A few years ago, yoga took the workout world by storm. People everywhere were turning to yoga classes and instructors to experience a total body workout that both built muscle and increased flexibility as well as calmed the mind. Yoga is still increasingly popular among both meditative and body building types, and it's no surprise. Very few workouts can give you a chance to relax and focus while building up your endurance, flexibility, and burning calories. What many people don't realize, though, is how a good yoga workout can also double as focused meditation, helping to both energize and calm you during the day.

Styles of Yoga

From power yoga to yoga for relaxation, there are as many different yoga styles as there are yoga practitioners. If you're thinking about starting a yoga class, there is definitely a style out there to suit your needs. If you don't like the first-class you try, try another type of yoga. Eventually, you'll find something you like.

The three most common styles of yoga - and the ones you'll find offered at most gyms and yoga studios - are Power Yoga, Hot Yoga, and Vinyasa. Power Yoga, or Ashtanga, is a more high-intensity style of yoga. This style of yoga flows from one position to the next, rarely stopping for a break. The fluid movement of Power Yoga can help build strength and flexibility while requiring your mind to focus intensely on the practice. This style of yoga is usually best for those who need constant movement in their workouts. Hot Yoga, or Bikram, has gained popularity in the last few years. During a Hot Yoga session, the room temperature is raised to between 95 and 100 degrees. The idea behind this is that heat makes your muscles more limber, making it easier for you to deepen your stretches and become more flexible. Heat also makes you sweat more, which cleanses your body of toxins. Vinyasa is the style that most people think about when they think of yoga. Generally, Vinyasa practice works through poses called Sun Salutations. Similar to Power Yoga, Vinyasa has an almost constant movement, but is completed at a more relaxed pace. If you're just starting out with yoga, Vinyasa is an excellent place to begin.

Workout or Relaxation?

Yoga is so popular because it is both a workout and a relaxation technique. By forcing your muscles to flex and stretch to the extreme, and by focusing your mind on your yoga practice and nothing else, you will find yourself more relaxed at the end of a class than you were at the beginning. All yoga classes generally end with a relaxation pose, where you lay back on the mat, stretch out your legs on the ground, and reach your arms out with your palms up. Then you just lay there for a few minutes, feeling the effects of your yoga routine and allowing your body to relax before you pack up and go back to your busy life.

Meditation

When done correctly, yoga is meditation. Meditation and relaxation are active practices that require your attention and focus. Yoga is just that. Doing yoga requires you to work your body, but also focus on what your body is doing. This focus brings you to the present moment and allows you to listen to your body rather than your Blackberry. Once you work your way through a few yoga classes, you will find this much easier, and eventually you will be able to calmly meditate on your day while focusing on your body.