Picking the Right Yoga Class for You

Woman practicing Hindu yoga.

By Anjum Choudhry Nayyar with Research files from Angelina Golani

It’s that time of year where family and kids are keeping us super busy and we end up neglecting ourselves as masalamommas! I don’t know about you, but getting wind-down time for yourself can be rough. I have always wanted to take yoga and I’m often overwhelmed by the vast numbers of different kinds of yoga out there, half the time I don’t know which yoga will suit me or my lifestyle. What types of  Hindu yoga should you follow? So we decided to go out and find the answer to that question. How do know which yoga class to pick? What will you be able to take on and how often? What do you look for in a yoga centre? All questions I’ve been asking myself.

We talk to yoga expert Angelina Golani about picking the right class and some of the most common mistakes while doing just that.


How many different kinds of yoga are there?

Today there are various types of yoga all stem from the original practise.  Yoga (meaning union) has its roots in India based on a Vedic approach as a path to enlightenment and self-realization.  It is important to understand that yoga today has evolved from the time of Traditional Yoga to Modern Yoga.  The evolution of yoga from traditional to modern is mainly due to surge of people practising and becoming teachers and branding their own type of yoga tailored based on needs of the people. Modern Yoga is more geared toward the purpose of self-discipline of the body, mind and physical fitness.  These new brands of yoga lead by various gurus, offer different nuances on traditional yoga with a ranging degree of an emphasis on physical to meditative.


Traditional Yoga


Sages from ancient times’ propagated yoga is a way of life for a path purpose of enlightenment and self-realization daily hours through hours of meditation and practicing detachment of yourself from the physical world.  But how do you sit in meditation without getting a cramp in your leg or dealing with the thoughts that cause stress in your life.



Traditional yoga was the practice of all of the points listed below:

– Hatha yoga – Physical to improve health and vitality as healthy body leads to healthy mind.

Bhakti – Devotional practice through bhajans and chanting devotional songs.

Jnana – The study of yogic philosophy to open the mind and further the intellect.

Karma – The act of Selfless service as a way of giving.

Raja – Control of senses through breathing and meditation


Modern Yoga

Below is list of popular types of yoga with description on their teaching and who would get the out of that of yogic discipline.


Type of Yoga

What to expect…

Who is this for…


Where it is in Toronto…

Ashtanga Yoga Is a vinyasa (flow) style of yoga that link a series of six poses sequences performed in sequence.  The main distinction the rapid movement from one pose to the next with each inhale and exhale. For those looking for more of a cardio workout with, strength training using your own body weight.   This is good for weight-loss as well. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois – originally from Mysore, who made it popular when he brought the style to the U.S. in 1975. www.ashtangatoronto.comCached – Similar
Bikram Room temperate is set to 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity where a series of 26 postures are performed. This is a great workout and the heat works also as a detox.  Good for weight-loss as you can burn upt o 300 to 500 calories per class.  If you are going to take this class you must remember to continue to drink water all day. Bikram Choudhury – created it will be a series of 26 basic yoga postures, each performed twice. There’s no vinyasa-ing and in that kind of heat you’ll be glad. www.bikramyogatoronto.com  
Hatha This is the classic style of yoga. A combination of postures and breathing with rest in between postures and closed with a meditation. This good for everyone.  This type is best for stress reduction and for to deepen your spiritual practice. Swami Vishnu Devananda – brought the teachings of Swami Sivanada in 1957 which focuses on Exercise, Breathing, Relaxation, Diet and Positive Thinking www.sivananda.org
Iyengar This is a series of postures done Viniyasa (flow) where each posture flows into the next with focus on ensuring the technique and alignment in the posture is correct.  Blocks and bands are used to avoid any injuries. This is good for all; the viniyasa makes a bit of a workout and good for understanding technique. B.K.S Iyengar – also known for his philosophy teaching and yoga practise. www.yogacentretoronto.ca
Kundalini The focus of the class is called a kriya, which is a sequence of poses and pranayama that focuses on opening the root chakra. This type of yoga is best for stress reduction and those looking to get deeper into a spiritual practice. This type of yoga is not suitable for those looking for a workout. There are a few centers that are proponents of Kundalini yoga.  www.torontokundaliniyoga.com
Pre-natal For the mom-to-be it’s a great way to prepare for delivery and your body after post delivery. Pre-natal focus is on breathing, developing core muscles and helps prevent pregnancy aches and pains.The breathing techniques taught in Lamaze classes are basic yogic breathing exercises. For the expecting mom looking for gentle exercises during pregnancy to keep muscles from becoming stiff.
Power This is an athletic brand of yoga that is a combination of the traditional ashtanga system and aerobic styles. This style does not follow any format of the other yoga styles.   You can expect a lot of movement and a tough workout. This is definitely for the athletic type who is looking for a good workout and is looking to drop a few pounds. Baron Baptiste – developed his own brand of Power Yoga that he teaches from his Baptiste Power Yoga Institutes, with the goal of demystifying yoga and making it accessible to everyone. www.poweryogacanada.com



