Ask the Experts: What Style of Yoga Is Right for Me?

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Different Yoga Styles
Photo: Courtesy of Lululemon

Savoir Flair’s resident yogi Julia Dolgodvorova is here to answer the all-important question that most yoga newbies want answered: Which style of yoga is right for me? From the options available to where to practice and what gear to wear, we’ve got you covered.

I want to take up a yoga practice, but with so many different types of classes and specialized studios, I’m not sure where to start. How do I know which style is right for me?
We’ve rounded up the most popular styles that are practised in the UAE and put together all the information you need on the style, philosophy, and benefits of each so you can choose the right yoga practice for your lifestyle.

Ashtanga Yoga

Breathe. Focus. Move.

Ashtanga-yoga
Photo: Courtesy of @AshleyGalvinYoga

What is it?
Based on ancient teachings, this style of yoga was popularized in the late 1970s in Mysore, India. Fast-paced and challenging, Ashtanga consists of six unvarying asana (pose) sequences that are to be practised in gradual progression. A great emphasis is placed on the connection between breath (pranayama), visual focus point (dristi), and the pose itself.

Students “flow” rapidly through the sequence, linking one asana to the next with an inhale or exhale – a breath-synchronized movement, or vinyasa. Traditionally, Ashtanga yoga is taught in a Mysore setting, where students practise in silence at their own pace while receiving individual guidance from the teacher. It typically takes a practitioner between 60 to 90 minutes to get through the complete sequence.

Is it for me?
If you’re looking for an athletic and structured practice that will give you that strong, lean body you’ve always wanted, you can confidently walk into a Mysore class. Be prepared to commit to practising at least three to four times a week (but preferably daily) and a certain amount of pain – you’ll often be sore from all those chaturangas and arm balances. The physical and mental benefits of Ashtanga are well worth it.

What do I wear?
Look for crop tops in a moisture-wicking material that will stay put and keep you cool as your body heats up. Pair clashing prints, and mix and match separates to keep your look fresh, even if you practise daily.

Where can I try it?
Ashtanga Yoga Dubai

(+971) 52 842 1601
www.ashtangayogadubai.com

Vinyasa Flow

Flow. Float. Balance.

Photo: Courtesy of @Lululemon

What is it?
Derived from Ashtanga, this style of yoga mixes up asanas to create new and creative sequences. As the name suggests, Vinyasa yoga is all about breath-movement connection – the poses “flow” from one to another in a fluid, almost dance-like manner on inhale or exhale. There might be music, props (such as blocks, straps, or pillows), and burning incense depending on a teacher’s style – no two Vinyasa classes are the same.

The sequences are usually dynamic and physically challenging, and will surely incorporate “Sun Salutations”, “Warriors”, hip openers, back bends, and inversions, so be prepared to move loads, progress quickly, and sweat buckets in the process.

Is it for me?
If you’re looking to tone up and build flexibility, but don’t like the idea of doing the same asana sequence every time, then Vinyasa Flow is your yoga fix. Make sure to try a few different instructors to find the student-guru connection that you’re looking for as class energy can vary greatly based on the teacher.

What do I wear?
You’ll need something fitted that won’t slide around as you move rapidly from pose to pose.

Where can I try it?
Zen Yoga

(+971) 4 367 0435
www.yoga.ae

Bikram Yoga

Sweat. Balance. Sweat.

Bikram yoga
Photo: Courtesy of @Iza_Goulart

What is it?
Named after its founder Bikram Choudhur, who developed the system in the early 1970s, Bikram yoga is a set sequence of 26 asanas (each done twice) performed in a hot and humid room. Extensive sweating allows tense muscles to soften so students can go deeper into each asana. It is also believed to promote detoxification and the flushing out of toxins.

Since all official Bikram classes are taught by teachers who have been certified at a Bikram Choudhur-endorsed facility, the practice is incredibly consistent – always 40°C, 40 percent humidity, 90 minutes, the same postures, and the same pace. The teacher never shows the asanas, but rather talks the students through them, which creates a very special group energy. Bikram practitioners are known to be very loyal to the system and its founder.

Is it for me?
If you like to sweat and prefer discipline and structure in your practice, then Bikram yoga is perfect for you. Make sure to come to class well-hydrated and grab a coconut water after the final savasana to replenish electrolytes. Invest in a good non-slip mat (we love Manduka PROlite) and wear specialist breathable clothes that absorb sweat and don’t restrict your movement.

What do I wear?
As little as possible to keep cool in the heated room!

Where can I try it?
Bay Yoga

(+971) 4 425 5960
www.bayyoga.ae

Kundalini Yoga

Chant. Move. Meditate.

Kundalini yoga white
Photo: Courtesy of @Ania_75

What is it?
Often referred to as “the Yoga of Awareness”, this system combines asana, pranayama, meditation, and chanting designed to awaken the energy at the base of the spine and move it upward through the seven chakras to reach enlightenment. Kundalini yoga was introduced to the West in the late 70s. However, it has been practised in India, Nepal, and Tibet for centuries.

