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Kelsey McQuade/Medill News Service

Poses from Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Iyengar yoga practices.

Picking the right yoga for you

by Kelsey McQuade
Oct 24, 2012


Kelsey McQuade/Medill News Service

Katrina Kopeck, an instructor at Corepower Yoga, holds Chaturanga Dandasana, one of the signature poses in Vinyasa Yoga.


Kelsey McQuade/Medill News Service

Gabriel Halpern, Director at Yoga Circle, holds the Sirsasana pose.


Kelsey McQuade/Medill News Service

Amy Treciokas, owner of Yoga Now, holds the Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana pose.

All yoga is not created equal. Hatha yoga - the classic yoga that focuses on postures and breathing - comes with a whole menu of options, inlcuding Power, Iyengar and Ashtanga. 

All three are growing in popularity in Chicato yoga studios. And, like every type of yoga, meditation exercises, physical benefits and fitness considerations set them apart from each other. 

Fast-paced Power and Ashtanga are considered "vigorous vinyasas." The vinyasa-style is a series of flowing postures combined with rhythmic breathing, according to yoga enthusiasts.

"Power yoga is energizing and helps you build core strength, so you are moving, breathing and sweating more than you might in other classes," said Katrina Kopeck, an instructor at Corepower Yoga in Lincoln Park.

Power yoga is the Western spin on Ashtanga Yoga, from India. Ashtanga is series of six asanas, or collections of postures that offer increasing challenges as people progress. 

"People should take introductory classes regularly and memorize the series if they want to and add on poses" as they go along, said Amy Treciokas, owner of Yoga Now on Chicago's Gold Coast.

Since many people do not want to memorize, studios provide "cheat sheets,"  Treciokas said. 

Ashtanga classes usually move quickly from pose to pose, so people have to focus on their breathing and be ready to sweat. 

"It is a great practice for people who like to move and like the moving meditation aspect of the practice," Treciokas said.  

By conttast, Iyengar focuses on holding certain postures in order to pay close attention to the muscular and skeletal alignment of each position, according to Gabriel Halpern, director of Yoga Circle in River North.

Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar, who lives in India, pioneered the practice and has been refining it for more than 60 years, according to Gabriel Halpern, director of Yoga Circle.  

"His innovative method sets his style apart because of his emphasis on standing poses that develop strength, vigor, and correct alignment, supported inversions and backbends that passively relax the nerves, use of props to facilitate ease and depth of learning,  specific sequencing of postures for general and therapeutic benefits and careful, individualized adjustments," according to the Yoga Circle website.

The use of props such as blankets or blocks in Iyengar helps people who might have injuries or special needs, another unique feature.

Our three teachers summarize some fundamental aspects of these three types of yoga tohelp guide you to a new experience.

Power Yoga
Katrina Kopeck
Corepower Yoga, Lincoln Park
Teaches Intro to Power Yoga

Increase flexibility
Weight loss
Recover from injury
Generally happier

Potential Risks:
Lower than high-impact activities
Injury as a result of attempting a pose before they are ready

Who is a good fit:
Type-A individuals
Anyone who can handle challenging poses and likes to sweat

How to start:
Introductory level power

Signature pose:
Chaturanga Dandasana
This is typically part of the Sun A and/or Sun B sequence. It is two poses in one: high plank to mid-plank. It is usually followed by standard yoga poses such upward-facing dog and downward-facing dog

Iyengar Yoga
Gabriel Halpern
Director, Yoga Circle, River North
Teaches Gentle Yoga, Level 1, 2 and 3 yoga

Ethical discipline
Physical discipline
Psychological discipline
Spiritual discipline

Potential Risks:
Injury from aggressive action

Who is a good fit:
All ages because of precise instructions and use of props
Younger students-rigorous workout
Mature/Recovering students-props and restorative poses give easy access to learn

How to start:
Introductory level class
At home workouts (DVD’s, YouTube, etc.)

Signature pose:
Sirsasana, the “King of Asanas."

Ashtanga Yoga
Amy Treciokas
Owner, Yoga Now, Gold Coast
Teaches Level 1, 2 and 3 Astanga Yoga

Moving meditation
Stress relief
Good health

Potential Risks:
Injury can result from not listening to the body

Who is a good fit:
People who work at a desk job
Fit people
Flexible people
People who like non-stop movement

How to start:
Intro-level classes regularly
Memorize series
Add on poses
Practice continues based on progress

Signature pose:
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana:
Standing with one leg extended and holding the big toe of that same leg