So, you've decided to join a Yoga studio but now are presented with options you didn't event know existed? No worries, here's a guide to help you choose the style of yoga that's right for you.
But first you might be wondering why there are so many styles of yoga in studios and why we don't just call it all 'yoga'.
There are many styles of yoga because there are many types of human with their various preferences. Some people want a super soft, slow and gentle style, some want lots of flow, some like a physical challenge...there's a yoga style for every body and mind.
Mandala is a traditional yoga studio, our yoga styles honour their traditions, so we don't have 'yoga for sport' (all yoga is for people who do sport) or 'yoga for relaxation' (all yoga is relaxing, but some people find lots of movement relaxing and some people find stillness relaxing), we give you the facts and let you choose what's best for you, and if you want advice then just pop me a message or give me a ring.
Aerial Yoga: A slow and strong style
This style of yoga uses a hammock and has gorgeous playlists!
Expect slow flowing movements that help you to build strength, flexibility and balance. The slower paced flow helps you to connect with your body, to learn where to engage and where to soften, helping you to release from unhelpful movement patterns and to really engage your core!
We start with a relaxation sitting in the hammocks to help us to let go of the day and then we use the hammocks in yoga postures to build strength, flexibility and balance. These classes include the option to go upside down in the hammocks which is great for our spine and shoulders. We end with a 5 minute relaxation in the hammocks.
Ashtanga Yoga: A strong & energetic style
A strong and sweaty practice to help you build strength, flexibility, balance and cardiovascular fitness as well as a cultivation of focus, curiosity, deep awareness and control of the nervous system.
Ashtanga is the most energetic and challenging form of yoga and the teacher physically assists you to help you to get the most from your practice.
Every posture is held for 5 breaths and every movement between postures is for one breath. This focus on the breath builds cardiovascular health as well as reducing stress by balancing the nervous system.
Expect standing postures, followed by seated and supine (laying down) postures and a short relaxation at the end of class.
Chair Yoga: An accessible yoga class
A yoga practice that is chair-based with exercises for every part of your body in every class. You can stay seated throughout or also use the chair for support in postures that build strength and balance.
Hatha Yoga: A soft & slow style with 20-30minute relaxation
A gentle, slow class focused on relaxation and flexibility with postures held for several minutes. This class is all about releasing tension from body and mind.
The postures are simple (no pretzel work here!) and mainly seated and laying down using props for extra comfort and held for slightly longer than in a regular class, to encourage release.
There's also breath work to calm the mind and induce a relaxed state and the class ends with a lovely 20-30 minute guided relaxation meditation.
Vinyasa Yoga: An energetic style with short relaxation
More energetic than Hatha and less energetic than Ashtanga and designed to build flexibility, balance and strength. In Vinyasa yoga you will be led through a different flowing sequence of poses every week.
Postures include standing, seated and laying down and there's a short relaxation at the end of the class.
Yin Yoga: A soft & slow style with 15minute relaxation
A simple, gentle and soothing class to help soften your body and relax your mind.
Yin yoga includes very simple to understand postures helps for several minutes. Most of the postures are seated and lying down and they are focused on helping you to become more mobile and flexible. The simplicity and slow pace of the practice suits those who find slowing down helps to release mental and emotional tension.
So many humans are disconnected from their body.
In yoga we are completely focused IN the body, so we can move as a unified whole and feel what the body is trying to tell us. The body is wired to survive, we ignore it at our peril.
In yoga we don’t do things to the body, we BE embodied, we become the body.
Yoga pulls our attention into the body completely. Challenging yoga postures are challenging to make us pay closer attention, but this attention can be achieved by simply standing evenly on both feet, or swaying back & forth mindfully in the aerial yoga hammocks…it’s not the form, it’s the attention to the body exploring how to make the form right for us.
If we are not in our bodies we are disassociated from our our instincts, feelings and physical and emotional needs, because these are signalled through the body.
The most direct way of knowing we are stressed is through the body, the most direct way to experience letting go is through the body. It’s difficult to focus if our body aches. When we are disembodied we notice our needs too late, or we misread our needs.
The goal of a physical yoga practice is to live in our body, so that we can care for the needs of body & mind and so that we can have positive relationships with self and others.
When we become embodied we learn to live guided by the wisdom of the body. The body wants us to survive and thrive - if only we can listen to and understand it’s signals.
Listen to what the body needs, decide what to do about it, act, notice again - that’s physical yoga
Do you skip your yoga when you feel tired, stressed, tearful etc?
