When many people hear the word Yoga they instantly associate it with particular images, ideas, and preconceived notions. I’d wager that most think of stillness, relaxation, meditation, and stretching. Some might think it’s weird (and let’s be honest, there are some pretty weird moments in some classes). Out of curiosity, I wondered just how many different yoga classes there are. And, you know what? I couldn’t find an answer! One website had a list of 31 with an “etc, etc” at the end of it. Others try to classify classes into 5 or 6 broad types. But with the recent Yoga craze sweeping the US, it seems like new Yoga classes are popping up left and right. Having tried a handful of class types myself, I figured I’d take some time and talk about my experiences with each.
Description: Hatha is a general term that can include many of the physical types of yoga. Most Hatha classes are slow-paced and gentle and provide a good introduction to the basic yoga poses.
Where I tried it: Washington University, St. Louis, MO
What I thought: Hatha is a great practice for centering yourself. I find that I have more mental focus because I’m being given specific instructions as to where my mind should be concentrating. For example, the chakras (areas pictured above). Each chakra is said to bring a different energy and meaning to the practice. That being said, the classes I tried were very slow and therefore (for me) physically unchallenging. It definitely worked in terms of getting my mind off of other things going on in my life.
Description: Vinyasa is also a general term that describes many different types of classes. Most movements are based on sun salutations, where breath is matched to movement. More intense stretching (pictured above) is done at the end of class. Vinyasa is also called Flow, because movement is continuous from one posture the the next.
Where I tried it: Yoga Agora, Astoria, NY
What I thought: I’ve done more Vinyasa than any other Yoga type. I love that it keeps me moving, and after a 75 minute class I am almost always sore the next day. Modifications are always given to accommodate all fitness levels, so whether you are a beginner or an expert, you can always gain something from the class. I don’t often do as well clearing my mind in Vinyasa because I’m focused on challenging myself physically as much as I can.
Description: Done in a 105 degree room, Bikram Yoga classes are always 90 minutes and consist of the same series of 26 postures with 2 breathing exercises. There are no deviations from the strict schedule, and water breaks are only encouraged at certain times during the class.
Where I tried it: Bikram Yoga St. Louis, Clayton, MO
What I thought: What many people find challenging about Bikram is the insane heat. I’ve literally never sweat so much in my life! If you imagine throwing a towel into a pool and then removing it, that’s what happens to towels in the Bikram room. What I liked was that I felt SO accomplished after successfully completing the class, and also felt very refreshed in a strange way. What I didn’t like was that every class is exactly the same minus variation in teachers. I like a lot of variety in my workouts, so Bikram isn’t something I’d want to do very often.
Description: Yoga nidra refers to the conscious awareness of the deep sleep state; it is also called “Yogi sleep.” The point of the class is to achieve ultimate relaxation.
Where I tried it: Infinite Yoga, Larchmont, NY
What I thought: I didn’t realize coming into Yoga Nidra that it was a sleepy-yoga class. You can imagine my surprise when I literally lapsed into a very deep sleepy relaxed state where I was on the edge of reality and dreams. It was crazy!! And I’m the type of person who usually can’t sleep unless I’m horizontal, lying on my side, in complete darkness, with no noise (Picky, I know). It was the most relaxed I’ve pretty much ever felt in my life. Definitely recommend it if you feel you need to slow down a bit.
Core Power Yoga
Description: Core Power Yoga is Yoga for avid fitness gurus. It’s very fast paced and all about sweating, cardio, and strength. Core Power Yoga is a private franchise that has many of it’s own types of Yoga classes, all of which involve loud thumping music.
Where I tried it: Core Power Yoga, Denver, CO
What I thought: It was a great workout. I left the class feeling like I really burned calories, and didn’t feel that I needed to get any additional exercise in. I thought it was a very creative way to marry Yoga with bootcamp! That being said, this is not the place for mental relaxation- it’s all about a challenge.
Core Fusion Yoga
Description: It should come as no surprise that Core Fusion Yoga really focuses on the core. Classes incorporate a lot of Vinyasa flow with extra special attention to tightening and strengthening abdominals. There is less traditional Yoga meditation, but a lot of traditional movements.
Where I tried it: Exhale Spa, Manhattan, NY
What I thought: This is a great class for toning and sculpting. Core fusion incorporates exercise “toys” that destabilize poses, which forces you to use many of your smaller muscles to stay balanced. It reminds me a lot of a cross between Yoga and Pure Barre. Also, they have a DVD which is the budget friendly way to go if you can’t afford to attend their classes all the time (it’s the way I go anyway!).
So there you have it! Just a small sampling of Yoga classes I’ve tried. No matter the experience you’re looking for, it seems like there is something for everyone!
What Yoga classes have you tried?