One of the most common questions I get is, “What’s one thing I can do to help reduce my stress?” Now, there are many different steps you can take to mitigate the daily stress and anxiety you may be experiencing, but one of my go-to recommendations is exercise. And while I’m partial to dancing my stress away, I know that many people with stress or even adrenal fatigue experience some physical pain that may limit their movements. That’s why I find yoga to be a great activity to help relieve some stress. But with all the options out there, how do you know where to start? Which types of yoga could be right for you?
In an effort to help you make the most informed decision, I reached out to yoga expert Kimberly Fowler, who has been named a pioneer in the fitness industry. She has more than 20 years of experience in the fitness and wellness industries, which includes 16 years as the founder and CEO of YAS Fitness Centers—the first hybrid yoga and spinning boutique studio. She’s also the author of The No OM Zone and Flat Belly Yoga!, and has released a series of yoga DVDs, including Yoga for Athletes®, The No OM Zone, Yoga with Weights and Flat Belly Yoga! with Prevention Magazine.
Here, Kimberly shares the greatest health benefits of yoga, breaks down the different types of yoga, and even recommends some specific moves for beginners—information that will take out the guesswork and have you ready to hit the mat today!
Yoga 101: What It Is and What It Does
If you aren’t already familiar with yoga, you may find yourself wondering exactly what it is. Yoga is an ancient spiritual and physical discipline that hails from India and combines exercise, breathwork, and meditation.
As referenced in Kimberly’s book, The No OM Zone, it’s a “full-body workout not only from head to toe but also from your inside to your outside.” This means that while yoga poses are known to impact your muscles and joints, they also positively affect your organs and even your nervous system.
Here are some key answers to the most frequently asked questions beginners have about yoga.
1. What are the biggest health benefits of yoga?
Without a doubt, I feel the greatest health benefit of yoga is its ability to relieve stress. And Kimberly agrees. “The biggest benefit for me is stress relief,” she says. “Yoga is known to help with insomnia and anxiety. But probably the most popular benefit is flexibility.”
In fact, a 2018 study of 52 middle-aged women revealed that just 12 sessions of yoga significantly decreased their levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. 
And a 2011 review of 35 studies confirmed the many health benefits of yoga. Researchers stated, that regularly practicing yoga enhances muscular strength and body flexibility; promotes and even improves both respiratory and cardiovascular function; reduces stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain; promotes feelings of relaxation; improves sleep; and even enhances overall physical and mental well-being and quality of life.  The researchers also specifically noted that the improved flexibility that accompanies regular yoga practice is associated with reduced aches and pains. How’s that for a win-win?
Finally, numerous studies have shown a positive correlation between practicing yoga and weight loss and management, as stated in a 2013 review. The review authors surmised that this could be due to numerous factors, including heightened mindfulness, increased awareness of satiety, and increased energy expenditure, among other benefits. 
2. What are some good yoga positions for a beginner?
According to Kimberly, here are the best yoga poses to try out if you’re just beginning to practice yoga:
Child’s Pose. “This is an easy pose that most people can do,” she says. “It stretches your lower back, hips, thighs, and ankles while also relaxing the muscles in the front of your body. It helps relieve stress and can be very relaxing.”
Easy Spinal Twist. “This is one of my favorite poses. It really helps keep your back and hips mobile while also stretching your shoulders and neck,” Kimberly shares. “I always start with my knees at my chest, which helps to relieve tension in your back. This pose is especially useful for people sitting at their desks for long periods of time.”
Forward Bend. “This pose is versatile because can be done standing or seated,” she states. “If you want to do the pose standing, I would suggest starting with your knees bent and slowly come out of the pose. It’s also great to help stretch your hamstrings alone with the entire back of your body.”
Cat-Cow. “Cat-Cow is a great pose to warm up your back because it improves your circulation there,” Kimberly says. “If you use this pose along with breathwork, it can help relieve stress and be very calming. Just remember that it’s best to do this pose on a carpet to protect your knees.”
3. What position is best to relieve stress?
While most of the above poses will help relieve stress, if you’re really looking to for some extra anti-anxiety and stress practices, Kimberly suggests the Legs Up the Wall pose. “Sometimes called the nurse’s pose, it allows your body and your mind to relax. It also relieves lower back tension.”
