This guide explains the many genres of yoga, deciphers the characteristics of each style, relates exercise routines to individual qualities and suggests locations to explore your unique spiritual discipline.
By Hilary Adleberg
For thousands of years communities have practiced yoga, with archeological artifacts depicting yoga poses dating back to 3000 B.C. Over time, the ritual evolved and divided into different factions and branches.
In Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainis ‘yoga’ translates to ‘spiritual discipline,’ though each culture bred different ideologies. Traditional yoga practices have been tweaked, stretched and enhanced—as reflected in the yoga stances themselves. This guide explains the many genres of yoga, deciphers the characteristics of each style, relates exercise routines to individual qualities and suggests locations to explore your unique spiritual discipline.
Beginner, Muscle-Building, Tortoise-Minded (As Opposed to Hare-Minded)
Hatha / Ansura / Iyengar / Kripalu
Hatha—a broad category of yoga—is a slow-paced style that provides a good introduction to basic yoga poses. Appropriate for all ages and abilities, these types of classes don’t force everyone into the same cookie-cutter positions. You are taught to get to know, accept and learn from your body. Once you gain an initial understanding of how your body works in different poses, you will learn to hold postures and meditate longer. These styles teach the fundamentals and lend a strong foundation useful for any method of yoga.
Kripalu is perfect for those who want to learn the basic mechanics, proper breath work and spiritual aspect. Practicing Kripalu helps to cultivate an awareness of the physical and mental connection—exemplifying how the mind influences physical gestures, and vice versa.
Iyengar uses props like blocks, straps and incline boards to work every part of the body, leading to great muscle definition, not mass. Iyengar yoga focuses attention on alignment and deliberate sequencing. The form is fitting for beginners and yoga veterans because its classes offer an upbeat, carefree vibe.
Anusura instructors teach proper alignment to prevent injuries—in and out of the classroom. This class is a good first step for someone trying to get back into shape. Anusura fosters an accepting atmosphere where instructors teach students to express themselves through the poses, to their fullest individual ability.
Studios and Classes
Sun and Moon Yoga
Fairfax & Arlington; 703-525-YOGA; sunandmoonstudio.com; first class is free for new clients
Positive Energy Yoga
3223 Duke St., Suite B2, Alexandria; 703-582-3699; positiveenergyyoga.net
Unity Woods Yoga Center
4001 9th St. N, Apt. 105, Arlington; 703-525-8992; unitywoods.com
The Energy Club
2900 S. Quincy St., Arlington; 703-824-2058; theenergyclub.com
Yoga with Hinda Sacks at The Landings
6100 Cove Landing Road, Burke; 703-631-0378; email@example.com
Athlete, Jock, Hare-Minded (As Opposed to Tortoise-Minded)
Vinyasa / Ashtanga / Bikram
Vinyasa is a general term that describes multiple types of more vigorous yoga styles. Meaning breath-synchronized movement, Vinyasa classes link series of poses by breath. This workout is for the athletically inclined, who believe that exercising is pushing one’s body to its limits.The high-intensity classes are a great cardiovascular workout, providing quick weight loss results.
Ashtanga, for example, moves from one pose to the next with each inhale and exhale. Ashtanga originates from Mysore, India, and was developed to settle the energy and focus the minds of teenage school boys. Introduced to the U.S. in 1975, classes may be called “vinyasa” or “flow” and should incorporate the same rapid, athletic poses from the traditional style.
Bikram, a trending yoga style right now, cranks up the room temperature to almost 105 degrees F and 40-percent humidity. The motive behind these classes is to loosen muscles and increase flexibility, but if you’re just starting out as a “hot yoga” client, be careful not to overstretch and injure yourself. “A lot of people that come here love the athleticism and cardio aspect of it. Tolerating the heat is definitely an athletic challenge,” warns Ashley Hoover of Dancing Mind Yoga. Can’t stand the heat? Get out of the yoga class.
Studios and Classes
Dancing Mind Yoga
929 W. Broad St., Falls Church; 703-237-9642; dancingmindyoga.com; first-timers can get a one-month unlimited pass for all classes available
PIES Fitness Yoga Studio
374 S. Pickett St., Alexandria; 703-887-9574; piesfitnessyoga.com
4019 5th Road N, Arlington; 571-257-7772; bikramyogaarlington.com
Inner Power Yoga
46090 Lake Center Plaza, Suite 205, Sterling; 703-795-8400; inner-power-yoga.com
1073 W. Broad St., Falls Church; 703-536-9642; fallscurchyoga.com
2440 Wilson Blvd., Suite 201, Arlington; 703-243-8866; edgeyoga.com
Spiritual, Health Nut, Vegan/Vegetarian, Meditative
Jivamukti / Sivananda / Kundalini
Meditation and chanting are prominent in these styles of yoga. Long-held poses lend a good opportunity to quiet the mind and restore the body. These classes promote an overall, healthy mind and body mentality that encourages vegetarianism both to discourage violence as well as to better one’s digestive process.
Jivamukt, meaning “liberation while living,” encourages students to find a state of enlightenment, reintroducing traditional spiritual elements in an educational way. The five tenets—including scripture, bhakti (devotion to God), ahimsa (nonviolence), nada yoga (yoga of sound) and meditation—form the foundation of each Jivamukti class.
A slow, soothing practice, every Sivananda class begins and ends with meditation and chanting. Sivananda is formed around a five-component philosophy that corrects breathing, relaxation, diet, exercise and positive thinking, all considered necessary elements in practicing a healthy lifestyle.
Intended to release the Kundalini, a serpent of fluid energy from the base of the body upward, this style of yoga is perfect for those seeking greater spiritual, mind and body awareness. Kundalini constantly moves from one invigorating pose to the next while staying focused and grounded through both meditation and breath work.
