I’ve recently started to take classes in what I call faux-yoga, or ‘Flow’ as my university gym dubs it. Both my flatmates have been ardent yoga fans for a better part of a year – I’ve heard a lot about how much it helps your mind and body – so I was stubbornly hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. That, and being partially haunted by a friend’s requests to join her 7:00 am yoga class on Mondays when I was in school. It was a very firm no from me.
I’m not a very flexible person – I swim and have had the tightest, tensest muscles for years because I’m too lazy to stretch without being actually forced to do so. Different types of yoga can help your body in different ways.
There was a certain trepidation before my first class of faux-yoga – mostly me fearing for the safety of my already weak kneecaps. This, combined with my rather cynical disposition led to many a year of avoiding the whole yoga culture (until I got to the point where I could no longer sit for longer than two hours without getting muscle pains through my entire body).
Now, about three weeks in, I do admit a reluctant conversion: my shoulders are no longer in constant agony, my back doesn’t get sore from long library stints, and – the one thing I wasn’t quite expecting – I’ve become much more aware of my own muscles and movement in my daily life.
The other thing that I often called bullshit on when it came to yoga was the whole ‘clearing your mind’-aspect of it. I’m a very busy person, and although my mind is always racing, I never saw much need for or benefit to actually properly sitting down and unwinding (for me this usually means an hour or so of Netflix or YouTube at the end of a long library day). With these Flow classes, though, I quickly realised (the irony here isn’t lost on me) that slowing down actually helps. A lot. The steady breathing really does help you clear your mind, and the fact that you spend the entire 30 or 45-minute class really focusing on your body means that you’re centering yourself.
My mind never wonders as it does when swimming or running, and as much as the cynic in me hates to admit this, I do actually come out of the classes feeling much more relaxed than I was going in. So: here are my 5 types of yoga to help your mind.
Sidenote: if you can’t find these classes at your local/university gym, have a look on YouTube – you’ll find videos of sets there!
1. Vinyasa Yoga
From my Googling, I’ve found that this is probably the closest thing to the Flow-classes I take (Vinyasa is Sanskrit for ‘to place in a special way, and there is a heavy emphasis on the flow of movement). The movements can be quite fast-paced, depending on your instructor, but the speed means you really have to focus on what you’re doing, giving your mind a chance to think about something other than school.
2. Iyengar Yoga
This type of yoga focuses on maintaining poses for longer periods of time and moving slowly from one pose to the next. This may not be the most beginner-friendly as it will require some muscle strength and balance. The focus on staying in one position will definitely help your mind focus on your body, leaving your clear-headed and relaxed when you leave.
3. Restorative Yoga
As the name suggests, this type of yoga is intended to restore your mind and body. It’s perfect after a long week spent studying. The main focus of the class is passive poses with menial effort, offering relaxing rejuvenation.
4. Hatha Yoga
Most Western yoga classes fall into this category. Gyms advertising a ‘hatha’ yoga class are usually referring to something quite general. It’s perfect for those just starting out. There are many types of yoga to choose from, start out general and figure out what you like from there.
5. Yin Yoga
Yin yoga is the best for those really looking the help their minds relax. The poses are held for 3-5 minutes. It might take you a few tries before you learn how to sit still… But when you do it really is worth it! Longer poses mean your mind has to focus on how you’re holding yourself. Yin yoga emphasizes movements that help your spine. This is perfect for students who find their backs aching after long days in the library.