Do you know your yin from mandala? How to choose the right yoga practice for you

·5-min read
Yin yoga can help calm the mind with slower poses  (Blok)
Yin yoga can help calm the mind with slower poses (Blok)

Committing to a regular yoga practice can have a profound effect on your mental and physical wellbeing.

Combining breathwork with mindfulness and movement, yoga improves flexibility, muscle strength, lung and heart health — and will almost certainly leave you feeling more zen. Matching your flow to your mood and needs on a given day will help you get the most out of your practice. But with so many different styles out there, finding the right one can feel overwhelming.

To help you on your way, we called on top yoga teachers from Blok, Triyoga, MoreYoga and AcroYogaDance to guide you through different practices — some more obscure than others.

If you want to feel zen...

Yin yoga

What is it: Yin yoga involves long held poses that are designed to help you release deeper into each posture, relaxing muscular tension and lengthening connective tissues.

Point of difference: poses are held for anywhere between 2-10 minutes, and props like bolsters, blankets, blocks and straps are often incorporated.

Good for: reconnecting with your body and breath and slowing down thoughts.

Try it when you’re feeling: anxious or restless.

Yoga nidra

Some claim 45 minutes of yoga nidra is the equivalent to three hours sleep (Triyoga)
Some claim 45 minutes of yoga nidra is the equivalent to three hours sleep (Triyoga)

What is it: Yoga nidra is a practice that guides you into a state of conscious deep sleep – think those hazy moments between waking and sleeping – to help unwind the nervous system and promote relaxation.

Point of difference: a floor-based practice during which you're covered with blankets.

Good for: clearing the mind. Some even claim 45 minutes of yoga nidra is the equivalent to three hours sleep.

Try it when you’re feeling: overwhelmed.

If you want to get creative...

Mandala flow

What it is: Mandala is a dynamic yoga style that usually starts and ends with a couple of longer held yin poses to prepare the areas of the body you’ll be working on. Rooted in shamanism, each sequence is tied to one of the four elements – air, fire, water or earth – each of which relates to a specific set of muscles and chakra.

Point of difference: you’ll explore circular movements in the body and move around all four corners of the mat, while the sequence will focus on one group of muscles.

Good for: energising yourself in the morning.

Try it when you’re feeling: stuck or low energetically.

Dharma yoga

The headstand is considered the ‘king’ of the dharma series (Unsplash)
The headstand is considered the ‘king’ of the dharma series (Unsplash)

What is it: A challenging and dynamic yoga style named after classical Hatha-Raja yoga master, Sri Dharma Mittra. Most poses are held for a longer period of time than in a typical vinyasa class, which adds a level of difficulty. The headstand is considered the king of dharma yoga poses and you’ll usually encounter many variations of it in a class.

Point of difference: in a dharma yoga class you’ll also always be guided to lead with the left side of the body (except in twists).

Good for: deepening your own practice, as teachers are encouraged to only give essential cues for each pose.

Try it when you're feeling: like you want to challenge yourself.

Wheel yoga

Wheel yoga helps to open up hunched shoulders (Unsplash)
Wheel yoga helps to open up hunched shoulders (Unsplash)

What is it: the yoga wheel is a unique prop that can help you work more deeply and safely into postures, especially backbends and inversions.

Point of difference: you’ll use the wheel to open the front of the body and massage the spine.

Good for: those who spend a lot of time hunched over a desk all day.

Try it when you’re feeling: stiff.

If you want to buddy up...

Acroyoga

Acroyoga involves working with a partner, one-on-one (AcroYogaDance)
Acroyoga involves working with a partner, one-on-one (AcroYogaDance)

What is it: Acroyoga is a practice based on a combination of yoga and acrobatics and involves two roles: a flyer (the person on the top) and a base (the person underneath).

Point of difference: you work with a partner, one supports the other.

Good for: building trust, connection and communication.

Try it when you're feeling: like you want to explore a challenge together.

If you want to get sweaty...

Ashtanga yoga

Ashtanga yoga repeats a specific sequence
Ashtanga yoga repeats a specific sequence

What is it: Ashtanga yoga synchronises breath, postures and drishti (gaze point) to create a dynamic, flowing practice that builds internal heat.

Point of difference: the sequence is the same every time.

Good for: building strength and calming the mind.

Try it when you’re feeling: the need to move, sweat and focus.

If you're in need of focus... Iyengar yoga

Iyengar is known for precision and attention to detail
Iyengar is known for precision and attention to detail

What is it: Iyengar yoga was created by B.K.S. Iyengar and is known for its precision and sophisticated understanding of postures.

Point of difference: lots of attention to detail, alignment, long holds and the use of props.

Good for: learning the subtleties of postures and building a safe, healthy alignment.

Try it when you’re feeling: like you want to switch off from everything else around you.

If you want to get spiritual...

Kundalini yoga

Kundalini yoga is supposed to help build mental endurance
Kundalini yoga is supposed to help build mental endurance

What is it: Kundalini yoga combines invigorating movement, with dynamic breathwork, meditation and the chanting of mantras.

Point of difference: you’ll practise "kriyas," or strong repetitive arm movements, breathwork and hand gestures to help build mental endurance.

Good for: strengthening intuition and willpower.

Try it when you’re feeling: low on physical and mental stamina.

 (MoreYoga)
(MoreYoga)

Prana Vinyasa

What it is: Prana Vinyasa was developed by Shiva Rea, an American teacher with a background in dance. Along with a strong focus on the breath – prana in sanskrit – you’ll find a ritualistic approach to movement in this style of class.

Point of difference: Shiva Rea developed 40 different namaskars or salutations - opening you up to different ways of moving the body beyond the traditional sun and moon salutations in a typical vinyasa class.

Good for: finding a deeper meaning in your yoga practice.

Try it when you’re feeling: tired of traditional sun salutations.

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