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Yoga Decoder

Iyengar, Vinyasa, Kundalini...huh? Find the yoga class or style that fits you best.

By Kristin Appenbrink
Woman doing yogaTamara Schlesinger


What it is: Ashtanga is one of the more physically challenging forms of yoga. Classes go through a sequence of as few as 25 poses (also called asanas) that include back bends, inversions (think headstands and handstands), balances, and twists.
Degree of difficulty: Expect an invigorating work-out. This style of yoga builds strength, stamina, and flexibility. Even beginner classes can be challenging.
Who it’s best for: Athletic types who want a high-energy workout, as well as those who appreciate predictability and order.
Keep in mind: Most classes follow the same prescribed order of poses, so you can expect an the same experience, whether you’re in a studio in Peoria or Portland. A boon if you like to take a yoga class when you’re on the road, but a bore if you thrive on variety.

Bikram (a.k.a. Hot Yoga)

What it is: Bikram started becoming popular in America in the late 1970s. Classes are held in a room heated to about 105 degrees, which helps loosen muscles and joints. The 26-pose series is designed to stretch and strengthen your muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
Degree of difficulty: Classes are demanding, since you cycle through the 26-pose series twice. The biggest challenge, however, may be coping with the intense heat. Some say it’s like exercising in a sauna.
Who it’s best for: Devoted yogis who are looking for a new challenge or people who are very fit and want a hard and limbering workout. Before taking a Bikram class, check with your doctor if you are pregnant or have high blood pressure.
Keep in mind: Be prepared to sweat―a lot. Bring an oversize bottle of water to class, and don’t forget a towel. After class, continue to drink water or have a fruit shake or a sports drink to help replenish electrolytes.


What it is: This is an umbrella term for all the poses involved in yoga, but in the United States, Hatha is associated with a slower-paced class that includes simple breathing and meditation exercises. 
Degree of difficulty: Hatha classes are typically mellow, with an emphasis on balancing strength and flexibility. That said, if your studio or gym rates its class levels from 1 to 3, expect the third level to be fast paced and therefore more strenuous. 
Who it’s best for: Those who are new to yoga or people who want a relaxing, meditative experience. 
Keep in mind: This is a good place to learn basic asanas, relaxation techniques, and the ways to move from pose to pose. But if the pace of a Hatha class puts you to sleep, don’t give up. Move on to Vinyasa, which is more athletic and rigorous. 
Read More About:Stretching & Yoga

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