Friends and family rave about how yoga has helped their back pain, reduced their stress and changed their lives.   Where do you sign up for that?  A web search makes your head spin with overwhelming options and Sanskrit names you don’t understand.   Choose the right yoga style for you, and start a journey that will benefit the mind, body and soul.

Here’s a quick guide on four types of yoga you’re likely to find near you.

Look for this magic word if you’re just getting started.  Basics classes move at a slow to moderate pace, showing you how to breathe and do poses while pausing frequently to receive detailed instruction on technique.  Sometimes Basics are called “Level 1.”  You might think you’re athletic enough to bypass the basics, but these classes can be both mentally and physically challenging – even for pro athletes.  Take the time to learn the fundamentals.

Vinyasa and Flow Yoga
Vinyasa yoga is generally more athletic and sweaty.  This style is characterized by linking breath with movement in a fluid fashion.  These classes demand strength as they build strength, including poses that turn you upside down and have you balancing on your arms.  When you see “Flow” in the class description, you might be moving from pose to pose at a non-stop, quicker pace.  Expect to move a lot and work on smooth transitions.

Bikram or Hot Yoga
Of course you’re going to sweat if someone asks you to exert yourself in a 90-105 degree room.  A heated yoga studio is the hallmark of a Bikram™ class, which takes you through the same 26 poses twice in one class, holding each pose for a set period of time, or a Hot Yoga class, which will take you through a greater variety of poses during a single session, sometimes more quickly, with fewer holds.  Be prepared to be soaked in your own sweat by the end of class.

This is the spa treatment of yoga.  A teacher will instruct you to use blocks, straps and blankets to set up conditions that promote deep muscle and tissue relaxation.  Restorative yoga intends to create a release to allow your body and mind’s repair systems to restore energy and vitality.  This type of yoga is usually most challenging to people who have a hard time sitting still and turning off their minds (exactly why it’s needed).

In your search for classes near you, you’ll come across other styles too, such as Gentle, Ashtanga, Acro, Hatha, Power, and more.  All provide different benefits for different people.

No matter which yoga you choose, here are a couple of things to keep in mind: be mindful of the teacher’s instruction, respect other students, commit to turning off your mobile phone and not checking it, and always be sure to take your shoes off before entering the studio.  Yogic principles such as cleanliness, mutual respect, and honoring the space are all part of the amazing path you’ve been hearing about.