10 January 2014

A Quick Guide to Different Types of Yoga

I'm often asked what type of yoga I teach.  There is an array of different styles which can be confusing to those new to yoga wanting to know which type will suit them best.  Here is a quick guide to the main styles of yoga you might come across to help clear up any uncertainty:

Hatha - the umbrella term for the physical practices of yoga which create balance and ease within the body and mind.  All the other styles have developed from Hatha yoga.  If the class you are attending is described as a Hatha yoga class, it is likely to be slow and gentle, and offer a comprehensive introduction to the basic postures.  

Ashtanga - a system of yoga brought to the West by Pattabhi Jois in the 1970's. This vigorous and demanding practice follows a set routine in every class, with each pose moving into the next.  You'll enjoy these classes if you want to work your body hard and if you think you'd enjoy doing the same sequence of postures each time you go.

Iyengar - this style of yoga was developed by BKS Iyengar and focuses on the correct alignment of the body in each pose.  Expect the class to be slower but to hold each posture for a longer length of time.  Iyengar yoga incorporates the use of props such as blocks and blankets to make each posture accessible to people of all abilities. 

Vinyasa - another style in which the poses are linked together into a flowing routine.  There is no set sequence in a Vinyasa class and each time you go it will be different.   Classes are rhythmic and dynamic and often use music to help create an uplifting atmosphere.

Sivananda - following the teachings of Swami Sivananda, this style follows a set routine of breathing practices, Sun Salutations,12 basic postures and frequent relaxations. 

Restorative - a completely relaxing and rejuvinating style of yoga.  With the use of blocks, blankets and bolsters, you are supported in the postures enabling you to enjoy the benefits of each pose without exerting any effort.  

Bikram - an extremely vigorous style of yoga designed by Bikram Choudury.  Practiced in a room heated to 40 degrees, each class follows a set routine of 26 postures. Expect a serious workout and to sweat more than you have ever sweated in your life!!!

Hot - the increasing popularity of Bikram yoga has given rise to other studios heating their rooms for yoga classes.  Expect an invigorating (and sweaty!) vinyasa-style class.
Power - a general term to describe a fitness-style class which focuses primarily on the physical poses.

And then there are people like me who teach a blend of yoga types.  My yoga training was strongly influenced by the Iyengar style and I love to practice Vinyasa, so my classes reflect these two approaches and offer the benefits of both.

Whichever type of yoga you choose to practice, you'll be getting to know yourself better.  You'll learn about your physical limits and how the boundaries change with time and practice.  You'll discover the capacity of your mind and how you can free yourself from conditioned and habitual ways of thinking.  And you'll learn how to relax into yourself and become happier in your own skin, living your life to its full potential.  

This week I am making: Wholewheat Banana & Honey Muffins
This recipe is by TV chef Lorraine Pascale and was published in an article about low calorie cakes in the Times Magazine recently.  They have 179 calories as opposed to 293 calories for a standard banana and honey muffin.  I asked my friends to test them the other day and they all gave them the thumbs up. If you are trying to reduce your sugar intake but you still fancy something slightly sweet while you're weaning yourself off it, then give this recipe a try.  Don't be tempted to add more honey because you want your muffins sweeter though - honey contains fructose and, to the body, sugar is sugar!!  We are slowly waking up to the fact that sugar is dangerous and only yesterday Vogue magazine published an article (click here to read) on the benefits of cutting it out of your diet.

Banana & Honey Muffins
(makes 12)
300g wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 egg
2 egg whites
200ml semi-skimmed milk
100g low-fat natural yoghurt
50ml sunflower oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 over-ripe bananas

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/gas mark 6. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper muffin cases.
2. Toss the flour, baking powder and bicarb of soda together in a large bowl.
3. Beat the egg and egg whites briefly in a large jug, then beat in the milk, yoghurt, oil, honey and vanilla extract until smooth and well-combined.
4. Mix the wet mixture into the dry ingredients with as few stirs as possible to give a wet, sloppy mixture.  
5. Roughly mash 3 bananas in a separate bowl then gently fold them into the mixture.
6. Divide the mixture between the 12 cake cases.
7. Peel and cut the remaining banana into 12 slices about 1/2cm thick and arrange one slice on top of each muffin.
8. Put in the oven on the middle shelf to bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into one of the muffins comes out clean.  
9.  Leave to cool.  

This week I am visiting: The Landscape Photographer of the Year Exhibition 
Successful entries in this annual competition are on display at the National Theatre at the Southbank in London (Waterloo tube and mainline station) until 9th February 2014.  

  I spent a relaxing hour wandering around this exhibition, which is free of charge, totally absorbed by the breathtaking photos of the wonderful landscapes that we have here in the UK.  There are various categories, including Classic Views, Urban Views and a Young Photographer's Award. The photos are well displayed and large enough so you can get a really good look at them and they are set up on the first floor balcony area. Whilst some photographs have been cleverly set up with great care and patience, others have clearly been snapped spontaneously at the perfect moment, an encouraging reminder you that you don't need to be an expert to take a stunning photograph.

This week I am growing:  sprouting seeds
The weather has been too bad to be outside growing and planting, so I've had to settle for some indoor gardening.  Sprouting seeds are a simple and easy way to increase your nutrients and eat more healthily.  There is an incredible amount of goodness in raw seeds but when you sprout them the nutrient value increases even further. By soaking them you start the growing process and all the dormant energy needed to produce a new plant is released.  Sprouted seeds are packed with extremely high levels of vitamins B, C, E and A, minerals, protein and fibre, so they really are a superfood!   I add them to salads and sandwiches but you can use them to make dips, soups and even bread.  Their benefits are boosted even further by the fact that they are so simple and quick to grow, take up hardly any room on the worktop, and there is no mess and no packaging!

You can buy them in Holland and Barrett or order them online (try Living Food of St Ives).

The instructions are simple:  you need a clean jam jar, a piece of muslin cloth to enable the water to drain away, and an elastic band to secure the cloth (or you can buy a special sprouting jar, like the one in the photo). You put approximately 2 tablespoons of seeds in the jar and rinse them in warm water.  Cover the neck of the jar with the cloth and add the elastic band to keep it in place.  Turn the jar upside down to drain off the excess water.  The sprouts need rinsing and draining twice a day.  They will be ready to eat in 3-5 days and will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.  


  1. Thanks for the description of the yoga types...its a challenge trying to remember all the names!
    I made the banana muffins using pure grade maple syrup instead of honey....it works very well...and passed the taste test of my mum! Now to try the seed sprouting....

  2. Ooh yes, maple syrup sounds good - I'll try it next time. Thanks for sharing that tip :-)