ALTHOUGH any form of physical yoga is called hatha yoga, if you attend a 'hatha yoga' class, it probably means a gentle form of yoga. What exercises you will do varies from teacher to teacher, but it will generally include posture work, breathing, a final relaxation and possibly chanting or meditation. Iyengar yoga
Iyengar yoga deals with the body and the effects of yoga postures in a scientific way. In an Iyengar yoga class, for example, you may hear the instructor talk of lengthening a certain bone, lifting the skin on the front of the armpits or where to place the smallest toe. This type of yoga is well suited for those wanting to improve their posture or for those who have a specific health problem. B.K.S. Iyengar, of Pune, India, is a living yogi whose precise method of teaching hatha yoga has been transmitted to teachers all over the world. He helped bring Iyengar yoga to the West in the 60s. He believes the body has its own intelligence. This means that, by focusing on the body's physical alignment, you can develop a full awareness and balance of your mind and body. Iyengar yoga makes use of props like foam pads and belts to maintain correct alignment. Different props are used depending on your level of strength, experience and flexibility. Although a class may start with a short chant, you won't usually practise long meditations or breath work in an Iyengar class. Astanga vinyasa yoga
If you want an aerobic workout, don't mind sweating and want a toned, lean body, this could be the yoga for you. Astanga vinyasa is a vigorous, dynamic form of yoga and it would benefit those seeking strength, flexibility, a clear mind and an energy boost. This yoga type combines a particular way of breathing, called ujjayi, with many postures linked together in a continuous flow. It also uses bandhas (energy locks) and dristi (eye gazing at certain points) to focus the mind in a meditative way during yoga practice. K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore in the south of India helped make astanga vinyasa popular in the West. By practising astanga vinyasa yoga, you get so warm that you'll notice an increase in your flexibility. Because it is more difficult to adapt the postures to safeguard against any injuries you may have, beginners may like to start with a slower form of yoga. Choosing the right form of yoga is personal. While astanga vinyasa gives you a great energy lift, which is great if you feel highly strung, another, slower form of yoga may give you a better feeling of balance in your life. Satyananda yoga
Satyananda yoga is good if you want to build awareness of the self and learn deep relaxation. Every class will offer a variety of postures including energy releasing and limbering exercises. Many Satyananda yoga classes focus on pranayama (breath work), relaxation and meditation. Satyananda is well suited to those attracted to the spiritual and philosophical aspects of yoga and for those who wish to strengthen their bodies and inner awareness. Kundalini yoga
Kundalini is the name given to the energy that lies dormant at the base of the spine. This form of yoga seeks to awaken this energy (likened to a sleeping serpent) and open and balance each of the chakras as the 'energy serpent' rises up the central energy channel along the spine. Kundalini yoga uses cleansing practices, yoga postures in combination with breathing techniques like the 'breath of fire' to activate these energies. As Kundalini yoga works deeply with the internal energies, and could possibly stir things up, it is important to have an experienced teacher to guide you while you practise.