Your first yoga class can be intimidating, especially if you don't know what to expect. Even if you're a seasoned yogi in one style, you may want to try a new style you know nothing about. Knowing a few of the typical poses, or asanas, in different types of yoga workouts can help you choose a class to take. Some classes vary the poses every time; some have a set sequence. These have a more typical class structure than styles in which the teachers vary the sequence.
Vinyasa, Ashtanga, and Flow Yoga
Vinyasa flow yoga is the style of yoga you'll typically find in gyms and yoga studios in the West. In this style of yoga, poses flow into one another, with little time spent holding each pose. When you think of a yoga workout, you're probably picturing the flowing movement of a vinyasa class. This style is derived from ashtanga, an ancient form of yoga which has 16 set poses. Students can only go on to the next pose when they've mastered all the ones before, so a typical class will be a progression through the series up to the point you've reached. Vinyasa yoga uses ashtanga postures but varies the sequence.
Restorative and Yin Yoga
If a gentler yoga workout is more your speed, try a restorative or yin class. These classes are ideal for people recovering from an injury who want to move back into a regular yoga practice. A typical class uses props to support your body and allow you to relax into the poses. You can expect to use blocks, blankets, and straps to relieve the pressure of gravity. If you need more focus on your upper body, choose a restorative class. If you need help with your hips, lower spine, and pelvis, try yin.
Bikram and Hot Yoga
The most typical thing about a Bikram yoga class is that it's hot. Bikram studios heat their rooms to 105 degrees Fahrenheit with 40 percent humidity. Founder Bikram Choudhury believes that sweating helps release toxins by opening the pores, and that the extreme heat allows for deeper stretching. Like ashtanga, Bikram yoga moves through a specific sequence of 26 postures. Hot yoga classes take their cue from Bikram but vary the poses.
One sequence you'll find in a typical vinyasa yoga class is the sun salutation series. This series includes upward and downward dog, two very common poses you'll find across many styles of yoga. If you want to learn the most typical poses you'll encounter in your yoga workout, practice upward and downward dog, warrior I and II, lunges, and deep forward bends, in which you stand with straight legs, bend at the waist, and bring your forehead as close to your knees as possible.
Neville Smithson did his undergraduate work at Hampshire College and earned an MFA in creative writing at the University of Cincinnati. Having had a change of heart about his passions, Smithson is now back in Massachusetts, where he enrolled in a combined MA/PhD physical therapy program.