I’ll admit it….it took me a long time to come around to loving yoga! As someone who had negative experiences with a few hot yoga classes in high school, I had written it off for good until a few months ago when I decided I needed to give it another try. I had spent years basing my thoughts about yoga on some not so great experiences. Talk about a closed mindset! Looking back, it’s unfortunate I had such a negative mindset about it. But, I’m so happy I not only opened up my mind, but also my body to yoga and all the amazing benefits it has to offer. So let’s talk about it! Whether you consider yourself a seasoned yogi, a new beginner just getting into downward dog or have yet to experience savasana, today we’re talking all things yoga, yoga types and yoga benefits!
What is Yoga?
Yoga has been around for over 5,000 years since it was developed in Northern India centuries ago, yet this time-old workout continues to trend in today’s modern scene. Crazy, right?! Countless people swear by it, gyms and studios across the country are offering various versions of it, and major clothing retailers (including TSM!) have launched stylish yoga apparel and gear, turning yoga into a major fashion statement.
“Yuj” (the Sanskrit word for yoga) means to yoke or bind, representing a union or method of discipline. Yoga is an ancient philosophy that originated in India that focuses on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, carried out via the practice of different spiritual techniques that incorporate meditation, stretching, breathing, and more.
There are many reasons why people do yoga, from relaxation and stress-relief to toning their muscles and getting into shape. People of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and lifestyles do yoga—from high-powered executives and professional athletes to stay-at-home moms and college students.
What’s more, yoga is a practice that can be done anywhere, anytime. You can roll up your yoga mat and do yoga at the beach, at the park, even in the privacy of your own home. It can be a fun social activity done with a group class or friends, or it can be something you do solo to enjoy yourself. Everybody has something to gain by practicing this ancient art. Check out several of the top benefits of doing yoga below.
Top 5 Benefits of Yoga
- Increased Strength and Flexibility. Practicing yoga helps to improve posture, flexibility of the spine, and aligns muscles into the body’s natural alignment. The stretching helps prevent against injury, and aids in a quicker recovery time, as well.
- Weight Loss. Yoga restores hormonal balance in the body by lowering cortisol levels and the nervous system’s response to outside stress factors, which in turn trains our brains to feel fuller sooner, causing us to eat less. Yoga also targets multiple areas of the body, including the abdomen, legs and arms, so you will build core strength over time, in addition to a strength training routine.
- Pain Reduction. Many people do yoga in order to relieve chronic pain caused by arthritis, fibromyalgia, headaches, back pain, and more. By transforming chronic pain and stress responses into chronic healing responses in the mind and body, yoga participants notice major improvements in physical ailments.
- Disease Prevention. Regularly engaging in yoga gives your immune system a boost, and also helps to prevent a variety of diseases and illness.
- Improve Mental State. Yoga calms the brain and helps reduce anxiety and stress in the body. It also helps improve your sleep, and may have clinical efficacy in treating depressive disorders, ADD/ADHD, IBS, and more. Um, YES!
Different Types of Yoga
Yoga is much more than humming to yourself and standing in a tree pose! Don’t do what I did and try one class and think that all yoga is the same! There are many different styles of yoga available, depending on what you want to gain out of the experience. That’s why it’s important to try different styles to find the one that you connect with the most!
I’ve broken down several of the most common types of yoga below! Of course, there are many more types of yoga out there with new fusion styles popping up (literally like SUP Yoga – Stand Up Paddle Boarding Yoga!). So, be open as you begin to explore new classes and find what you like! Yoga is a “practice” and even within the same style, every instructor may be different.
Ashtanga – Great for building core strength and toning the body, this physically-demanding practice requires synchronizing breath and movement that creates an internal heat designed to purify the body. Be prepared to work up a sweat.
Bikram – Also known as hot yoga, Bikram takes place in a heated room that feels like a sauna while you’re working out. 26 different yoga poses are performed twice.
Vinyasa – Aka power yoga, this athletic, fitness-based technique was originally founded by Beryl Bender Birch and is an offshoot of Ashtanga Yoga. With vinyasa yoga, practitioners coordinate their movements with the flow of their breath with each pose.
Hot Yoga- This is similar to Bikram yoga in that the room is heated. However, instructors are free to choose their sequences and you’re not stuck with Bikram’s 26 poses.
Iyengar- This type of yoga made popular by B.K.S. Iyengar. Iyengar focuses on proper alignment, posture and details. If you’re into nailing proper form, this class may be for you. Yoga props are also used in this slower pace class.
Hatha – The most basic form of yoga, hatha is purely a physical practice and what you’ll find listed on the schedule of classes at most gyms and studios. It tends to focus on the most classic yogic breathing exercises and postures.
Kundalini Yoga – This type of yoga is filled with mantras, singing and chants that are coordinated with postures and breathing exercises.
Prenatal – Another common one, prenatal yoga consists of yoga postures that have been adapted and tailored to help women throughout pregnancy. Engaging in prenatal yoga keeps muscles strong during each term, and helps you stay in shape during pregnancy and get back into shape post-birth.
Restorative Yoga – A more relaxing type of yoga, this kind focuses on centering your breath and your body. It typically involves a smaller number of poses with slower, gentler movements. This is a great opportunity to zone out and take a break from the noise of the outside world.
Personally, I have fallen in love with CorePower Yoga! With over 160 studios nationwide, CorePower is the most accessible yoga studio across the country. And, since I’ve been traveling a lot working with different sororities at different colleges, I can pop into a class wherever my Strong Girl workshops take me!
What I love about CorePower is that their classes are consistent across the board and across the country! Taking a C1 class is the same at all locations! The instructors are all required to go through extensive teacher training and you can expect the same instruction in all of their classes, which is great because you’ll never feel behind or completely lost on your mat.
The instructors are incredibly friendly and open, especially if you’ve never tried yoga or, like me, a prior class left a bad taste in your mouth. They are extremely helpful in all of the classes and demonstrate poses and explain terminology in easy to understand everyday language. The instructors make it a point to get to know you, so it feels more like a community and they all stay 30 minutes after to answer questions and help with poses!
The actual studios are very modern and clean. Think yoga’s version of SoulCycle. All the studios also look the same and are inviting to visit. They also have showers you can pop into after a class, where most likely you’ll be dripping sweat.
Not only have I felt more limber and flexible, since adding a few classes to my weekly routine, I feel a greater sense of calmness and less stress, especially right after a class. Yoga, for me, has become “me-time” where I can meditate, clear my head and just focus on connecting my breath with my movement and my thoughts. It’s literally where I go to find my “flow” (a daily inspo on this coming soon!) and where I can rejuvenate my mind and restore my body after strength training. I’ve added yoga classes on days that I work out and also on active rest days. I’ve even introduced yoga to my mom and boyfriend and they love it! I feel better and I’m so happy I opened up my mind and gave yoga a second-chance!
Are you a seasoned yogi or recent beginner? What are your thoughts on yoga and have you felt the benefits? Let me know in the comments below!