You may have heard that yoga makes a great holistic therapy for those with mental illness or substance use disorder. You want to try this ancient Eastern practice, but maybe you’re not sure which form you should practice or don’t even realize there are different kinds of yoga classes. Some are more physical and some or more spiritual. With more yoga studios and DVDs popping up every day, here’s a guide to help you figure out what kind of yoga is right for you.
The most commonly practiced form of yoga in the West is hatha yoga. Typically, when we think of yoga, we think of the poses that are common in this practice such as sun salutations, child pose, and downward dog. Its name means “sun and moon” in Sanskrit and it’s designed to help you find the balance between opposites, as the name implies. Three elements comprise hatha yoga, including yoga poses (asana,) breathing exercises (pranayama,) and a form of meditation. You’ll often encounter other forms of yoga blended into hatha yoga, but it is meant to be gentle and focus more on stretching than sweating.
Looking for something a little more physically intense? Try Bikram yoga or “hot” yoga. If you like structure and rules, this type of yoga is for you. Bikram yoga follows strict rules on how the class is conducted. First, you’ll do a series of poses in exact order. Each class is 90 minutes long with 26 postures and two breathing exercises. The room must be at 105° and 40 percent humidity, which contributes a lot to make you sweat.
Now, that doesn’t mean commercialized hot yoga offerings strictly adhere to the rules, but practicing yoga in a heated environment helps people sweat more. With warmer muscles, students can sink deeper into their poses and stretch more, which enhances the general benefits of the practice.
This form of yoga also has very specific rules and very specific poses that should be performed in order. There are six series of poses at different levels, and you must master one level before your guru gives you the poses for the next level. If this form of yoga sounds familiar, it got some notoriety in the 90s from Madonna, who was a popular devotee of the practice. Don’t expect to sit in silence in child pose with Ashtanga yoga–it has a flowing style with continuous movement. You can move at your own pace, so you can do it slowly or quickly depending on the intensity you desire. Like many forms of yoga, the poses coordinate with your breathing.
Vinyasa yoga is closely related to Ashtanga yoga in that it incorporates a flow of poses and postures that put more emphasis on relaxation. Once again, your breath and your poses are linked but not in such a structured way that demands a specific order. This can be a great form of yoga for beginners since there are no levels or standards that need to be met to “move up” to the next level. While you may spend a lot of time in hatha yoga sitting still in your pose, expect to keep moving in vinyasa.
Yin yoga holds each pose for up to five minutes, so this can be a great practice for stillness and mindfulness. This can also help if you suffer from mental health issues or some chronic health problems like poor circulation. It’s based on martial arts and focuses on working connective tissue instead of your muscles. If you’re a little older you might choose this form of yoga but young people can benefit too–if you did a heavy workout the day before, this kind of yoga helps with physical recovery.
Founded in India, Iyengar yoga is another way for beginners and older people to get started. It requires well-trained instructors but makes use of an abundance of props for those who are less flexible. You can use the common yoga tools such as blocks and straps, but typically you also balance yourself against walls or chairs. There is a very strict focus on proper alignment.
You might be in for a bit of a surprise if you sign up for a kundalini yoga class. This kind of yoga focuses on its namesake–“life force energy” or what we often call “chi.” Exercises and poses help you work up through the “chakras” and you can expect to do a lot more breathing exercises along with chanting or singing. This is one of the more spiritual forms of yoga.
There are different kinds of yoga hybrids popping up all the time. You’ve probably heard of ”power yoga” which mimics Ashtanga yoga but gets rid of many of the rules. Now you can enjoy prenatal yoga, aerial yoga, or acro yoga. Aerial yoga consists of traditional poses but supports you with a hammock. Many poses are performed by hanging upside down to get the blood flowing to your head. Acro yoga is for people who want to take yoga as partners.
There are many forms of yoga and all can have a valid place in your recovery. They also help with several kinds of mental illness or anxiety and help you reduce stress. Whether you’re looking to get fit, gain a spiritual practice, or both, choose the right option for you. Try different kinds of yoga classes and see which benefits you the most. Here at Everlast Recovery Center, yoga is one of the holistic therapy practices we incorporate into rehabilitation and recovery once you leave. We also offer aftercare so that you have the extra support you need when you go back home. Whether you’re struggling with substance abuse disorder or mental illness–or both–we can help. Detox and stabilize in our home-like atmosphere complete with home-cooked meals. We aren’t an institution, but your temporary home to heal. If you’re suffering from addiction or anxiety, you don’t have to do it alone. Call us today at 866-DETOX-25