High-intensity interval training (HIIT) continues to grow in popularity, but the high impact workout can often lead to stiffness and tight muscles, making it more important than ever to factor some restorative exercise into your routine.
Yoga is very versatile — but there are many different styles of practice that could confuse a beginner. To make it even more complicated, many studios and instructors teach their own signature styles.
To help us through the maze, Chris Magee, head of yoga at Another Space, talked us through a few of the many variations of yoga and and what they're likely to mean on a timetable.
Magee, a former actor and ex-professional rugby player, found yoga as a way to heal his body from long-term sporting injuries — and he stresses the importance of mixing up your workout routine.
If you're looking to strike a balance in your training regime, or are simply interested in taking up yoga, here are some of the most popular variations you may come across:
"Vinyasa is the broadest term for flow yoga which is the most popular in the western world," Magee told Business Insider.
The word Vinyasa applies to the principle of synchronising movement with breath. In a Vinyasa class everything is guided by your breath, including how long you hold a pose for, he said, and each posture flows into the next.
A teacher will instruct the class with things like: "Inhale bring your arms up into the air, exhale fall forward into your legs," he said.
"It's consciousness, breath, and movement. But it can be quite aerobic, it can be quite fast-paced, and you can still get your sweat on — I teach quite a strong vinyasa class.
"No two classes of mine will be the same. There will be similar elements and I may reintroduce things, but you won’t know what you're getting," he said, adding that it's his favourite yoga to practice, because he enjoys the unknown.
Ashtanga yoga is a variation of Vinyasa — it’s just with a set sequence of movements.
"If you take an Ashtanga primary series class, no matter where in the world you are or who is leading the class, they’ll teach you the same sequence — so you know which pose is coming next," Magee explained.
"There’s something to be said for going in and knowing what you’re getting. It can help with your understanding, and you can also moderate yourself throughout the class a bit more: save a little bit of energy for this, decide where to test yourself, and where to ease off."
There are also some fast-paced, dynamic variations of Vinyasa, such as rocket or power yoga.
Rocket yoga, as the name might suggest, is a fast-style yoga. "It's a derivative of Ashtanga. It comes from the traditional Ashtanga series, but was modified for the west by a man called Larry Schultz in San Francisco," Magee explained. While Schultz was on tour teaching yoga to American rock band "The Grateful Dead," one member, Bob Weir, suggested he name his yoga style "Rocket, because it gets you there faster" — and it stuck.
According to Style Craze, Rocket yoga was the result of Schultz' attempt to make Ashtanga yoga more accessible to westerners, by breaking down the rigidity of the classic practice.
"Rocket's great, I teach and practice it a lot," Magee continued. "It's playful and has a set structure, but the teacher has some room for manoeuvre within that. Each class won't necessarily be the same, but it's much of a muchness."
There are a number of Power yoga styles, and the one Magee highlighted was made popular by Baron Baptiste. "It's quick, it's punchy," he said. It's sometimes, but not always, practised in a heated room.
"The only downside to something like Power yoga is, yes, you're going to get a sweat on and feel aerobically challenged, but for a beginner does it have the queuing and the guidance needed to keep you moving safely in and out of the spaces where you need to go?" Magee said. "In my opinion, probably not. You'd probably need a few beginner classes first, which focus on the yoga fundamentals. "
For those who really want to push themselves, there's always Bikram, the original hot yoga founded by Bikram Choudhury. It’s a set series of 26 postures in a 90-minute class, in a room heated to 40°C (105°F ). Bikram himself apparently calls the rooms "torture chambers."
Meanwhile, "hot yoga" refers to any style of yoga practised in a heated room. It can be influenced by many different schools of yoga. The classes can be shorter, lasting just 60 minutes, and they're sometimes slightly less hot — more like 33°C — which many people find more manageable.
By warming up the muscles it can help to avoid injury and the added intensity of the heat is thought to help burn fat faster, and provide a detoxifying effect on the body, although not everyone is convinced that hot yoga is superior to other practices.
"All yoga comes from Hatha yoga, including Vinyasa and Ashtanga — it's posture-based yoga," Magee said, adding that when you see it advertised on timetables as a style of practice, it’s typically a technique-centred class that's not as focused on "flow," and is heavily oriented around learning the fundamentals.
"Restorative yoga is a yin style yoga that is primarily linked to releasing," said Magee. "It's based around release work rather than flow."
This style, he explained, is heavily reliant upon props to build yourself into a pose.
"You'll use the props to support yourself to get into a space then stay there for three, four, or five minutes — it's very gentle and relaxing.
"You might be in 'pigeon position' for five minutes, giving yourself time to breath and relax — the time allows your body to really start to let go," he said. "Often if you're in a pose for too short a time you don't gain the full benefit."
Nailing the basics
As is a good idea when taking up any form of exercise, Magee suggests taking some time to understand the fundamentals first. Lots of classes will give you the option to hold stages one to five of a pose — one being the most basic and five being the most intense version.
But Magee warns it's important to first get comfortable with option one. "It's as good an option as five," he said. "Drop the idea that we always have to push."
The importance of cross-training
While Magee is a self-confessed yogi, he stresses the benefits of "cross-training" — incorporating different workouts into your exercise regime — on the body and mind.
"Too much of one thing is detrimental to you in the sense that it can lead to injury," Magee told Business Insider. "If you do nothing but strength training, your body will become tight and bound and that lack of space means a lack of appropriate movement for the joints and muscles. Things start to tear, pop, and go wrong.
"But also if you did nothing but flexibility training your body would become so loose and so weak that the joints can’t stabilise themselves when you need that strength — and that looseness also leads to pops and tweaks."
He added that as the body adapts so quickly to repeated activity, it's easy to plateau if you're exercising in the same way all of the time.
Acknowledging that many gym-goers who are short of time are reluctant to forgo their cardio or weights session for something low impact like yoga, studios like Another Space are increasingly offering cross-training classes that combine either HIIT and yoga or HIIT and cycle into one 90-minute fusion class.
"The benefit of cross-training is that you’re constantly giving your body little shocks in different ways and you’re also bringing yourself to a place of balance," Magee said.
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