Studios and Classes
309 S. Washington St., Alexandria; 703-299-0500; holistictouchcenter.com
2628 Columbia Pike, Arlington; 571-357-3546; journeyyoga.net
Radiance Yoga Studio
110 King St., Alexandria; 703-535-8282; radiance-yoga.net
Dream Yoga Studio & Wellness Center
1485 Chain Bridge Road, Suite 104, McLean; 703-448-9642; dreamyogastudio.com
Sterling Yoga Center
22821 Silverbrook Center Drive, Unit 160, Sterling; 703-742-9642; kundalini-yoga.us
Restorative / Yin
This category focuses less on working the body’s muscles and more on passive stretching that relaxes and restores range of motion. Expect to practice patience because Restorative and Yin styles regularly hold poses for up to 20 minutes.
Restorative yoga uses blocks, bolsters and blankets to eliminate unnecessary straining. “These classes are focused on relaxation and the ability of letting go and really sinking into the pose,” explains Mike Gray, fitness manager at Equinox. Restorative classes are beneficial for everyone. Even if you’re devoted to your particular practice, taking the time to do a restorative class will give your body a necessary relaxation session.
Yin poses are passive, meaning positions are meant to relax muscles and let gravity do the work. Yin focuses on strengthening connective tissues, which is most beneficial to athletes whose joints may be getting stiff due to muscle crowding. Poses are held anywhere from five to 20 minutes, which allows for a good stretch for both the mind and body.
Studios and Classes
Equinox Tysons Corner
8065 Leesburg Pike, Vienna; 703-790-6193; equinox.com
River’s Edge Yoga
300 Montgomery St., Suite 201, Alexandria; 571-218-2161; ashtangadancer.com/riversedgehome.html
491-B Carlisle Drive, Herndon; 703-728-3421; herndon-pain-therapy.com
3260 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-276-2355; saffron-yoga.com
Health Advantage Yoga
1041 Sterling Road, Suite 202, Herndon; 703-435-1571; healthadvantageyoga.com
Pregnant women looking for drug-free delivery and speedier labor
Geared toward expectant mothers, prenatal yoga follows the belief that if mothers-to-be keep their muscles strong through to term, they will be better prepared for delivery and will have more strength and energy for a quicker recovery. Consistently practicing prenatal yoga has been proven to ward off pregnancy aches, pains and swelling. Aside from muscular benefits, yogic breathing classes teach similar techniques to Lamaze classes. Yogic breathing induces relaxation because it deeply engages the diaphragm.
Studios and Classes
Mind the Mat
2214 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; 703-683-2228; mindthemat.com
Moore than Yoga
4347 Arlington Blvd., Arlington; 703-671-2435; moorethanyoga.com
Begin Within Birth with Tara Campbell Lussier
830 Valemount Terrace NE, Leesburg; 703-472-4704; beginwithinbirth.com
Yoga Birth and Beyond
101 S. Whiting St., Suite 314, Alexandria; 703-971-7305; yogabirthandbeyond.com
Great Falls & Reston; 703-860-YOGA; belovedyoga.com
East Meets West Yoga Center
8227 Old Courthouse Road, Suite 310, Vienna; 703-356-9642; eastmeetswest.com
Private sessions for injured patients, those with back problems
Viniyoga is a personalized, customized, one-on-one class. This individualized experience focuses on proper warm-up techniques using the principles of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). PNF—the act of warming up and contracting a muscle before stretching it—decreases your chances of injury in all physical activities, in and out of yoga class. Monu Harnal, owner of Illume Yoga, explains how with one-on-one instruction she can provide her clients with more poses modified to their potential. “It takes the traditional principles and applies it to the individual’s needs. I am considering the physical limitations and/or strengths, and I’m able to assess the individual’s capabilities and create a customized program for them,” says Harnal.
Viniyoga is also great for back pain sufferers. Instructors suggest poses intended to stabilize your sacrum, loosen back muscles, and balance out your spine. Function is of more importance than form in Viniyoga, so each pose will be adapted to give you exactly what you need.
Studios and Classes
1423 Powhatan St., Suite 7, Alexandria; 703-283-1883; beemooyoga.com
10700 Zion Drive, Fairfax; 571-318-9333; zionyogastudio.com
6809 Old Dominion Drive, McLean; 571-723-6200; pengustudio.com
45406 Lakeside Drive, Sterling; 202-689-5945; beyogayurt.com
There’s a Yoga Style for Everybody.
• Ansura: a purist form of yoga; chill yoga
• Iyengar: uses props (blocks, straps, harnesses, etc), about precise alignment and deliberate sequencing
• Kripalu: know, accept and learn from your body
• Ashtanga: fast-paced yoga
• Bikram: hot yoga
Spiritual Mind & Body Awareness
• Jivamukti: traditional spiritual elements (Sanskrit chanting, references to ancient scripture)
• Sivananda: promotes healthy lifestyle through positive thinking, proper breathing, relaxation, diet and exercise; encourages vegetarian lifestyle for better digestion
• Kundalini: constantly moving from one invigorating pose to the next while staying focused and grounded through meditation and breath work
• Prenatal: safe exercise during pregnancy; speeds up labor and wards off pregnancy aches, pains and swelling
• Restorative: relaxation session; spend maybe 20 minutes each in four or five simple poses
• Yin: quiet, long, meditative practice; prepares body for meditation; good for athletes with overcrowded joints, restores range of motion
• Viniyoga: propioceptive neuromuscular facilitation means warming up and contracting a muscle before stretching it; decreases chance of injury