Hundreds of people toting their rolled-up mats gather in McKinley Park on Saturdays for yoga sessions. Storefront studios brag that they offer "hot" yoga. There even are "mommy and me" yoga classes out there.
Seems everyone's into yoga.
According to a "Yoga in America" market study released by Yoga Journal in 2008, Americans spend $5.7 billion a year on yoga classes and products (equipment, clothing, DVDs, books, etc.). That's an 87 percent increase from 2004.
This Labor Day, yoga studios around Sacramento and in cities around the country will offer free yoga classes as part of a loosely organized event called Free Day of Yoga.
It started in Austin, Texas, in 1999 as a way to raise awareness of yoga. It's since spread to cities including Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston and Philadelphia. It's celebrated in Guam.
And this year, Sacramento.
Before you start posing like a crane or a cat or a dog or a plank, though, it's important to find the type of yoga that's right for you. Different styles have different benefits and degrees of difficulty, and finding the right fit can be the difference between enjoying yoga and hating it.
Here's a quick breakdown of some of the most popular styles of yoga:
Hatha yoga does not refer to a specific style of yoga, but rather is a general term that encompasses all forms of physical yoga. Other forms of yoga are derivatives of Hatha yoga. This particular style of yoga focuses mostly on the individual poses rather than on the flow between poses. "Hatha" literally means "forceful," and nowadays, most yoga studios use the term to refer to their most basic yoga classes that focus on teaching the main poses, making this the perfect option for beginners.
Vinyasa is another general description for many different types of yoga. This style tends to be slightly faster-paced than Hatha yoga, and it focuses on synchronizing movements and breathing techniques.
Generally speaking, you're supposed to inhale when moving upward, and exhale when moving downward. This form of yoga focuses on maintaining a sense of continuity, with each posture transitioning smoothly into the next, thereby increasing overall grace and flexibility.
The core of Vinyasa yoga is a series of movements known as the sun salutations, which includes one of the most well-known yoga postures, the downward facing dog.
Bhakti, or devotional, yoga is the main form of yoga associated with spiritualism. It's mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Hindu text, and is focused primarily on helping those who practice it become one with a higher power. As a result, Bhakti yoga is centered on meditation, rather than exercise or flexibility. It's meant to help you clear your mind and focus your thoughts while relinquishing material desires. For those of you searching for inner peace, Bhakti yoga may be the style for you.
Created in 2006, Svaroopa yoga is a more modern approach to the ancient practice that uses the objects around you. The entire practice is centered on a concept known as core release, which Svaroopa teaches is accomplished by releasing tension along the spinal cord. This style is one of the few "supported practices" of yoga, meaning that the style encourages the use of props, such as blankets and blocks, to help you achieve the proper pose. The support that the props offer is supposed to help you hold poses longer and more comfortably, thereby making this style ideal for those who may not be as flexible to begin with. For more information on the style, you can visit www.svaroopayoga.org.
Another form of supported yoga uses a "yoga wall." The use of a wall incorporates the natural resistance of gravity to help students strengthen their core and abdominal muscles. In this practice, adjustable straps attach students to a wall, which they then use as a support to better stretch their spine and other muscles that they may not be able to access while on a simple yoga mat.
The biggest benefit of using a yoga wall is achieved when the participant is able to hang upside down and practice yoga, thereby allowing the spine to be decompressed from every possible angle.
Power yoga is a derivative of the classic Ashtanga or "eight-limbed" yoga. Unlike Ashtanga yoga, which has a predetermined series of sequences that you are supposed to follow, Power yoga is a Western invention in which the poses and the order in which they are practiced vary depending on the teacher.
Power yoga also tends to be a more vigorous, athletic style of yoga that can be very fast-paced. Often, poses in Power yoga are held for longer than in other styles, thereby making the practice more physically demanding.
Not for the faint of heart or those who are prone to fainting, Bikram yoga is the most popular form of "hot" yoga in the world. The style, which was developed in the 1970s by Bikram Choudhury, is based on Hatha yoga and consists of 26 poses that are done in a 105-degree room at 40 percent humidity.
The Bikram yoga website claims these extreme conditions provide a better cardiovascular workout, detox the body by opening up pores and allow muscle tissues to reorganize optimally.
Bikram yoga classes always run 90 minutes long. More information can be found online at www.bikramyoga.com.
Sacramento Free Day of Yoga
What: Many Sacramento-area yoga classes will be open – free of charge – to people of all ages and experience levels. And the list of participating studios is growing.