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We are all beginners when we first try something new, so if you've never tried yoga before, but you're keen to learn the practice and start flowing into downward facing dog, you've come to the right place. First of all, don't be deterred if you don't understand everything straight away - especially the class names.

You start looking at the timetable and perhaps you see names like ‘yin’ or ‘hatha’, and maybe you start to think yoga may be a bit too confusing. But much like group classes or weight training, there are many different types of yoga, and the more classes you do, the better you’ll understand the practice.

Yoga has so many wonderful benefits, such as improving your strength, flexibility and mental wellbeing, just to name a few. We spoke with resident Fernwood Fitness Yogi Emma about the different types of yoga and the primary benefits of each. So keep reading for the flow-down on each.

Hatha

'Ha' means sun, fire, masculine energy, right side, and 'tha' means moon, feminine energy, left side. Hatha is about balance and uses traditional postures to balance the body. In this practice, you’ll find the benefits are in balancing the two sides of the brain and body.

Ashtanga

A traditional strong practice that follows a very structured sequence of postures, with a number of ‘vinyasas’ - a set flow sequence in between each posture. This is a strong (yang) and technically advanced practice and can be very physically demanding. Benefits include strength, physical fitness, and mind-body connection. The practice is less physically balanced than Hatha yoga, as it is more yang in energy.

Iyengar

Iyengar involves traditional yoga postures with the emphasis on the use of props. Using props can help to support the body and help develop techniques efficiently and safely. Many yoga practices use props now to cater for the range of abilities in the class.

“A basic Hatha or Vinyasa flow class is a great place for beginners to start, learning the foundation postures, breathing techniques and philosophies. The science of yoga is important to understand as a whole concept in order to maximise the positive impacts it can have on you physically and mentally,” Emma says.

Bikram – hot yoga

A set choreographed sequence of postures in a room that is around 38C! Additional to sweating, the benefits include detoxification and feeling like you’ve had a really good cardiovascular workout, along with other strength benefits.

Vinyasa flow

A more westernised version of physical yoga combining aspects of Hatha and Ashtanga postures and some traditional breathing techniques. This style of yoga is more fluid, joining postures in a more choreographed sequence. The benefits are equal to those of other physical practices and depending on the intensity, can be challenging on the cardiovascular system.

Yin and Restorative

Looking for a very mellow, chilled practice of physical yoga? This one may be for you. The postures are modified versions of traditional practices, and rely heavily on the use of props including bolsters and blocks to support the body, and allow the participant to fully relax and surrender into the holds for 3-5 minutes each. The benefits are deep fascia stretching, relaxation, mental focus and meditation.

Pranayama

Refers to yoga and yogic techniques that use the breath to shift energy within the body. Some of the benefits include relaxation, mental clarity, purification and concentration.

Yoga Nidra

A deeply relaxing meditation-based yoga that involves lying in Savasana (relaxed laying on your back) the whole time, feeling warm and cozy. The teacher guides students through a meditation to deepen the physical state of relaxation and send the brain into sleep-like waves. The benefits are mental clarity, relaxation and restorative effects equal to around four hours of sleep.

Naada yoga (sound yoga) or chanting yoga

Singing and reciting mantras as a way to channel energy and balance the energetic systems of the body. Om chanting is a well-know Naada practice. Most yoga practices incorporate an Om chant at the beginning and end of a class. Benefits are felt through the vibrations that chanting create within the body.

Read more about the benefits of yoga for the body and mind here.

Photography by Monika Berry.

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