Yoga: How to Find the Right Yoga Practice for You, by Parvati Devi

The Various Kinds of Yoga

Yoga is a 5,000-year-old life science and art. It touches upon many topics and areas of inquiry, such as herbal medicine, meditative and contemplative practices, ritual, chanting, astrology and sound – just to name a few. The yoga most commonly known in the West is Hatha yoga, a practice that cultivates the experience of a balanced and unified state of being through physical exercises. The Sanskrit word “yoga” means to join, to yoke or to unify. All yoga practices have the development of a harmonious way of life and God-realization as their goal.

The balancing and purifying principles that are at the root of Hatha yoga have found broad appeal around the world, as the benefits of stretching, strengthening and relaxation are immediately evident, and the cultivation of inner peacefulness is available for those who are willing.

In the yogic tradition, there is a saying: “The paths are many, but the truth is one.” Whether you choose Iyengar, YEM, Ashtanga, Scaravelli, Sivananda, Kripalu, Bikram, Kundalini, Vinyasa, Yin Yoga, Anusara, Moksha, Jivamukti… you are ultimately doing a Hatha yoga practice, which is using the body as a tool to experience a harmonious relationship between spirit and matter.

There are many different types of Hatha yoga practices, because there are many types of people. It is not appropriate, for example, for someone who tends to run hot to do a heating yoga practice. Nor is it appropriate for one who tends to be heavy in body and mind to do a practice that is particularly slow.

Different Styles for Different Body Types

Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India is part of the greater body of yogic knowledge and is a sister to Hatha yoga. It breaks down our constitutions into different types. When you are looking for the right yoga class, it is useful to know your type. Ask yourself:

  • Are you thin and nervy, find it hard to gain weight, have energy in sparks and flashes?
  • Are you fiery, muscular, determined, competitive, potentially aggressive with a burning appetite for life?
  • Are you slow, calm, stable, steady, sturdy, reluctant to change, with the potential to be stubborn or lazy?

People that tend to be wiry and nervy do best with slow, nurturing, grounding and comforting practices, such as Kripalu, Sivananda, Scaravelli, restorative, integral or Yin yoga. People who run hot and are competitive by nature are likely to be attracted to more physically intense yoga practices, which is okay as long as the primary directive of the practice is not to generate heat. Anusara, Iyengar, Sivananda, Scaravelli or viniyoga are good practices for this constitution. If you have a heavier build, tend to be slow and would benefit from a little more inner fire, then Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Power Yoga, Kundalini, Bikram and Moksha Yoga can be good practices.

For all types, when specific injuries need to be addressed, it is best to do Restorative Yoga. Pre- and post-natal classes are excellent support for the birthing process.

If you are generally fit and in good health, there is no harm in trying any style of yoga to see how it feels, as long as it is done in moderation. Eventually, stick with a practice. The effects of yoga are deep and lasting, so they happen over time. A consistent practice with the correct method, a skilled teacher and a willing student will yield maximum results.

Parvati DeviParvati Devi is the editor-in-chief of Parvati Magazine. In addition to being an internationally acclaimed Canadian singer, songwriter, producer and performer, she is a yoga teacher and holistic educator, having studied yoga and meditation since 1987, and developed her own yoga teaching style called YEM™: Yoga as Energy Medicine. Her current show, “Yoga in the Nightclub”, brings forward a conscious energy into the pop mainstream.