Kundalini sequences (kriyas) consist of asanas combined with a specific breathing technique designed to awaken a particular chakra. Each class will include a short opening chant, a warm-up sequence to improve spine flexibility, a kriya (asana sequence), and a closing meditation – it’s a very powerful experience and can get overwhelming or even emotional at first.

Is it for me?
If you’re looking for a more spiritual and well-rounded practice, then Kundalini is ideal for you. Make sure to keep an open mind; you might have to dance, jump around, sing, or laugh during a Kundalini class to awaken and channel the Kundalini energy – no two classes are the same! During more traditional classes, you may be required to wear white-only clothes, so make sure to ring the studio to confirm the dress code.

What do I wear?
Wear white to make sure you are in sync with Kundalini’s principles.

Where can I try it?
Voyoga

(+971) 4 553 8630
www.voyoga.ae

Yin Yoga

Stretch. Breathe. Reflect.

Yin yoga flexibility forward fold
Photo: Courtesy of @AloYoga

What is it?
Based on the Taoist concept of yin and yang yang representing athletic activities that generate heat in the body, while yin the softer, more restorative activities that heal the body – Yin yoga was designed to help practitioners go deeper than superficial muscular tissues and target the joints, ligaments, and bones through passive stretches and long posture holds.

Yin classes are slow in pace – the students go through asanas in meditative silence and stay in each posture between one and 20 minutes. The traditional Yin class has very little movement and consists of a sequence of 18 to 24 floor postures that are designed to strengthen the pelvic floor, release the hips and lower-back tension, and stimulate particular meridians (subtle energy channels in the body). Although Yin yoga will not make you sweat, it’s not an easy practice – due to long posture holds, some poses can get quite uncomfortable. This style of yoga is perfect for active people looking to build flexibility, improve joint stability, and heal muscular tissues.

Is it for me?
If you’re looking for a slow, meditative type of yoga that helps to unwind and de-stress, then sign up for a Yin class. This style is perfect for people who stay active by running, cycling, or weight-lifting (known as yang  activities) as it helps to balance the body and mind. Yin classes are known to be relaxing and restorative, so be prepared to hold postures, breathe deeply, and practise in absolute silence. Ommmm…

What do I wear?
Comfort is a priority when practicing Yin yoga, so opt for cotton fabrics and even socks.

Where can I try it?
Urban Yoga

(+971) 4 369 7882
www.urbanyoga.ae

Aerial/Swing Yoga

Float. Hang. Bend.

aerial swing yoga splits
Photo: Courtesy of @AmandaBisk

What is it?
Also known as “anti-gravity yoga”, this is a new style that started in New York as a fusion of traditional yoga asanas, Pilates, dance moves, calisthenics, and acrobatics elements practised using a hammock or swing that hangs from the ceiling.

It’s a fun and liberating experience – students “float” through poses that have been adopted for a hammock from the more traditional yoga styles, as well some new “aerial-only” asanas, such as the “Chandelier”. Each class features inversions (which can be practised even by beginners with the swing support) that are great for decompressing the spine.

Is it for me?
If you’re looking for a non-traditional, fun, and liberating yoga experience, then you should give Aerial yoga a try. It’s great for alleviating back pain through gentle spine stretches and building strength and flexibility with minimum impact on the joints. Make sure to wear tight clothes so as not to get tangled in the hammock, and refrain from eating at least two to three hours before the class. Hanging upside down can get very unpleasant if you’re still digesting your lunch!

What do I wear?
For dance-based practices, choose a one-piece item in a bold color.

Where can I try it?
Fitness First

800 348 6377
www.fitnessfirstme.com

Hatha Yoga

Move. Hold. Learn.

Photo: Courtesy of @BiancaMayCheah

What is it?
Hatha refers to the physical aspect of a yoga practice (asanas as opposed to meditation, for instance) that encompasses literally every yoga style out there – so both Bikram and Yin Yoga (as different as they may seem) can be grouped under the Hatha umbrella. In the West, Hatha is known as a slow and more gentle yoga with longer posture holds and no flow in between asanas. It builds a great foundation for more advanced and physically challenging styles, such as Ashtanga.

Is it for me?
If you’re a true beginner and want to learn the basics, then Hatha yoga is a great way to start. Hatha classes are typically slower and more gentle than their Vinyasa-based counterparts, with more focus placed on alignment and deep breathing to really stretch out and reap full physical and mental benefits from each asana.

What do I wear?
As Hatha is a gentle form of yoga, you don’t need specialized gear and can get away with wearing your favorite tee and jersey pants to class.

Where can I try it?
Ananda Yoga

(+971) 4 452 4224
www.yoga-ananda.org

Inspired to get your om on? Discover the best yoga studios in Dubai, here.

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