The style of yoga you find difficult, someone else will find easy, and vice versa -- but some styles, like Ashtanga and Bikram yogas, are certainly more challenging than gentler styles of yoga like Hatha. No matter the style of yoga you practice, your instructor can suggest ways of modifying poses to decrease their difficulty, and you can always access Child’s pose if you need a moment to refocus, catch your breath and prepare for the next part of class. If you find a specific style of yoga more challenging than you’d like to practice, try something else until you find a style of yoga that’s right for you.
With temperatures that hover around 105 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity levels kept between 30 percent and 40 percent, breathing in a Bikram yoga studio can be difficult -- and that’s before you begin this style’s 26-posture sequence. The heat, according to Bikram’s Yoga College of India, will help you sweat out toxins and impurities. The 26 postures of a Bikram yoga class will provide a full-body workout unlike any other in the world of yoga, and by the end, nothing will be more appealing than a glass of water and a cold shower.
Of most standard styles of yoga, Ashtanga or power yoga are considered the most challenging, given this style’s fast-paced sequence of linked poses, according to “Yoga Journal.” Your instructor will put together a flow of balance-challenging poses that you move through without rest. Sun Salutations, which marry the three Warrior poses to Upward- and Downward-Facing Dog poses, form the basis of most Ashtanga or power yoga flows. Be prepared to sweat, says “Yoga Journal,” which describes this style of yoga as “a rigorous workout that develops strength and flexibility while keeping students on the move.”
Styles of yoga that prioritize form over movement may be the hardest kind of yoga someone with tight muscles can try. For example, forward bends, while simple in theory, can be difficult -- and maybe painful -- for someone with tight hamstrings. lyengar yoga is one such style that requires practitioners to hold poses for sometimes long periods of time. But this style of yoga, more than any other style of yoga, uses props like straps and blocks to help practitioners challenged by lyengar more fully access poses.
Often, practitioners find incorporating meditation into their yoga practice increases its difficulty, and Kundalini yoga is a style of yoga that uses meditation, breath and movement to release energy coiled at the base of your spine and draw it up through your seven chakras, or centers of powers that link your groin to your head. Your breath links your mind and body, and the meditative aspect cleanses your mind and lets you more fully focus on your movement, or kriya, which leads you to a specific outcome. Kundalini and similar goal-centric styles of yoga can be challenging for practitioners used to yoga styles that aim to increase balance, flexibility and strength as opposed to creating an energy release.
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.