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The physical and mental benefits of Yoga for women

The physical and mental benefits of Yoga for women

(This article was generated via a Article Generator)/Thumbnail Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@erik_brolin?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Erik Brolin</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/benefits-of-yo on Jul 26, 2022

The world is brimming with different types of yoga. You might see vinyasa on YouTube, hot yoga at your local studio, or power yoga blasted across a fitness app. And while many styles of yoga share a few things in common — like deep breathing and muscle-lengthening stretches — there’s also plenty that sets them apart, which is why it’s good to know what you’re signing up for before popping into a class.

According to Denise Prichard, an RYT-200 hour certified yoga instructor and wellness council member for Mindbody and ClassPass, some of the most familiar types of yoga are ashtanga, hatha, and vinyasa. But there are also more niche kinds, like hot yoga and power yoga. “All of these variations come with different levels of experience in practicing yoga, intensity, traditional aspects, environments, and benefits,” Prichard tells Bustle.

Depending on the style you choose, you might find yourself cross-legged on a mat while taking deep breaths, or quickly moving through poses designed to make you sweat. “Like most forms of exercise, different yoga modalities have been created over time to address the needs of individual practitioners,” Prichard says.

To help decide exactly what kind of practice you want to do, check in with yourself to figure out what your body’s feeling and what your fitness goals are. “Different classes might be a good fit at different points in your life or depending on your mood,” says Laura Gray, a certified 200-hour yoga instructor. With that in mind, read on below for a guide to different types of yoga and the benefits of each.

1. Ashtanga

Ashtanga style yoga is super traditional.

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What It Is:

Ashtanga is one of the most traditional forms of yoga, Prichard explains. It’s made up of six series — primary, intermediate, and four advanced series — of specific poses that are taught in order. It’s vigorous and designed to connect your body and mind.

What Class Is Like:

“You will go through the same 26 poses each class, working on them and being able to move smoothly to the next,” says yoga teacher Heather Carroll. “You won't progress to the next level until the teacher deems you ready, then it’s your choice if you feel ready.”

Typically, classes will include all levels of yogis, but they’re definitely geared towards folks who are extra disciplined or who want to make yoga a long-term practice, Prichard adds. Oh, and you’ll definitely break a sweat.

“Another thing to keep in mind is that ashtanga teachers offer hands-on adjustments for practically every pose,” Prichard says, “So if you prefer a more hands-off approach, this may not be the right form of yoga for you.”

Benefits:

Since ashtanga requires discipline, it’s thought to help improve your focus and overall wellbeing. And it’s also a great way to measure your progress as a yoga student, Carroll says. As you move repeatedly through the series of poses, you can expect to build stronger muscles and improve your flexibility, too.

2. Vinyasa

Vinyasa flows through a series of asanas at a quicker pace.

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What It Is:

According to Prichard, vinyasa is a familiar form of yoga that was adapted from ashtanga. It’s likely the most common kind you’ll come across since it’s so popular. “Commonly referred to as ‘flow yoga’ or ‘vinyasa flow,’ it would be hard to find a yoga studio that didn’t offer this type of class,” she tells Bustle.

The word “vinyasa” translates to “place in a special way,” Prichard adds, which is usually interpreted to link your breath to your pose in a continuous, rhythmic flow.

What Class Is Like:

A vinyasa flow typically consists of sun salutations, standing series of poses (think warrior II and triangle), and a more chill restorative sequence at the end. “You'll flow through a series of asanas that you hold for a shorter period of time,” Gray says. “The goal here is to get into a rhythm with your breath and poses. You should get to experience some meditative aspects, breathwork, and a faster-moving series of asanas.”

Benefits:

Not only is this type of yoga welcoming to all levels, but it’s also a great way to improve your balance and flexibility, strengthen muscles, and get your heart rate up. “If you are looking for something energizing or more cardio-inspired, vinyasa might be right for you,” Gray says. And thanks to the way the poses connect to your breath, you’ll likely finish class feeling less stressed and more centered.

3. Hatha

One of the most common types of yoga is hatha.

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What It Is:

Hatha is another popular type of yoga, and typically involves a set of poses combined with breathing techniques taught at a slower, manageable pace, Prichard explains. “It’s perfect for all levels, but especially for beginners,” she says. Compared to vinyasa, a hatha class will move more slowly.

What Class Is Like:

You won’t see too many fancy poses (like headstands or crow) in a hatha yoga class, Prichard says. A typical session will include poses like mountain pose, tree pose, downward facing dog, and bridge pose. Your yoga teacher might burn incense to set the mood, and you may end the class with a chant or Om.

Benefits:

“If you’re looking to unwind, increase flexibility, and enhance your overall sense of wellbeing, this class is for you,” Prichard says.

4. Power

Power yoga is a more grueling type of yoga.

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What It Is:

Power yoga is generally more active and done at a quicker pace than most forms of yoga, Prichard says, noting that it sometimes takes place in a heated room. “It aims to strengthen your muscles while also increasing flexibility,” she explains. Think of it as vinyasa yoga on steroids.

