Is Yoga Right For Me? If so, what type?
Yoga has been around for thousands of years and in that time its popularity has waxed and waned tremendously. In recent years, Yoga has risen to become one of the most popular forms of exercise for people of all ages, genders and fitness levels. The questions that we will examine today is, “Is Yoga right for me?” “If so, what type should I choose?” It should be noted that we will only be focusing on the forms of Yoga that emphasize physical movement and improvement. There are yoga practices that focus more on spiritual and mental awareness only, but they will not be covered in this post. On that note, lets explore some of the physical yoga class options that are available.
When deciding on whether or not you should add Yoga to your exercise regimen, consider a few key details first. The first thing to look into would be the different styles of Yoga and which would be the most appropriate for you and your goals. Hatha yoga is by definition a physical yoga practice and is easily one of the most common styles performed in North America. You could expect to do some breathing exercises as well as basic yogic postures in a Hatha only Yoga class. Asthtanga yoga classes are also abundant in North America. Although related to Hatha, typically Asthanga focused classes are more fast paced. Asthanga yoga focuses more on six established and somewhat strenuous poses that come together to form what is referred to as a Vinyasa. An Asthanga yoga class can range from somewhat to very difficult. Many power yoga routines have an Asthanga base. Another style of yoga that borders on the highly intense side, is Bikram. Typically done in 100 plus degree settings Bikram yoga takes many poses from other styles of yoga, but increases their intensity through longer pose durations. Like Asthanga, Bikram is also an offshoot of the Hatha style, but incorporates some unique and challenging elements of its own.
So, as you can see there are many different types of yoga, some of which are appropriate for the average person and others which are not. If you seek a beginner's yoga class, most likely you are looking for a Hatha only yoga class. These classes are slower paced and give people more time to focus on proper technique and breathing. Asthanga classes move quickly, and due to this its poses are less easy to modify compared to Hatha. If you already have some experience with yoga and seek a challenge, you will likely be looking for a class with Asthanga elements. I would only recommend Bikram to people who are looking for an extreme challenge. The extra heat in Bikram classes can allow for a greater stretch in many yoga poses. This can be extra helpful for those trying to improve their flexibility. This being said, the extra heat certainly makes some things harder and not everyone fares well in this environment. If you have any prior injuries, consider doing a beginner's routine or a Hatha based routine before trying anything more advanced.
With any one these three styles you can expect to see some substantial health benefits such as: enhanced muscular strength, improved flexibility, improved respiratory and cardiovascular function, and reduced stress and anxiety. This means that almost everybody can benefit by adding yoga to their routines. There are however a few exceptions to this rule. If you suffer from high blood pressure you may want to think twice before beginning a yoga routine. Some of the downward facing postures can be very problematic for these people and can even cause some serious eye damage. If you have high blood pressure, consult your doctor before participating in any yoga. Some postures can also be problematic for those with certain orthopedic problems. Knee, shoulder, back and other prior injuries can be negatively effected by many yoga poses. Any prior orthopedic injury warrants a doctor's visit before starting yoga.
The answer to the question I posed in the beginning of this post will be different for everybody. The vast majority of people would benefit from adding some yoga to their weekly regimens. There are however, some who should tread with caution and perhaps look for other forms of exercise or meditation. If you want to try some yoga, choose a class that is appropriate for your current fitness level and experience.