Whether you’re looking for a gentle mind-body practice or a muscle-strengthening workout, yoga could be what you seek. Different types of yoga provide different benefits and experiences, and there’s something for everyone.

“Some styles are new, and some are thousands of years old,” says Suzanne Fischer of Starfin/Candle River Yoga. “And there’s a wide variety of interpretations of styles. For example, ‘hot’ may refer either to the temperature in the studio or to a vigorous practice. This huge variety is great for a student because you can probably find a class that perfectly fits you. The down side is that you have to look for it.”

Fischer notes that both yoga studios and community centers or health clubs offer a wide variety of classes. For instance, The Center of Clayton has yoga classes ranging from a basic introduction to the more physically challenging Vinyasa style. Christi Gleason, fitness supervisor, recommends the basic class for all beginners “to learn the postures and get an idea of the philosophy because yoga is so much more than just a physical practice.”

Gleason encourages participants to think beyond the pose. “Yoga isn’t just something that you do to stretch and become flexible. There’s a lot more to it,” she says. “It’s a full mind-body experience that allows people to come into better touch with their situation, get to know their body better, get to know where they are on both the physical and emotional level.”

Fischer suggests asking several questions when considering a yoga class:

  • Does the class involve a series of postures that never changes?
  • Is the instructor classically trained or more fitness-based?
  • Is the class suitable for all levels or only for beginners or advanced students?
  • What is the instructor’s focus? Different classes and instructors may target fitness, flexibility, stress relief, balance, pregnancy, seniors or people who have physical limitations

Finding an instructor whose training and emphasis matches your needs is key. “For example, my 200- and 500-hour trainings are in Kripalu yoga (a style that emphasizes proper breath, alignment, coordinating breath and movement, and ‘honoring the wisdom of the body’),” Fischer says. “But I have also studied with many non-Kripalu yogis, and my primary interest is using yoga as physical therapy. There are people who were educated the same way I was who have no interest in that at all.”

All yoga involving movement is termed ‘hatha yoga,’ and Ananda is a classical style that uses postures to create a relatively gentle practice with a focus on harmonizing mind, body and emotions. Among the many other variations, Vinyasa yoga is a moving practice in which students move from one pose to another while mindfully breathing in rhythm with the movements. Ashtanga yoga provides a more intense physical workout for those who want to build strength, flexibility and stamina. Bikram yoga is practiced in a heated room where students perform a demanding series of 26 postures that work the entire body.

“There’s more to it than stretching. There’s something that everyone can do, and it’s just a matter of being open-minded and willing to try things,” Fischer says. “I think a lot of people are amazed by what they are able to do.”