Many people think that all yoga styles are totally meditative. This is not entirely true. A number of yoga styles such as Bikram, Power, and Ashtanga are popular among hard core fitness buffs and athletes looking for a vigorous workout that will raise the heart rate and sculpt the body. Other yoga styles called “hybrids” will work you even harder. A few examples include disco yoga and aqua yoga. While these yoga styles do have some meditative aspects, they do not highlight meditation and chanting throughout the entire session as a number of other styles do.
However, it is important to note that all yoga styles are amazingly beneficial. Meditative or not, yoga can help lower blood pressure, reduce insomnia, manage stress, help you develop better coping skills, and improve mental well-being. According to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), the physical health benefits are endless and include:
Improved cardio and circulatory health
Improved athletic performance
Improved respiration, energy and vitality
Increased muscle strength and tone
Lessen chronic pain
Protection from injury
The maintenance of a balanced metabolism
Let’s move on to several popular meditative yoga styles that offer all of the mental benefits listed above—and then some. Our picks include:
Ananda Yoga is excellent for individuals looking to slow down and do more meditation. It is also ideal for beginners that would like to ease into the practice. Ananda Yoga offers an ample amount of chanting at the beginning and end of each class along with gentle poses that focus on meditation in between. The level of difficulty is rated “low.”
Anusara Yoga highlights heart-opening backbends with a deep focus on postures. However, this yoga style also focuses on an inspiring invocation chant with harmonium accompaniment at the beginning and end of each class, with stories woven in. Bring plenty of water as the physical difficulty of Anusara is rated “medium to high.” –The Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga
Kundalini Yoga participants will work through a series of seated positions combined with breathing and movement techniques. In addition to deep meditation, kundalini yoga stimulates energy and focus. The goals of this yoga style are achieved through lots of chanting at the beginning and end of each class with deep energy and meditation work. However, many yogis and instructors incorporate meditations (including mantras and chanting), throughout the session.
Although the level of difficulty is rated “medium,” the Kundalini Research Institute states that “mantra supports those new to meditation, who find silence and absolutely stillness very challenging. In this way it is a ‘beginner’s practice’ and can be used by anyone to attain clarity, balance, and equanimity.” As such, many beginners have been successful with this yoga style.
Sivananda Yoga integrates many forms of yoga, including a traditional Hatha approach which weaves a five-point philosophy into every session, including principles of relaxation, exercise, breathing, diet and positive thinking, says GAIAM Life. This style “follows a sequence of breathing exercises, a routine of postures, and deep relaxation and meditation,” according to GAIAM and “it is ideal for newcomers seeking a familiar series of poses and a spiritual boost through meditation and chanting.” The level of difficulty for Sivananda Yoga is rated “low.”
For more Yoga styles, pick up a copy of The Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga: The Essential Guide to Complete Mind/Body Fitness by Kathryn Budig, Contributing Editor, Women’s Health.