Finding the Right Yoga Style For You

5979760760_4951b0779e_zFor those new to yoga, the words can be confusing. And everyone in any kind of marketing knows that a confused mind doesn’t buy. In other words, if you don’t know enough about the various types of yoga styles, you are less likely to even try one. Here is a brief introduction to the various types of yoga. Read through and see if there is one that seems particularly appealing to you.

All types of yoga will improve your health by strengthening your muscles and giving you greater flexibility and balance. Yoga can be an intense workout that will definitely help you lose weight and tone your body. Other types of yoga are better suited to beginners, people recovering from an injury, or people returning to a fitness program, but aren’t sure where to start.

Hatha Yoga is a good beginning yoga style. Each pose is taught independently from the next. This is especially important for beginners because as you get into the pose, your instructor will tell you how to breathe, where to relax and where to tense your muscles to better support you in the pose. Props like blocks, bolsters, and straps help to get just the right alignment. As you learn each pose, you will begin to understand how breath and focus are the underlying elements to any yoga practice.

Ashtanga Yoga or “Power Yoga” is for people who have a basic understanding of a number of yoga poses and is interested in a true cardio session where you work up a sweat. This style moves or flows quickly from one pose to the next without any rest periods. The calories burned during one of these sessions can exceed 500 per hour. You will burn calories, and you will sweat a lot. Ashtanga yoga will move from one pose to the next in a very specific order. Power Yoga uses different poses each time.

Yin Yoga works well for people who are looking for deep stretch opportunities to help develop more supple muscles and joints. Most positions in yin are in a seated or lying down position. Once you assume a pose, you will then hold the position for approximately three to five minutes. This allows the body to adjust to the stretch and ultimately opens the body up to greater and deeper stretching. Yin yoga is particularly beneficial for people who suffer from stress because it pays a lot of attention to breath control.

Yoga Nidra, otherwise called “yoga sleep” is a guided meditation session to allow for very deep relaxation and stress reduction. Nidra sessions can be done alone or in conjunction with some yin stretching poses fist, finishing with a guided meditation period. This is not sleep in the general sense, but a state of deep relaxation that is as rejuvenating as taking a nap without the nap hangover many people experience.

Iyengar yoga is good for people who might be more injury prone than others. The instructors are highly trained to understand the biomechanics of the body and how to instruct students into positions without injury. There is a pause between poses, giving you time to perfect your pose before moving to the next pos.

When a yoga class is described as a “flow” class, this typically means you will move from one position to the next. “Slow flow” will do it more slowly, allowing you more time to find your position and notice what is happening to the various muscles and joints of your body. A regular “flow” class expects that you will know the most basic poses and how to quickly move from one pose to the next.

After just a few weeks of regular yoga practice you will notice the benefits in your stress levels, your fitness levels, and your overall body strength.

Photo Credit :
Every teardrop is a waterfall
from dollen
via Flickr

Looking For Yoga In All The Wrong Places

1131688192_89359e8d8d_oIt used to be relatively simple to find a good yoga class taught by a relatively knowledgeable and skilled yoga instructor who could help you with your practice. Just over a decade ago, there were approximately four million Americans hitting the mat for a yoga session.

Today, there are four times that many people and the numbers continue to grow.

Why so popular? Yoga promises to relieve stress. Stress is the number one killer today and the biggest factor in a number of disease states. In addition, yoga is an excellent exercise . . . When done right.

So how do you know how to do it right?

My first experience with yoga as an adult occurred when I joined a fitness center and one of their class offerings was yoga. I knew a lot of people who went to yoga classes and they all encouraged me to go, saying that I would love it.

I was already paying for my gym membership, so it seemed like a great idea to take one of the daily yoga classes offered in the big but dark room back at the corner of the fitness center.

My first impression was that it smelled faintly of a locker room. I soon discovered that they provided most things that I would need: mat, blocks, strap, etc. Then as I jockeyed for position (those familiar with the class wanted to be up front along the mirrored wall to watch themselves as they worked out) I discovered that the locker room smell emanated out of the mats and other props that had been used by about a thousand other people before me.

Undeterred, I was determined to follow along. A very young, very supple young woman led the class barking out strange words, moving her body in ways I wasn’t familiar with, and I worked valiantly to keep up. I watched those around me and tried to put my body into the same position, but I had no understanding of what I was doing, when I should breathe, and when I should be using a modification because my body was different and my experience very limited.

Later, I discovered that while the class I took was considered a beginning yoga class, most of the people in attendance saw it as just another exercise at the gym. To give the instructor credit, she did try to point out how a student here or there might want to try something different, but with over 50 people in the room, she simply couldn’t give anyone the kind of individual attention they might need.

In my case, I was frustrated, but rather than giving up, I attended a couple more classes, purchased some of my own equipment, specifically my own mat. If I’m going to smell sweat, I want it to be my own. Fortunately for me, as I met other yoga instructors, I discovered that they are all different.

One day I met one instructor in particular who mentioned that she also taught at a yoga studio. Because her teaching style matched my needs, I went to a free session at the yoga studio and discovered that yoga as it is practiced in a fitness center is vastly different than the yoga practiced in a studio.

Despite the cost, I now attend regular classes at the studio because what I need out of yoga isn’t more stress, but guided instruction so that my practice is truly unique to me. Smaller classes, no mirrors, a much quieter, smaller, and more peaceful environment suited me much better.

If you haven’t found a yoga class that suits you, perhaps you haven’t looked around enough yet. Most studios offer at least one free session to try out what they have to offer. Talk to the instructors and see what they suggest for you.

Yoga is as unique an exercise as you are. Meet it on your terms. Once you find a good fit, you’ll be much more inclined to practice yoga regularly, and that is the whole idea, isn’t it?

Photo Credit :
Grand Velas – Yoga and Pilates
from Grand Velas Puerto Vallarta via Flickr

Skip the Steroid Injections

There are other back pain treatments that work just as well, if not better than steroid injections. After the meningitis outbreak resulting from corticosteroid injections for back pain relief, some of which even resulted in the patient dying, many patients are looking for safer alternatives to managing their back pain. Here are a few techniques for you to try to see if you can’t find some relief.

1. Heat and Ice. Sometimes we find ourselves going back to grandma’s tried and true remedies because they actually work. Thermal therapy is very effective for almost any pain management. Low back pain can be heated using a hot bath, a heating pad, or soaking in a hot tub or a spa. After about fifteen to twenty minutes of heat, change to a cold ice pack that is wrapped in a protective cloth to prevent any damage to the skin. Heat decreases the spasms caused by the pain. Cold reduces the swelling, and will numb deep pain.

2. Stay Active. That’s right. Even when you are experiencing back pain, it is important to keep the rest of your muscles strong. By continuing to be active, you build up strength. Your spine was designed to move, not stay in one position for extended periods of time. Sometimes pain is actually due to your decreased mobility. Gently increase your daily activity to help prevent any future pain. Some gentle activities include walking, deep yoga stretching, and gentle exercises that help to build your core strength.

3. Safer Alternatives to Injections. Anything that penetrates the spine, whether a needle or scalpel should be used as a very last resort because of the potential for serious side effects. Chiropractic doctors use a much more gentle but equally effective approach. A certified acupuncturist is another alternative as well as a reputable massage therapist.

Weigh all your options before agreeing to an invasive and potentially dangerous procedure. Back pain for some people is a way of life and they have learned how to deal with and manage their pain. The first step is focusing on your health and investigating ways to provide relief for your specific situation.


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