Which Yoga Class is Right for You?

by Jessica Smith

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.

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Iyengar yogaIyengar yoga1. 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.

AshtangaAshtanga2. 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.

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.

HathaHatha3. 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.

Power yogaPower yoga4. 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.

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Kundalini yogaKundalini yoga5. The best yoga for 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.

For more yoga styles to improve flexibility, relaxation, and weight loss, click here!

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