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Yoga: finding the style that’s right for you

The body of research on the benefits of yoga is ever-growing, with the practices shown to aid physical health and mental wellbeing. More recent findings suggest these ancient practices may help with conditions as varied as ADHD and osteoporosis.

Originating in India, yoga encompasses physical, meditative and spiritual disciplines. However, it is the practical application of its “asana” poses that has been most readily adopted by Western cultures since the 1980s.

Its wide variety of styles offers something for everyone, from beginners with limited mobility to gym fanatics eager to show everyone their Wounded Peacock. This accessibility can, ironically, be a little off-putting, as you struggle to figure out which class is the right fit for you.

Here’s the health lowdown on the most popular classes currently being offered in Ireland.

Hatha

Newcomers, take note! Rather than a single style, this is an all-encompassing term for physical yoga. If a class is named “hatha”, it is likely perfect for people starting out, with poses being taught at a slower pace. Expect a range of introductory breathing exercises and stretches. It is best to stick to hatha if you are dealing with conditions that restrict mobility – one clinical trial found it helped reduce the fatigue associated with multiple sclerosis, for example.

Kundalini

One for hatha regulars looking to ratchet up the intensity. Involving a number of rapid and repetitive sequences, the emphasis here is on breathing. The inclusion of chanting and meditation also adds a spiritual element. If you have a history of heart issues, approach kundalini with caution.

Ashtanga

An athletic style that offers plenty of structure and aids core strength, stamina and more. Ashtanga consists of six different sequences in a set order – vinyasa yoga is essentially the same thing, but in any order.

“Power” or “flow” yoga are also similar terms, all concerned with generating heat.

Hot bikram

Get ready to sweat! Consisting of 26 ordered postures, a 90-minute bikram class will be conducted in a room heated to around 40° Celsius. Combined with 40% humidity, this can make for a tough workout. Rest when required and remember to hydrate! If you have hypertension or diabetes, consult your GP before attending.

Restorative or yin yoga

For those dealing with mobility or flexibility issues, or recovering from injury, restorative yoga promotes healing. Poses are held for several minutes either lying down or seated, with props used for support. In the case of “yin”, the poses may be deeper and more demanding.

Safety mantras

Regardless of the style, it is important to listen to your body. Go at your own pace. Never push through pain; instead, adjust your technique to a place of comfort or rest.

If you have any health concerns or apprehensions, seek advice from your GP before signing up!

For further articles on how exercise can positively impact your health, click here.