Interested in finding a yoga style that unites body and mind but also gets your heart pumping and metabolism firing? To help you understand what’s on offer, we’ve created a guide to athletic yoga styles. Forgetting your towel at these classes is not an option.
What to expect: The inspiration for many vinyasa-style yoga classes, Ashtanga yoga is an athletic and demanding school of yoga. It involves synchronising the breath with a series of poses. Starting with Sun Salutations, poses flow into one another and gradually increase in difficulty. Traditionally, Ashtanga is taught “Mysore” style: students practise at their own pace while a teacher moves around the room giving adjustments and personalised suggestions. Many studios also offer a few teacher-led classes a week. Practice times vary according to the student, but a teacher-led class runs for one to two hours.
What’s it about: The practice is smooth and uninterrupted, so the practitioner learns to observe whatever arises without holding on to it or rejecting it. With continued practice, this skill of attentive nonattachment spills over into all aspects of life. This is the one important meaning of Ashtanga founder K. Pattabhi Jois’s famous saying, “Practise, and all is coming.”
Find out more: Classes are offered in all major cities. www.asthanga.com or www.kpjayi.org
Vinyasa or Flow Yoga
What to expect: In this practice, poses flow into one another and are synchronised with the breath. Expect to encounter lots of Sun Salutations and traditional yoga poses, as well as a breath technique called Ujjayi breathing (a diaphragmatic breath done through the nose and with a constricted throat, creating a rushing sound). Classes can range from mildly athletic to vigorous and last for 60 to 90 minutes.
What’s it about: Vinyasa yoga is a style of yoga rather than a school of yoga, but it’s one of the most popular ways Australians define the way they practise. Vinyasa literally means “to place in a special way” and refers to the continuous movement from one pose to the next. Any class that has “vinyasa”, “flow” or “dynamic” in its name will have this same emphasis.
Find out more: Classes are offered nation-wide. www.yogajournal.com.au or www.findyoga.com.au
What to expect: This is a fast-paced, flowing practice that will get your heart pumping while also encouraging you to find your authentic personal power in life. Classes feature a vigorous 60- to 90-minute sequence, usually performed in a room heated to around 30 degrees and designed to condition the entire body. Expect plenty of standing poses and arm balances.
What’s it about: The aim of Power Yoga, founded by Baron Baptiste, is to create freedom, peace of mind and the ability to live more powerfully and authentically right now. The physical challenges faced on the mat are a training ground for facing emotional and philosophical challenges that arise in your life.
Find out more: There are Baptiste-affiliated studios in Sydney only but Power Yoga-inspired classes (often called Power Flow Yoga) can be found across the country. www.baronbaptiste.com
What to expect: Get ready for 90 minutes of intense sweating and structure. Bikram is done in a 40 degree-room, so bring plenty of water. The practice consists of 26 poses in a set order. The sequence contains standing and floor postures, some extremely challenging—don’t expect to be able to do all 26 in the first class. Breathing exercises begin and end the sequence.
What’s it about: Founded by Bikram Choudhury, this practice is designed to work your body and requires full mental concentration. The heated room helps to relax muscles and improve flexibility. The overall objective is to create a fit body and mind, allowing the physical self to unify with the spiritual self.
Find out more: Accredited studios can be found in all major cities. www.bikramyoga.com
What to expect: A physically vigorous and intellectually stimulating practice with a focus on spiritual development. Class structure and length will vary but expect to encounter flowing asana sequences to popular music, Sanskrit chanting, references to scriptural texts, breathing exercises and meditation.
What’s it about: Founded by Sharon Gannon and David Life, one of the predominant principles of Jivamukti Yoga is ahisma (non-harming) and classes often explore the link between yoga and animal rights, veganism and activism.
Find out more: Certified teachers are concentrated in Sydney and the Gold Coast. www.jivamukti.com
What to expect: Hot Yoga is a general term applied to any yoga class done in a heated environment. Rooms will be heated between 30 and 40 degrees. Class structure is often influenced by Bikram Yoga but can also be vinyasa-based. Bring plenty of water.
What’s it about: Heated rooms can make it easier to go deeper in some poses, and it is argued that the extra sweat generated helps to flush out the body’s toxins.
Find out more: Heated yoga classes can be found in all major cities. www.yogajournal.com.au or www.findyoga.com.au