"If you're looking for a relaxed cruise-ship type of yoga, Ashtanga isn't for you," warns Ingalls. Ashtanga offers a fast-paced class that repeats one or two of six separate sequenced movements. Each sequence contains up to 50 standing or floor-based postures. The movements strengthen muscles to increase flexibility. Spectacular bursts of movement that signify Ashtanga's style can intimidate even the most athletic beginner.
This is not for the sweat averse. Bikram's is performed for 90 minutes in a 100- to 110-degree room. The concept is that heat softens the muscles and therefore minimizes injuries. A variant of Ashtanga, Bikram's yoga uses 26 movements, each performed twice before progressing to the next. "The first set is a warm-up, the second goes deeper," says Bikram Choudhury of Beverly Hills, Calif., who created and stamped his name on the yoga style. Choudhury, who claims to have taught the technique to George Harrison and Candace Bergen, runs a chain of studios nationwide under the moniker Yoga College of India.
"Power Yoga," says Ingalls, "takes Ashtanga and changes it to a sort of gym format." While the name suggests it's a draw for the twenty-somethings, many baby boomers are loyal to this style. That's because the intensity of a Power Yoga class often depends on the instructor's guidance, and some classes don't feel as "powerful" as you'd imagine.
No props or sudden moves here. Viniyoga, which means "breath-synchronized movement," is gentle. Payne says it's popular with those over 35. Carefully sequenced postures are designed to ease the body into more difficult moves, such as headstands. Viniyoga focuses more on quieting the mind than scrutinizing body positions.
Kripalu yoga focuses on three stages: postural alignment and breath coordination and movement; meditation and holding postures for lengthy moments; and a more spontaneous flow of both postures and meditation. The Lenox, Mass.-based Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, where this approach was developed, is the largest Kripalu yoga center in the country.
Release your serpent--or Kundalini--power! This is the Yoga of Awareness and emphasizes mental focus, breathing, mantras, as well as various hand positions. The style focuses using the trio of mind, body, and spirit to help clear out your subconscious and set you on the path of enlightenment.
Sivananda and Integral Yoga
These yoga schools are more laid back than Iyengar and Ashtanga, says Payne. In addition to Sivananda's practice of the Sun Salutation, the style also features meditating on and chanting the "OM" mantra. Payne calls the mantra "the universal sound of God." To me, when a room of yoga practitioners chant together, God sounds like a hidden bass reverberating off the walls.
Integral Yoga is a close cousin to Sivananda. Swami Satchidananda gave the Woodstock crowd a small taste of Integral Yoga when he led them in chanting "OM" back in 1969, says Payne. The main focus is on meditation and deep relaxation. The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Manhattan is one of many centers nationwide set up by Swami Satchidananda to offer daily classes that initiate students into the style.
Isn't this a no-brainer? Not necessarily. Nonspecific yoga classes generally suggest that the teacher will use a blend of postures and stretches. One popular trend is to incorporate yoga postures and Pilates stretches. And in one more sign of yoga's commercialization, New York dancer Jonathan Urla actually trademarked the term Yogilates in 1997 to reflect this style. "Yogilates is currently in New York and the immediate surrounding areas, but look for us as we expand nationwide," says Urla.