If so, can I persuade you to rethink that?
Whenever a student at the start of class has said to me “I feel awful and I wasn’t going to come”
At the end of class they've looked transformed, positive, restored and told me “I feel so much better”
That’s the awesomeness of yoga
Nobody ever regrets coming to yoga, it makes you feel better because yoga:
Eases out the muscular tension of stress
Balances heart and breathing rate disrupted by stress
Balances the digestive system disrupted by stress
Gives you energy - because of the above - depleted by stress
Calms the mind, giving it something else to do instead of ruminating
Gives a sense of safety, predictability & control, which helps us feel safe
Connects us with other humans, which helps us feel safe
Is a simple thing you can gift yourself to care for your body, mind & spirit. We can’t cope with stress while neglecting these.
We’ve all been through hard times, in order to get through them we need to make sure our bodies are strong and not tensed up. We need to make sure all the above is true. It will be a lot harder to cope with what life throws at us if we don’t care for ourselves.
As Jois said “Do your practice, all is coming
The physical progression in Ashtanga yoga can only come about through cultivating awareness.
We had such a beautiful practice with the Tuesday Ashtangis last night. They've come a long way since they started their Ashtanga yoga journey with me when we reopened in May 2021.
I love witnessing the building of strength, balance, flexibility, focus, rhythm, breath control, confidence, curiosity and respiratory capacity, but most of all, that most life-enhancing skill of all - AWARENESS!
Awareness of body, mind, the effects of our decisions on body, mind and relationships and the ability to choose consciously - this skill is truly transformative.
Once learnt we have to keep practicing it, but it's worth it. When we are aware of body, mind, our relationships, the effects of our decisions in the moment - we can choose with skill.
We can bring ease to body through movement, nourishment or rest.
We can bring ease to body and mind through rest, focus reflection or movement.
We can bring ease to relationships through reflection, conscious actions and words. And this is what we are really building on the mat in Ashtanga Yoga.
We become physically strong, flexible and balanced through moving with awareness of body and mind, and this habit and skill of awareness becomes our way of being in the world to help us to live with more ease and less suffering
If you would like to start your Ashtanga Yoga journey take a look at our Beginner-Friendly class on Thursdays 6pm, or if you've practiced yoga before join one of our other Ashtanga Yogas classeshttps://www.themandalapreston.com/yoga/ashtanga-yoga
Communication, Enquiry, Response
Yoga is a constant enquiry. We are tuning into body, paying attention to how our body and breath feel as we move, or are static. As a teacher I am in that enquiry with you, to explore what is working and what isn't and how adapting what we are doing might better serve us.
When we pause in an asana to investigate, we were paying attention, not just writing off an unwelcome sensation, but enquiring as to whether that sensation meant we were building strength or flexibility or whether it was unhelpful. To explore that we look at whether there's an opportunity to reposition, release or engage.
When we enquire into our body and we respond to sensations we are empowering ourselves to notice the wellbeing of the body, to attend to our physical home. But we are also building the ability to notice when our stress response is in the driving seat too often, or when we are having an unhelpful physiological reaction instead of a helpful response, we can notice that, pause and choose differently and that is truly a super power for health and relationships.
Predictability & Control
Ashtanga Yoga is also about predictability and control - two key aspects that can bring our body and mind into balance. We practice the same sequence each time we come to the mat for predictability & control, but it has some additional benefits too:
Calm - Repetition enables us to learn the sequence so well that it becomes second nature, eventually it becomes a soothing, calm and joyful moving meditation. The mind can become still, the breathing become steady and the nervous system can come into balance bringing our whole physiology into balance.
Control - No matter what has happened that day or week, we know we can get onto the mat and practice a sequence we know well and which nourishes body and soul, we know we can do something to support our mental, spiritual and physical health.
Balance - The sequence is balanced so that we use all parts of the body across all planes of movement. If we were just to practice the asana we liked (likely those we find easy?) we will strengthen that which is already strong - bringing ourselves further out of balance. The set sequence ensures we lengthen that which is strong and short, and we strengthen that which is long and flexible - so even when we aren't standing on one leg we are balancing 🙂
Checking-In - Ashtanga yoga is a brilliant personal health check for body and mind. Practicing the same balanced sequence of asana each time we come to the mat we can tell if something has changed and then we can think about why and whether we want to do something about that. Is it a positive change? Or if it's unhelpful are we tired, hyper, holding onto an emotion or thought, hungry, do we need to get something checked-out, do we need to talk about something, get more sleep?