What yoga forms are best for athletic moms?

For moms looking for to compliment their cardio and strength training any style of yoga will be good, but to get a more muscle workout then Ashtanga, Bikram, Viniyasa and Hatha yoga will enhance their workout by adding the flexibility.  The stretching helps elongate the muscles and provide more oxygen to the muscle, which   helps with building endurance.  For runners especially, any yoga type of mentioned above would be beneficial with focus on stretching the hip area and the hamstring muscles which tend to be tight.

Which yoga is best for post-pregnancy?

For post-pregnancy, I would recommend starting with Hatha Yoga as that is more gentile on the body and gives your body a chance to get use to the postures and then moving into the more vigorous type like Ashtanga and/or Bikram.  After childbirth, your body and hormones have gone through so many changes you need to bring it back to a balance.   The postures help with exercising our internal organs to help them function better.


For instance, the shoulder stand helps with massaging the thyroid gland which regulates our hormones and metabolism.  As well, we are also susceptible to Post Partum Depression due to the fluctuations of hormone levels from pregnancy for which any backward bending postures like the cobra helps strengthen our spinal column and emotionally benefit us by alleviating stress levels and puts us in a better mood.

Once you are ready to step up your practise and get more of a muscle workout, then you can move on to other vigorous types of yoga like Ashtanga or Bikram.  At the same time, if you continue with any kind of yoga you see the benefits even if you practise at home for 30 minutes a day.

What should you look for when visiting a yoga centre?

For those who have never done yoga before or have done it a handful of times, here are a few things to follow:

–        Give yourself enough time before the class begins to get a chance to talk the teachers or staff at the center to see if you feel comfortable there.  You can let the teacher know this is your first class at the center and advise if you have any health concerns.

–        Ensure that you are comfortable with the atmosphere of the center, does it provide a calm and friendly environment. You want to make sure that there are not too many distracting factors like train tracks nearby or noisy traffic that can be heard in the class.

–        Most importantly, it should be clean.  The change rooms and

What are some of the mistakes women make when first considering yoga?

1)     Pushing yourself farther than you can – Going to a class and doing more then you can remember it is not a competition and the benefits of yoga go beyond being able to touch your forehead to your knee.


2)     This is yoga not Pilates workout – Some may leave the class feeling like they didn’t burn enough calories or they did not break a sweat. Yoga is a mind-body connection, understanding that the main goal is not just the physical aspect but also being mindful and aware during your practise is a benefit you notice after your practice.

3)     Setting the intention for each class – Arriving at yoga class late and not giving yourself enough time to lie in savasana (lying on your back) before the class begins is important as it sets the intention for the class and you get the most benefit from the class.


Final words…

The effect of the regular yoga practice helps not only our bodies but minds as well.  The combination of breathing, meditation and physical exercises helps reduce stress levels in our mind and body which allows us to think clearly and prevents sickness from developing in our bodies.  After having a child or preparing to have a child is a life-altering time which yoga can help by giving your body the physical workout and your mind a place to move through the changes in ones life.





More about Angelina

Angelina has been practicing Sivanada (Hatha) from the young age of seven.  Later, she spent time in ashrams then decided to pursue a teacher training certification to further her yogic practice, spiritual practice and understanding of the philosophy.   She has taught yoga both personally and in various gyms.  She is also a mother, step-mother, wife and professional all of which would not be in check, she says without her yoga practice.


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