Which Yoga is Best for Beginners?

No matter your fitness level or experience, nearly everyone has heard of Yoga. One of the most popular forms of exercise in the world, yoga’s been around for over 5000 years and combines breathing, meditation, physical movements, and relaxation into an overall philosophy. It helps you improve the control you have over your body as well as your mind and well-being.

Where Did Yoga Come From

Who invented Yoga? Actually, there are no written records on the person (or persons) who invented or developed yoga. Originally, yoga was a practice to help train your mind and body to be more self observant and aware. It was used to cultivate awareness, higher consciousness, and better judgment. At some point, a split occurred between those people who were looking for physical development and those who were seeking more of a spiritual development.

Today, yoga is incredibly popular in the United States. Most practitioners use it for a combination of physical development and (at least to a point) to increase their mental awareness. The truth is, yoga offers many different benefits, including greater flexibility, increased strength, reduced stress, and the ability to relax completely. However, most gyms that offer yoga these days concentrate on the practice’s physical aspects rather than the spiritual. (Some will argue this is a bad thing, some won’t.)

 By the way, depending on what sources of information you use, you’ll find vastly different opinions of where and when yoga was formed. (For this article, we’ve noted that some say yoga started 5000 years ago, for example, while other sources said 2000 years ago, which is undoubtedly a huge difference.)

What Are the Different Types of Yoga?

If you’re considering taking up yoga and wondering which yoga is the best for beginners, this article is for you. Yes, there are several different types of yoga and choosing the best one for your lifestyle goals is relatively important. They include:

    • Hatha Yoga- General term for Yoga that encompasses several different styles
    • Vinyasa Flow Yoga- Also general but more vigorous style of yoga
    • Anusara Yoga- a combination of physical alignment and positive philosophy
    • Ashtanga Yoga- a physically demanding, fast-paced, and intense style of yoga
    • Bikram/Hot Yoga- pioneered by Bikram Choudhury, hot yoga is performed in a heated room to help practitioners sweat profusely and loosen their muscles.
    • Iyengar Yoga- This style emphasizes holding yoga poses for a longer duration of time.
    • Jivamukti Yoga- intense and inspirational he themed, this type of yoga combines meditation, spiritual teachings, chanting, and yoga poses.
    • Kundalini Yoga- this form of yoga focuses on breathing and physical movement.
    • Sivananda Yoga- Sivananda yoga is based on the principles of several different types of yoga. It also focuses on mastering 12 yoga poses.
    • Viniyoga Yoga- developed by the late and revere teacher T. Krishnamacharya, viniyoga is a bit unique. It’s one of the few yoga styles that is individualized for each student based on several factors like their state of health and stage of life. Then it’s adapted to fit the person’s particular needs and goals.

Keep in mind that some yoga forms will seem very different from the yoga you’ve seen or been involved with in the United States. Most Americans are aware of hatha yoga because that’s what most American yoga studios teach. Frankly, it’s the best to become more flexible and get in shape, but it’s not for everyone. (Not everyone can stand on their head for 10 minutes at a time, for example, nor should they.)

Which Yoga Should You Choose as a Beginner?

The type of yoga that you decide to follow depends on several factors. Those include physical wellness, mental wellness, and spiritual wellness, among others. As we mentioned earlier, hatha yoga is what you’ll find in most yoga studios, but there are definitely studios practicing all of the other yoga methods and styles (below). Let’s take a closer look at some of the different types of yoga.

Hatha Yoga

Unless you’re looking for spiritual enlightenment only, it’s most likely that you, as a beginner, will take up hatha yoga. Again, hatha yoga is what most yoga studios and yoga teachers focus on. As a matter of fact, nearly 1 in 7 American adults practice hatha yoga.

The word Hatha in Sanskrit means force (which, frankly, is rather ironic). In 1893, Swami Vivekananda brought it to the United States and it was more spiritual than physical. By the 1920s, however, hatha yoga had been combined with other popular yoga styles to create something more physical instead. Still, it’s popularity was not nearly on a par of what it is today.

That changed in the 1950s when Richard Hittleman’s popular TV program “Yoga for Health” debuted on American TV. Then, during the 1960s, the Beatles helped to bring yoga to the masses when it was revealed that they were working with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He combined mainstream hatha yoga with transcendental meditation, and the practice immediately soared in popularity.

Bikram/Hot Yoga Yoga

Technically a modified version of hatha yoga, Bikram/hot yoga, is performed in a room that is heated to 105F. The typical class features 26 poses that are more-or-less set in stone and performed every session. It’s believed that the heat helps practitioners stretch their muscles better and sweat out toxins and improve circulation. (By the way, Beyoncé practices Bikram/Hot yoga.)

Iyengar Yoga

Very meticulous and precise, Iyengar yoga was developed by B.K.S Iyengar during the 1960s. More than other yoga forms, Iyengar yoga is focused on breaths control (called pranayama) and posture control (called asana). It’s also the world’s most widely practiced form of yoga worldwide. If you want to learn the perfect way to get into and hold yoga poses, Iyengar is a great place to start.

What Are the Benefits of Yoga?

A lot of scientific research has gone into yoga over the decades. The good news is that it supports most of the claims that yoga practitioners have been making for years about Yoga’s wellness benefits. They include:

Reducing Anxiety, Stress, and Depression

While it may not be effective for someone who’s been clinically diagnosed with a mental health condition, over 60 studies have found evidence that supports yoga being effective for managing many different types of anxiety disorders and conditions.

Reducing spinal problems and back pain

In 2018 a review was published that looked at 8 studies by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. (As we said, there have been a lot of studies on yoga.) The review found that back pain was indeed reduced by yoga and that it afforded both short-term and intermediate-term benefits similar to several other types of exercise.

Emotional Support and Well-Being

Many studies have shown that Hatha yoga provides a positive impact on mental health. (Other types of yoga as well.)

Improved Sleep

Many different conditions are helped by hatha yoga, including sleep problems. For example, cancer patients have shown improved sleep after practicing hatha yoga, as well as pregnant women, seniors, and people with arthritis.

Reduction in Neck Pain and Stiffness

The medical journal Medicine published a meta-analysis in 2019, showing that hatha yoga is excellent for reducing neck pain and improving neck (cervical spine) ROM (range of motion).

Helping Young Adults Be More Mindful

A massive study of nearly 2000 young adults in 2018 showed that Hatha yoga helped them be better motivated and mindful.

Greatly Increased and Improved Flexibility

If there’s one thing that yoga can do for almost everyone, it improves their flexibility. More than big, strong muscles, flexible muscles will help keep you healthy and prevent injuries. Yoga is one of the very best (and safest, if done correctly) ways to become more limber and flexible.

Improving Athletic Performance

If you’re an athlete (or a weekend-warrior), yoga is highly recommended. Numerous studies have shown it to be an excellent, performance-enhancing type of exercise that can increase your flexibility, strength, endurance, etc.

Helping You Lose Weight

Like any form of regular exercise, yoga can be extremely helpful if you’re trying to lose a few pounds and get back into shape. It’s a great way to get started at any fitness level, even if you haven’t exercised in years. You can ease into a yoga workout slowly and surely as your body gets stronger and leaner.

In Closing

Frankly, the type of yoga that you follow as a beginner is almost unimportant. What’s important is that you start and then stay dedicated so that your body and mind will receive the amazing benefits that yoga provides. Hatha yoga may be the most popular in the United States, but it’s certainly not the only choice. (That’s especially true in states like California where there are yoga studios on practically every street corner.)

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