4. What are the major types of yoga, and how are they different?
There are many different types of yoga, so it can be confusing to know where to begin. Below, Kimberly breaks down the nine major types of yoga and explains how they differ.
Hatha Yoga. “You will see this term a lot,” she shares. “It means the physical styles of yoga, but, generally, it references a slow paced and gentle practice.” This style of yoga is the “classic” style, and it’s great for those who may have aches and pains that require a slower introduction to yoga.
Vinyansa Yoga. “Vinyansais a term used to describe a more vigorous style of yoga. You might hear it called a ‘flow’ class where you would be doing sun salutation. You move from one pose to another.” This type of yoga is great if you’re looking to work up a sweat and build strength.
Ashtanga Yoga. “This a fast-paced, flow style of yoga, which has a set series of poses,” Kimberly states. She advises that it’s not the best for beginners, since it tends to be more intense.
Power Yoga. “Power Yoga is based on Ashtanga, but it’s not a set sequence of poses,” she says. “Normally, this is a strong flow class.” The style is known to vary from class to class, so it’s worth calling the studio you’re considering attending and asking about the instructor’s approach and style to power yoga.
Hot Yoga.“This is yoga taught in a room that ranges from 95 to 104 degrees. This style of yoga was originally created by Bikram Choudhury and is very popular at the moment.” Also known as Bikram yoga, this style can be both physically and mentally taxing, so only try it out if you’re used to exercising. It’s great for weight management and toxin reduction.
Iyengar Yoga. “This style of yoga incorporates what is called ‘props,’ which are blankets, blocks, and straps,” Kimberly shares. “You will be holding poses for a long time instead of moving from on pose to another.”
Restorative Yoga. “Restorative yoga also makes use of props to help support and relax your body. You will stay in poses a long time to encourage you body to stretch. This is a good style of yoga to take if you have injuries, since it is very safe.”
Yin Yoga. Similar to restorative yoga, yin yoga is a slow-paced style. “ The original purpose of this style was to prepare your body to sit for long periods of time and meditate,” Kimberly says. It can be very challenging, due to the length of time you hold the poses.
Kundalini Yoga. “This style of yoga deals mostly with breath work,” Kimberly states. “You don’t move that much, but you focus on the effects of breathing to build ‘prana,’ which means energy.” If you’re looking for more of a spiritual connection from your yoga practice, this may be the one for you.
5. Are there different types of yoga that are best for specific health-related goals?
“If weight loss is your goal, you will need to move,” Kimberly says. “Look for a flow class. If you’re new to yoga, make sure you go to a level 1 or 2 class, or a beginner’s class. Yoga can help build muscle, which promotes weight loss. Hot yoga can also help with weight loss since you’re sweating, but it’s not the easiest for beginners.”
Kimberly also shares that if your primary goal is to relieve stress, most, if not all, yoga classes will do the trick. “Just make sure you stay for the end of class—corpse pose, done at the end—helps integrate your practice.”
And what if you have injuries? “If you have an injury, restorative yoga would be the best class to try,” Kimberly advises. “Remember that no matter what class you attend, tell the instructor if you have an injury and ask them to give you modifications.”
Final Thoughts on Yoga
Regardless of what you choose to do first, remember there are different types of yoga for you to try, so keep going until you find the right fit.
“If the class you’re taking is too hard, you can always leave,” Kimberly advises. “If you are new to yoga, you might want to go to the back of the room. You’ll be able to see what the other students are doing. I know it sounds counter intuitive, but instructors rarely do the class with the students, so if you’re up front you won’t know what you’re supposed to do.”
And here’s another piece of great advice for newbies: “If you get tired or can’t do a pose, just go to child’s pose and rest,” Kimberly shares. “Join the class when you’re ready.”
- Practicing yoga is a great activity to help relieve stress and support overall health and well-being.
- In addition to stress reduction, some of the greatest benefits of yoga include increased flexibility, improved respiratory and cardiovascular health, improved anxiety, weight management, better sleep, and more.
- There are several different types of yoga you can try, based on your fitness and personal goes.
- The types of yoga vary from slow paced to fast paced and stress reduction-focused to weight management-focused to spiritually-focused.
- Yoga is adaptable: If you’re ever overwhelmed or overtired in a class, remember to take it easy and transition into child’s pose until you’re ready to resume.
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