Imagine the scenario, you’re rather athletic, you workout and stay active but to boost your flexibility and general wellbeing you’ve decided to give Yoga a go. But peruse the timetable of a successful studio in a metropolitan area and you’d be forgiven for not knowing where to begin. Some classes are little more than imperialist theft. Some are a romanticised re-imagining of a time-worn system, tweaked for Westerners’ minds and bodies. But look beyond the tattered yoga mats and the lurid Lycra pants and you may find something vaguely enlightening.
So that you find yourself in the right class, and reap the benefits that social media would lead you to believe, we’ve given you a glimpse at our favourite schools.
Often referred to as the McDonald’s of the yoga world. This wildly popular 90-minute workout consists of 26 static postures and two breathing exercises in a studio that’s heated to 40 degrees. The increased heat makes the body more malleable and has been credited with everything from healing injuries to dissolving body fat alarmingly fast. Bikram’s enduring success is rooted in the indisputable fact that this style of yoga works and can be practised by anyone. But be warned, it’s not for the faint hearted.
The blueprint for what most people call power yoga, ashtanga vinyasa yoga was popularised in Mysore, India, during the last century. Whilst there are three prescribed sequences, most people are unlikely to fully master the primary series without years of practice. Flowing from one posture to the next without pause, it requires unflinching concentration and aerobic stamina. Whilst many believe that they’re practising something ancient in ashtanga yoga, the system draws heavily on gymnastics, body building and military training.
Founded by New York counterculture hipsters in the 1980s, classes are packed with heavily inked spiritual warriors. Classes are ofter a combination of flowing postures with plenty of hands-on adjustments and modern accents such as thumping electronic music. As cliched as it might sound to a yoga-newbie, the postures are there to improve the students’ relationship to all sentient beings and embrace the interconnectivity of life. Meditation, music and chanting are a central part of any jivamukti class, so if you’re uncomfortable with that, then ease into it slowly.
Perhaps the least traditional of those listed, dogs – or dog yoga – is exactly what you’d expect. Our canine companions may be capable of a perfectly aligned downward dog but, despite the name, they’re not required to perform any postures during class. Instead, they are used as furry free weights. That said, trying to lift a labrador about your head in tree pose would be unrealistic so doga is best suited to those with smaller pooches and perhaps a little too much time and/or money on their hands.
In stark contrast to powerful practices such as ashtanga, restorative yoga requires an element of softness and passivity. This approach to yoga involves holding remedial postures for several minutes at a time, going deep into connective tissue and allowing the body to adjust over time. You may only do a handful of postures in an hour-long class. It is a grounding and slow practice that’s geared towards injured, ill or inflexible bodies. Athletes who do weight-bearing exercises or explosive endurance training will benefit hugely from this. Whilst Bikram may get the muscles stretching faster, this is a more natural way to go about it.