Are you confused by the different styles of yoga? Or unsure what class to try?
It’s not easy to grasp the differences between styles. Especially if you are at the beginning of your yoga journey.
At Thao Dien Eco Wellness, we offer a variety of Hatha, Ashtanga and Vinyasa Yoga classes. Each of our teachers has a different approach to teaching, but fundamentally the style and poses remain the same.
Read on to find out what's what.
If you remember from our yoga history lesson, the Hatha period was when yoga became more physical. People started to use their bodies to create shapes called asanas (poses). It was also when yoga became more accessible and inclusive.
In general, Hatha is practiced at a slow controlled pace. It is the ideal starting point for beginners because poses are held for long periods. This will help you to become familiar with the pose, and to build strength and focus. You can expect to be in a pose for between 5 and 8 breaths.
Although it’s slower and perfect for beginners, doesn’t mean to say it’s easy. If you find your muscles start to tire, bring awareness to your breath. Try to refrain from holding your breath, this will deplete the amount of oxygen reaching your muscles. Instead, breathe steadily through your nose.
Advanced practitioners can focus on alignment and breathwork.
Unlike Hatha, Vinyasa is a dynamic, rhythmic practice. There is usually a sequence or “flow” to the class, and one pose links to another. Expect to raise your heartbeat and sweat.
There is less focus on alignment (how you position your body to achieve the full benefit of a pose), and poses are only held for a breath or two.
Although Vinyasa is generally considered more powerful, it can also be practised in slower sequences for a chilled practice. After a while, you can really start to harmonize your breath with movement.
Remember, always pay attention to your body, even when your ego is pushing you harder. Go at your own pace and take a rest if you need.
If you see the word flow mentioned in a class description, it will more than likely include an element of Vinyasa.
Ashtanga is a physically demanding practice. It follows a sequence of poses, called the primary series, that are practiced in the same order every time. The class will increase in difficulty as it goes on.
Like Hatha yoga, poses can be held between 5 and 8 breaths, and the importance of alignment is heavily stressed. Classes are often longer, around 90 minutes, but can also be condensed into 60-minutes.
Beginners will often feel defeated by Ashtanga, which is why I would recommend trying a slower-paced class first.
Ashtanga is a serious practice that increases your endurance, stamina and fitness and is well-loved by experienced yogis.
The practices we’ve talked about so far, Ashtanga, Hatha and Vinyasa, all fall into the category of Yang yoga. Yang describes an active yoga practice that emphasises strength and endurance and generates heat in the body.
Yin yoga, on the other hand, targets your deep connective tissues, your fascia. It is based on Taoist philosophies and the belief that there are pathways of vital energy called Qi (pronounced chee) running through our bodies.
Yin is a floor-based practice, meaning that you will spend the entire class without standing. Instead of holding poses for a few breaths, you will stay in each pose for a few minutes.
Sounds easy, right? In most cases, it's not. Yin yoga can often be very uncomfortable because you stretch and lengthen rarely-used tissues. However, it's rewarding to practise because you will learn how to use your breath to help you through the discomfort and how to be with your thoughts.
By stretching and deepening into poses, you will be opening up any blockages and restoring the healthy flow of Qi in your bodies.
If you are looking for a good starting point, aim for a slow-paced, foundation building practice like Hatha.
If you have a good base already and want to harness the power of harmonising your breath with movement. Try Vinyasa a class.
Ready to take your practice to the next level, join one of our more challenging Ashtanga classes.
And I highly recommend introducing Yin into your yoga routine because there is nothing quite like it.
To book a class with us please visit the booking page.