How to pick the best yoga class for you

Want to get more out of your oms?

It's easy to assume yoga is mostly a one-Zen-fits-all workout, all oms and sun salutations. And if that doesn't appeal to your sweat sensibilities, well, you'll be over in Studio 2 taking a HIIT class.

But don't give up on yoga yet! There are several types, all of which can vary greatly from what you might think a stereotypical class involves. From aerial yoga using silk hammocks hanging from the ceiling to yoga with weights to more traditional flow or meditative styles, there's a practice that's perfect for you or that will at least perfectly complement your existing routine. Use this guide to decide what to try first:

If you're a pavement pounder ... try Ashtanga or Vinyasa flow yoga
Sometimes called power yoga, flow yoga classes consist of a series of poses that, of course, flow from one to the next. Vinyasa, in particular, is a well-rounded practice, says Sharon Wentz, a yoga instructor at Chicago Athletic Clubs. It delivers both physical and mental benefits; the movement keeps your heart rate up and works muscles while maintaining a meditative quality.

This style is popular among runners because they appreciate how both aspects help them prep for mileage. "Vinyasa yoga offers the strengthening and holding side of the practice, but it also has that flow that connects you to your breath," Wentz says. The latter helps develop focus and meditation, which runners typically need or want when on the road or treadmill. "Some runners, especially endurance runners, enjoy those mental and psychological parts," says Benny Garcia, a running coach and exercise physiologist in Chicago.

If you need flexibility to balance your cardio ... try hot yoga
All types of yoga increase flexibility, but hot yoga, in which you do a series of demanding poses in a room with the thermostat cranked up to seriously sweaty, could help boost your range of motion even more. The heat and moves also get your heart pumping hard and fast.

Hot yoga rookies should start in a room with temperatures and humidity levels on the lower end of the hot yoga temperature range (around 90 degrees). Also, be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after a class, taking breaks and consulting a doctor if you feel dizzy or sick.

If you're constantly on the go ... try Hatha yoga
Hatha involves holding a pose for several breaths and focusing on small, deliberate aspects of the poses, Wentz says. It forces you to slow down and pay attention to your breath but also works on improving balance, which is ideal for busy people who need time to unplug and clear their minds yet still want a challenge.

If that's you, you might not enjoy it at first — maybe your mind will race, or you'll get antsy — but try to stick with it. As you begin to see how the practice helps you destress and think more clearly, you'll begin to crave the quiet, meditative time and get more comfortable with the pace. But don't worry: "That doesn't mean that the practice isn't intense — it's just a slow intensity, and deeply meditative," Wentz says.

If you want a fast-paced workout that burns tons of calories ... try yoga sculpt or cardio yoga
These heart-pumping classes combine yoga with strength training, cardio, and core-specific moves — meaning you use weights during poses to help strengthen and tone muscles, plus torch calories with cardio intervals. It's perfect for someone who may want the physical benefits of yoga (long, strong muscles and increased flexibility) but within a more traditional exercise routine (more grunts and fewer oms).

If you want a yoga-ish strength workout that's on the playful side ... try aerial yoga
This total body workout, which previously was only available at boutique studios but is now making its way into more gyms, will appeal to the kid in you as you use silk hammocks hanging from the ceiling to do various poses. Aerial yoga forces you to balance with your entire body, meaning you'll likely be sore in some new places the next day. It's especially beneficial for anyone who sits all day — that's most of us — or who has lower back pain since the assisted inversions may help decompress your spine.

Kristen Geil for Chicago Athletic Clubs

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