The Best Yoga for Weight Loss, Strength, and More
There's a Yoga for You
Nobody would ever call into question the fact that yoga is great for relaxation and can help you work toward touching your toes, but the benefits of yoga don't stop there. With so many different styles, this ancient practice can boost athleticism, relieve stress, and even lead to hotter sex! Decide which goal you want to work on and sign up for the corresponding class today.
The Best Yoga for Beginners: Iyengar
Newbies can try any introductory-level class, but if you are looking for a practice that is detailed and full of direction, go with iyengar. “I don't think that anyone would argue that Iyengar is the ‘original gangster’ of yoga,” says Sara Ivanhoe, a certified Yoga Works instructor and star of the Weight Watchers Yoga Starter Kit. “His attention to detail and step-by-step instruction has been the basis of most current styles." This slow-paced class incorporates props such as straps, blocks, bolsters, and blankets in order to aid in more precise postures and poses and will challenge your body in a safe, educational manner, Ivanhoe says. It's also great for more experienced yogis who are injured or pregnant.
Find it: Search for a class with the National Association of Iyengar Yoga instructor locator.
The Best Yoga for Strength: Ashtanga
While several styles of yoga can help strengthen your body, ashtanga’s heavily repeated series of vinyasas—chatarunga (a yogi push-up), up dog, and down dog—between each pose (and on each side!) is guaranteed to make you strong and fierce, says Lauren Imparato, a certified yoga instructor and owner of the I.AM.YOU. Studio in New York City. Holding the poses, with this repetition of vinyasas in between, will develop targeted muscles in every part of your body, including those you never knew you had. (First, revamp your vinyasa routine with these 14 yoga poses.)
Find it: Imparato recommends looking for classes with names like “led primary series” or “basic ashtanga." And, if you are comfortable simply watching and following along without a teacher giving instructions, look for “mysore” classes.
The Best Yoga for Stress Relief: Hatha
"Ha" means "sun" and "tha" means "moon," says Karen Fabian, a certified yoga instructor and owner of Bare Bones Yoga in Boston. Put them together, and you have a yoga style that focuses on balancing your entire body's energy as well as deepening the mind-body connection and stretching tight muscles via poses, deep breathing, and meditation, she says. You'll often start with a seated mediation and proceed into a slow, restorative, and relaxing flow that includes floor and standing poses, all the while using the classic "uijay" breathing (the type that sounds like you're imitating Darth Vadar) and sometimes props.
Find it: Although most yoga studios have a hatha class, you can also check out the Yoga Alliance school directory to locate one near you that uses this style.
The Best Yoga for Athletes:Power Yoga
This is the perfect two-for-one method that focuses on strength and flexibility. Not only will you engage your athletic nature with active poses and posture, these classes also address areas of the body that get tight through running, cycling, and weight lifting, such as the chest, shoulders, mid to upper back, hamstrings, thighs, and hips. Although the term "power yoga" encompasses a variety of styles, you can expect a number of standing poses before moving to poses on your stomach and back to encourage opening of the hips, and finally a few poses to stretch your hips, all the while using rhythmic breathing, Fabian says.
Find it: This popular style is offered in almost every studio or health club with yoga on the schedule. Ashtanga and vinyasa styles also often fall under the "power yoga" umbrella.
The Best Yoga for Revving Up Your Sex Life: Kundalini
Awaken your spiritual energy or life force, moving it from the base of your spine up and through the chakras of your body, with kundalini yoga. The poses are practiced in series called "kriyas" and may be a combination of standing or seated postures with an emphasis on breath and "bandhas" (energetic locks in the body), says Amy Steiner, a certified yoga instructor at the Green Monkey studio in Miami Beach. Breathing exercises, including the alternate nostril method, are also used to unleash your sexual energy, and don't be surprised if the teachers have long beards and are wearing white. "This is to prevent the blocking of chakras," Steiner explains.
Find it: The Kundalini Yoga Teachers International Directory is a great reference.
The Best Yoga for Meditation: Anusara
A hatha-based style, the anusara practice allows ample time for self-exploration, thought, and discovery, making it one of the better portals for you to uncover your own spirituality, Imparato says. There's more movement than iyengar but less than ashtanga, and the instructor will talk most of the time, weaving life lessons throughout the entire class. As you listen, pay attention to the thoughts that arise in your own mind, Imparato says. You may find yourself following your own meditation, inspired by your teacher's words.
Find it: Search this certified anusara teacher directory for a class near you, as this type is typically held in anusara-specific studios or schools.
The Best Yoga for Quick Weight Loss: Bikram
Holding any pose for a length of time burns calories, but bikram adds the bonus of helping you lose excess water weight. The classes are held in rooms heated to 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity, which means you'll be drenched in sweat by the end of the 90-minute session. You'll go through 26 poses twice, holding each for a minute and a half the first time and 30 seconds the second time. If you have a big event coming up (can you say high school reunion?) and want to drop a few pounds fast, Imparato suggests practicing six days in a row, alternating between bikram and ashtanga for maximum fat-burning benefits.
Find it: Visit the bikramyoga.com studio locator to find a place to take "hot yoga."
The Best Yoga for Recovering and Healing: Restorative
The name alone conjures up images of rejuvenation and nourishment, and this practice can be especially helpful if you are dealing with illness, injury, or emotional issues. "Restorative yoga emphasizes deep breathing, supported stretches, and connecting with one’s emotions in order to release what is creating stress and emotional upset,” Fabian says. After a preliminary standing sequence or seated breathing exercises to warm up your body, you'll move to poses on the floor, often laying with your body supported by blocks, straps, and blankets. "The teacher will encourage you to tap into how you are feeling in each pose, noticing changes in your breathing and sensation and acknowledging any emotions that may be coming up as well,” Fabian says.
Find it: For an easy way to see what all the studios in your area offer, use the Yoga Journal
online directory. If you don't see the word "restorative," look for "relax" or "renew"—they're the same thing.
The Best Yoga for Flexibility:Yin
Yin yoga has a more passive approach to flexibility, allowing your body to release into poses and postures versus actively powering through them. “Constantly stretching muscles in power yoga classes can actually cause strain and inflammation around the joints,” says Sadie Nardini, a certified yoga instructor, host of Rock Your Yoga and founder of Core strength vinyasa yoga. "If you hyper-focus on the muscles, you may neglect the all-important connective tissues around muscles and joints." Lying in restful yin poses, often with the help of bolsters and props, will target healthy opening of your connective tissue system, Nardini says. “It feels like floating on a cloud."
Find it: If your local studios don't offer yin yoga, try a pre-recorded class streamed online at YogaGlo.com.
The Best Yoga for Spirituality: Jivamukti
Another hatha-based method, jivamukti is meant to be both physically and intellectually stimulating in order to promote spiritual awareness. One of the cornerstones of this quick-moving practice is kirtan, a call-and-repeat chant that is thought to connect you with the divine, Steiner says. Upbeat or mellow music usually sets the tone for the class, and chanting, breath awareness, flowing sequences, alignment, and relaxation are all practiced to incorporate the five tenets of jivamukti yoga: Sanskrit scripture, devotion to God (bhatki), animal and environmental rights (ahisma), music, and meditation.
Find it: Pick a certified instructor near you from the extensive list provided by New York City's Jivamukti Yoga School.