What Class Is Like:

Power yoga will feel more like a grueling fitness class than a relaxing session. You’ll maintain a fast pace while moving from one pose to the next for a cardio challenge. There also might be tricky poses involved plus strength training moves and/or weights depending on the class you take.

Benefits:

“This class is perfect for someone who isn’t looking for the most spiritual experience, who loves to get a good workout in, and enhance their already-existing yoga practice with advanced poses,” Prichard says. You’ll improve your balance, engage your muscles, improve flexibility, and gain more mental clarity thanks to increased blood flow.

5. Hot Yoga

Hot yoga takes place in a room that's heated to 105 degrees F.

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What It Is:

Hot yoga is another more vigorous form of yoga, and it’s performed in a very warm and humid studio. You might do a vinyasa flow, but there are other forms of yoga that take place in hot rooms, including Bikram — which is a form of hatha yoga — and ashtanga, Prichard explains.

According to Kat Ruiz, a 200-hour certified yoga teacher and wellness coach, Bikram yoga consists of 26 poses where each pose is repeated twice. “The class is always 90 minutes and is practiced in a hot room to encourage the body to sweat,” Ruiz tells Bustle. “The series moves slowly and is great for beginners because the sequence is repetitive, so it’s easier to learn the poses.”

What Class Is Like:

A typical hot yoga class will last anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes. You’ll move through a series of postures and breathing exercises in a room that’s heated to about 105 degrees, typically with 40% humidity, Prichard says. And yes, it’s hot.

Prichard recommends bringing a towel, lots of water, and hydrating before you arrive since you’ll be sweating a ton. While this type of class is suitable for all levels, you might want to avoid it if you’re sensitive to heat or have health concerns.

Benefits:

Because the air is warm, you might notice that you feel more flexible than usual, or that it’s easier to get into each pose. If nothing else, you’ll leave flushed, sweaty, and feeling like you got a great workout.

6. Yin

Yin yoga is a more relaxed way to practice.

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What It Is:

Yin yoga involves mainly floor poses that are held for extended periods of time — often up to five minutes, Gray explains. While the pace is very slow, she notes that it’s harder than it may sound. The goal is to unwind and stretch the connective tissue within your body, aka the fascia, which can feel really good.

What Class Is Like:

When doing yin yoga, the key is to find a comfortable variation of a pose and then concentrate on your breath while you slowly allow your muscles to release into each asana, Gray explains. You’ll move at a slow pace and focus on relieving any tension you feel in your body.

Benefits:

“This is a great class when you need to unwind, to counter your gym workouts, or to do before bed,” Gray says. You’ll reap all the benefits of a good stretching session since that’s what a class will feel like. Pro tip: “Focusing on the breath helps those minutes tick by as you sink deeper into your body and the pose,” says Gray.

7. Restorative

Restorative yoga moves at a slow pace.

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What It Is:

Another slower form of yoga is restorative, which is a variation that’s done at a very chill slow pace. “It’s often done with yoga props, such as blocks and blankets,” says wellness coach Lesline Pittman. Instead of gliding through poses, you might hold them for as long as five minutes each, Prichard adds. The goal is to support your body and allow it to relax and heal (which differs from yin, which stretches the deep tissues within the muscles).

What Class Is Like:

If you go to a restorative yoga class, get ready to slow down. “Although it may look like folks are taking naps on their mats, don’t let that fool you,” Prichard says. “These classes can be intense and powerful. The goal is to completely relax into poses to help release stress and calm the central nervous system.” And that can take a lot of practice.

You’ll also do a lot of deep breathing. “This is one of the easiest ways to tap into your parasympathetic nervous system and relax,” Pittman says. “Deep breathing typically relaxes the body because it lowers your heart rate and blood pressure.”

Benefits:

This type of yoga is calming with a capital C. “By moving at a slower pace you are giving your body the signal it needs that you are safe and that it is OK to relax,” Pittman says.

Studies referenced:

Corey, SM. 2014. Effect of restorative yoga vs. stretching on diurnal cortisol dynamics and psychosocial outcomes in individuals with the metabolic syndrome: the PRYSMS randomized controlled trial. Psychoneuroendocrinology. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.07.012.

Hewett, ZL. 2015. The Effects of Bikram Yoga on Health: Critical Review and Clinical Trial Recommendations. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. doi: 10.1155/2015/428427.

Krishna, BH. 2014. Effect of yoga therapy on heart rate, blood pressure and cardiac autonomic function in heart failure. J Clin Diagn Res. doi: 10.7860/JCDR/2014/7844.3983.

Sources:

Denise Prichard, yoga instructor, Mindbody and ClassPass wellness council member

Laura Gray, yoga instructor

Heather Carroll, yoga teacher

Kat Ruiz, certified yoga teacher, wellness coach

Lesline Pittman, wellness coach

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