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Yoga is becoming an increasingly popular activity as more and more people are learning of the many health benefits that this 5,000 year old discipline can bring.  Both men and women practice yoga, although originally yoga was only for men. Not only can yoga ease many health problems, it can also prolong your life. In fact, regular yoga practice can provide a much needed boost to your immune system, lower stress, tone your body, refresh and revitalise your mind and soul and be highly beneficial to your general health.

Yoga : Which road to travel?

People tend to think of yoga as a single discipline, as classes are normally simply headed ‘Yoga’, rather than using their individual titles, but there are in fact many branches, each focusing on various areas of the body and mind – and it can prove to be a challenge to work out which discipline is best suited to you.

The five branches of yoga that are the most widely practiced are Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar and Bikram. The descriptions below will give you a greater understanding of what each one is for and the benefits of practising it. Whether you are a beginner, regular or somewhere in between, there is a branch of yoga for you:

Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga stems from India in the 15th century and consists of slow and gentle moves, and an awareness of your breathing and meditation. It is very well suited to beginners and will introduce you to basic relaxation techniques and the various poses.  It also eases stress and is a gentle form of exercise, so perfect if you are just setting out to improve your fitness.

Vinyasa Yoga

Vinyasa yoga is suitable for both beginners and the more advanced follower, and incorporates basic poses which match your breathing to your movements. Vinyasa consists of 12 poses called the Sun Solution, which aims to link your breathing with each move. Vinyasa will also help to build lean muscle, improve flexibility and core strength, tone abdominal muscles and also lowers the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.


Ashtanga focuses on eight limbs and is known as power yoga.  It is fast, energetic and consists of lunges and push-ups.  It aids to enable you to access your spiritual side, improve your coordination and stamina and ease stress.  It is aimed at people who are already fit and who are more experienced with yoga, and who wish to become more in tuned with their spiritual side.


Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar yoga also involves the eight limbs, but also concentrates on aligning the body.  Blankets, blocks and straps are used to strengthen the body, and a lot of the poses involve standing in a fixed position for a long time.  This helps to improve balance, aid recovery from an injury, builds up strength and aligns the body.  It is beneficial for sufferers of arthritis and uneven balance.

Bikram Yoga

Bikram yoga is known as ‘hot yoga’ as it is normally practiced in a room that is heated to 75-100 degrees.  Bikram has 26 poses and two breathing exercises and will loosen tense muscles and causes you to sweat, releasing toxins and also stretches muscles. Classes last 90 minutes and improves flexibility, aids recovery from injury and can help people who have physical injuries too. Bikram yoga is for both beginners and those at advanced level.

Once you have thought about your level of fitness and what you want to achieve from yoga, choosing one of the above forms will help in your search for a local class. The majority of UK sports and leisure centres and community halls now hold yoga classes, so check out what’s near you, and begin your journey into a calmer and less stressful existence.





About Jenny Smith

About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

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