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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: This style is known as the yoga of alignment, since the emphasis is on sustaining precise poses. Students use props, such as straps, blankets, wooden blocks, and chairs, to help them attain the ideal positions.
Degree of difficulty: Classes are intense but not as grueling as, say, Ashtanga. You hold the poses for 30 seconds to two minutes (much longer than in many other yoga classes). You’ll strengthen and stretch your muscles, but you probably won’t be huffing and puffing.
Who it’s best for: People who would rather focus on the subtleties of alignment than a revved-up heart rate.
Keep in mind: Iyengar teachers go through an intense, multiyear training program (compared with as little as a few months for many other styles). The experience of the teachers might be why this is one of the most popular forms of yoga in America.


What it is: Prepare to chant. A typical class starts with a series of breathing exercises and chants, then segues into practicing poses. The classes are designed to release a form of energy (called Kundalini) that is believed by practitioners to be stored at the base of the spine.
Degree of difficulty: Kundalini is less athletic than some of the other styles, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. The poses are performed in tandem with specific breathing patterns, which can be tricky to master.
Who it’s best for: Those who are up for both a mental and physical workout. You’ll focus almost as much on your thoughts and energy as you will on the poses.
Keep in mind: Kundalini is one of the more spiritual and enigmatic forms of yoga. Practitioners believe that by releasing Kundalini energy, you will awaken intuition and gain mental clarity over time.

Vinyasa (a.k.a. Flow Yoga)

What it is: Vinyasa uses breathing as an integral part of movement and is close to Ashtanga in style. But whereas Ashtanga follows a set sequence, here the instructor selects the poses and pace.
Degree of difficulty: The difficulty depends on the sequences chosen by the teacher. You’ll be “flowing” (moving) from one pose to the next with only short breaks. As with Hatha, many classes are rated from 1 to 3.
Who it’s best for: Those who like the moves of Ashtanga but not the repetition of following a set sequence. Vinyasa can easily be adapted to any fitness level.
Keep in mind: Vinyasa classes may feel more westernized than Kundalini or Iyengar. Some teachers play pop music and use the colloquial names for asanas, like Mountain pose or Chair pose, rather than the Sanskrit ones (Tadasana and Utkatasana, respectively).
Read More About:Stretching & Yoga

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