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How to Choose a Yoga Style to Fit Your Intention
Yoga is the practice of intention. That doesn’t necessarily mean that your intention has to be enlightenment or world peace (although excellent choices); your intention—or rather your reason for doing yoga—can be anything you’d like to cultivate. Whether that’s to feel better, develop more compassion, gain strength, lose weight, become more mindful, manage stress, relieve pain or any number of reasons, when you practice yoga with an intended focus you get more out of your time spent on the yoga mat. Having an intention will also help you choose the style of yoga: Ashtanga yoga, Iyengar yoga, Bikram yoga or any one of the many yoga styles, that’s right for you.
Check out the quick guide below to choosing a yoga style that will support your intention:
To Become Svelte: Try Ashtanga-Vinyasa Yoga
Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic, physically demanding practice that synchronizes breath and movement to produce a strong internal heat designed to purify the body. With its many vinyasas (vinyasa meaning “breathing-moving system”), this style is particularly great for building upper body and core strength while toning the whole body. Prepare to sweat as you briskly move through a set sequence of postures while remaining focused on your breath.
To Gain Stability and Increase Mobility: Try Iyengar Yoga
Iyengar yoga is the practice of precision, paying close attention to the anatomical details and alignment of each posture. Rather than moving quickly from one pose to the next, postures are built methodically with steadfast concentration and held for longer periods of time, and props are often used to modify the poses. The method is designed to safely and systematically cultivate strength, flexibility and stability along with mind-body awareness, and is particularly therapeutic for individuals with specific limitations and conditions.
To Sweat: Try Bikram Yoga
Bikram yoga is a set series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises done in 105-degree heat with 40 percent humidity for 90 minutes. You’re going to sweat. The specific sequence of poses systematically works every part of the body from “bones to skin,” bringing fresh, oxygenated blood to every internal organ, vein, gland and fiber. According to Bikram Choudhury, founder of the method, the heat serves to speed up the natural detoxifying process.
To Become More Centered: Try Integral Yoga
Integral yoga is a combination of yoga disciplines designed to systematically address all layers of the body, from the physical down to the more subtle aspects of being, the emotional, energetic, and mental bodies. Classes tend to be gentle, slow, and accessible, placing equal emphasis on pranayama, deep relaxation, and meditation as well as asana practice. Transforming the whole person, Integral yoga aims to help the student access the place of peace and happiness that resides within each of us.
To Ignite Your Passion and Creativity: Try Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini yoga is a spiritual practice aimed at expanding consciousness, igniting passion and increasing physical vitality by accessing kundalini-shakti and integrating prana throughout the body. The method is multidimensional, using rhythm, movement, breath and sound to effectively stimulate and shift your energy. Alternating between active exercises (known as kriyas) and mini-periods of relaxation, you’ll be guided to pay close attention to any internal sensations you’re experiencing—releasing stored emotional and psychological blocks and allowing creative energy to flow.
To Develop More Self-Acceptance and Compassion: Try Kripalu Yoga
Kripalu yoga is a comprehensive and compassionate approach to self-study that uses asana, pranayama, deep relaxation, and meditation as its primary tools for promoting physical health, calming the mind, opening the heart and developing deeper levels of self-awareness. The method is inquiry based. Prompted by questions such as, “What are you feeling right now?” and “What is your body asking for?” students are encouraged to move and modify the postures, discovering what works best for them. Above all else, Kripalu emphasizes practicing with compassionate self-awareness and acceptance.
To Explore Spirituality: Try Jivamukti Yoga
Jivamukti yoga is a physically dynamic, intellectually stimulating and spiritually inspiring method that incorporates chanting, meditation, deep relaxation and pranayama into a vigorous vinyasa practice with a heavy injection of philosophy, poetry, music and affirmations. The system emphasizes the living spiritual tradition of yoga, bringing ancient teachings alive in a contemporary setting and applying the wisdom to daily life. Aside from asana classes, the Jivamukti Yoga Center in NYC offers courses in Sanskrit and scriptural study, as well as kirtans and nonprofit events.
Meagan McCrary is an experienced yoga teacher (E-RYT 500) and writer with a passion for helping people find more comfort, clarity, compassion and joy on the mat and in their lives. She is the author of Pick Your Yoga Practice: Exploring and Understanding Different Styles of Yoga a comprehensive encyclopedia of prominent yoga styles, including each system’s teaching methodology, elements of practice, philosophical and spiritual underpinnings, class structure, physical exertion and personal attention. Currently living in Los Angeles, Meagan teaches at the various Equinox Sports Clubs, works privately with clients and leads retreats internationally. You can find her blog, teaching schedule and latest offerings at www.MeaganMcCrary.com