself up if you fall out of practice from time to time — most of us do.

Unlike resolutions, which by definition are rigid, intentions are softer and more fluid. They are riverbanks on your path, helping guide you in the direction you want to go — reminding you of the bigger picture so that you do not get lost in the day-to-day details.

 

Meagan McCrary is a Los Angeles-based yoga teacher and the author of Pick Your Yoga Practice. She works one-on-one and holds workshops and retreats both nationally and internationally. meaganmccrary.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 32, Number 6, December 2013/January 2014.

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