January 18, 2016
You’re not alone.
Increased flexibility and range of motion, reduced risk of injury and joint pain, and improved focus/mental clarity are just some of the reported benefits of a regular practice.
But trying to decide which yoga class to take can be confusing, especially in the Cambridge, MA area where yoga studios are a plenty. There are many different styles of yoga classes, and in Boston you’ll find everything from beginner tutorials to hardcore advanced seminars.
At Evolve Fitness, we pride ourselves on offering a diverse selection of group exercise classes catering to all levels of experience, and yoga is no exception. We offer several different free yoga classes at both our Framingham and Cambridge, MA locations, and we’re going to spend some time today breaking down a few of the different styles that you might run into at a typical class.
Photo Credit: g-useppe
Vinyasa yoga is probably the most common style you’ll find in the Boston area. Derived from the Sanskrit word for flow, Vinyasa practices are known for smooth, movement intensive classes with rapid transitions between poses. Vinyasa teachers often choreograph their classes in advance to create lively, energetic routines without a lot of downtime. Classes can vary widely from teacher to teacher of course, but Vinyasa yoga will almost always provide an intense physical workout, perfect for those looking for a blend of cardio, strength training and flexibility, rather than just focusing on one or the other.
Ashtanga is similar to Vinyasa yoga, with the main difference being that Ashtanga classes follow a specific set of postures in a specific order, with little deviation from class to class. It’s still movement and flow-based, with each pose tied closely to breathing, and Ashtanga is an intense physical workout that is sure to get your blood flowing. Like Vinyasa, with little downtime between postures, Ashtanga classes are often hot and sweaty, and you’ll want to make sure you hydrate properly before, during and after class.
Often used interchangeably with “hot yoga”, Bikram classes take place in an artificially heated room and also follow a structured sequence of poses. Bikram Choudhury, creator of the style, actually trademarked Bikram practices, and has even attempted to prosecute studios that offer Bikram classes that deviate slightly from the original sequence. Thus, the term “hot yoga” arose to accommodate classes in the Bikram style that deviate from Choudhury’s method.
Bikram classes are intense. Imagine performing a vigorous exercise routine in a sauna and you’ll have some idea of what’s in store. While most yoga classes take place in a warm room, Bikram style definitely takes it up several notches, and you’re guaranteed to be drenched by the end. With Bikram or hot yoga, it’s even more crucial to hydrate properly, as students that don’t prepare can actually fall victim to heat exhaustion on occasion.
The benefits of hot yoga are many though, and some people who try a Bikram style class never go back. The intense heat is reported by many to loosen muscles and allow for increased flexibility, propelling some yogis to postures that they never would have thought possible in a standard class.
On the other end of the spectrum, less intense classes are often called “Restorative.”
Focused on holding fewer postures for longer periods of time with less “flow” in between, Restorative classes often use props like blocks or blankets to allow students to hold postures without any physical strain. Restorative classes are a great way to relax after a long work week, which is why many studios and gyms hold them on Friday evenings. If you’re looking for an intense cardio or strength building workout, a Restorative class probably isn’t for you. But if you’re looking to soothe your muscles, reduce physical and mental strain, and increase flexibility, Restorative yoga can be a key element of any practice.
While the mental component of yoga is equal to the physical in any practice, the typical Anusara class will place an even greater emphasis on mental and spiritual aspects. Having been created in the late 90s by John Friend, Anusara is relatively new as far as yoga is concerned, but the style quickly picked up steam and has become quite popular throughout the United States. Anusara yoga is based on Friend’s hybrid Hindu-influenced philosophy, with the general premise that all beings are inherently good, and a yoga practice is helpful when trying to access the full human potential.
Physical postures are thought of as a way to access the student’s spiritual prowess, with specific sequences of postures designed to focus on the various principal’s of Friend’s philosophy. While less common than Vinyasa, Ashtanga or Bikram yoga, you can still find Anusara yoga classes in the Boston area taught by qualified instructors.
We’ve just begun to scratch the surface of the different styles of yoga available in the Boston and Metrowest area, and with new styles popping up constantly, covering them all would be nearly impossible.
But the underlying takeaway is this:
Yoga doesn’t have to be complicated
You shouldn’t shy away from starting a practice just because you aren’t sure which class is right for you. At Evolve Fitness, we offer complimentary yoga classes several times per week at both our Framingham and Cambridge, MA locations, taught by qualified instructors with years of teaching experience. Whether you’re just getting your toes wet or you’re an experienced yogi looking to stay sharp, we offer something for everyone. Our free yoga classes in Cambridge and Framingham offer the perfect way to dive into the world of yoga and experience the many benefits first hand. We even offer child-care services for members, making it that much easier to carve out time to get to the yoga class you’ve been putting off for weeks.
But don’t take our word for it. Download a free five day pass, and check out one our many yoga classes for yourself!