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Yoga A to Z: What form of yoga is right for you?

By Damin Esper

You wake up and your muscles ache. Every joint in your body feels stiff. During the day, you feel like you're out of energy. What are you going to do about it? How about trying yoga?

Hey, all your friends are doing it, including that hottie you met last weekend.

Now comes the hard part. Figuring out which kind of yoga to try.

The choices can be daunting. You can't just throw a mat down in your living room and say, "Ohm," over and over (OK, you can do that if you like). Here's what you need to know about all the basic styles. Information is compiled from Monkey Shala in Oakland, WebMD, Yogasite and Yogamovement.

Ananda is a style meant to awaken and control the energies within ourselves. The goal is to harmonize your body and mind and attune with higher levels of awareness, from body through energy to silent, inner awareness. Affirmations are a key part of the practice and it emphasizes meditation.

This is a spiritual practice, not an athletic practice.

Anusara is roughly translated as "moving with the current of divine will." A relatively new style, its intent is to combine the spiritual aspects of yoga along with a deep knowledge of inner and outer body alignment.

Ashtanga is a style that synchronizes breath with movement and can be physically demanding. It is also one of the three original disciplines. It begins with a series of sun salutations. Students move from pose to pose (known as asanas), building strength and stamina along with flexibility. Beginners should probably build up to it. So-called power yoga is based on this discipline.

Bikram has been a hip form of yoga for the past few years. The theory is that the high temperatures (around 100 degrees) help cleanse the body from the inside out. It is a very strenuous form and students go through 26 postures in the high heat. It was developed by Bikram Choudhury, known in some circles as the yoga teacher to the stars. In practicing Bikram yoga, one should be careful not to overstretch muscles.

Integral was made famous by Swami Satchidananda, who worked the crowds at Woodstock into an "Ohm-ing" frenzy. It is a less strenuous form that emphasizes meditation and pranayama (the control of breath).

Dr. Dean Ornish has incorporated this style in his treatment of heart patients.

Iyengar is another of the three original styles. B.K.S. Iyengar was a stickler for details and his namesake discipline bears that out. Postures and alignments must be precise and poses are held for a longer period of time than other disciplines. Props, such as blocks, chairs, blocks, straps and belts, are also used.

Kali Ray TriYoga is intended to create flows that are both dynamic and intuitive. Poses are sustained and motion is to be conserved.

Kripalu is sometimes called, "the yoga of consciousness." The goal is to honor the wisdom of your body through the coordination of breath and movement. Students learn Kripalu in three stages: one, learning the poses; two, learning to hold the poses for an extended time; three, learning to move from pose to pose unconsciously. The final stage is known as surrendering to the body's own wisdom.

Kundalini uses classic poses, the coordination of breath and movement and meditation. It was once a guarded secret in India and was finally introduced to the West in 1969. Kundalini energy is believed to be stored at the base of the spine. It is often depicted as a coiled snake. Chanting and breathing are emphasized. SIVANANDA
Sivananda is a very popular form of yoga and is the basis of the 1960 book, “The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga.” It has a very set structure and classic poses and emphasizes relaxation. It also encourages a healthy lifestyle through vegetarianism.

Svaroopa refers to a transcendant inner experience. It takes classic poses and teaches them in new ways. The key is the opening of the spine beginning at the tailbone and working up. This is not an athletic workout but a consciousness workout.

Viniyoga is the third of the classic approaches. It is less a style of its own as a methodology to develop individual practices. The flow of breath is integrated with the movement of the spine. Function, rather than form, is the goal. It can be similar to Ashtanga but is practiced at a slower pace and stress level. Viniyoga is a great practice for beginning students.

Variations on all of the styles are taught all the time. Sometimes it takes trial and error to find the right style for you. Know yourself and your bodies limitations. And get your chakras flowing.