The style: Iyengar
What it is: Precise, slow and with great focus on alignment and proper form, the Iyengar style of yoga — named after B.K.S. Iyengar, who is still alive and downward-dogging at age 90 — is one the most familiar forms of yoga now practiced in the West. Iyengar’s 1966 book, Light on Yoga, was a best seller, and like the Lilias show a few years later, helped introduce many Westerners to the practice. In addition to its precise and methodical approach, Iyengar style of yoga is noted for its use of “props” — blocks, straps, harnesses and incline boards — to help extend your range of motion. While some purists dismiss it as “furniture yoga,” the props allow beginners to better get into positions they might not otherwise achieve.
For older adults? “Great,” says Birch, “because it’s done carefully and has lots of modifications through the props that introduces the beginner slowly to the practice.”
The style: kundalini
What it is: In the documentary Woodstock, recently rereleased for the 40th anniversary of the music festival, there’s a segment showing an impromptu yoga class being given during the landmark 1969 event. A bare-chested, long-haired instructor explains to a circle of young onlookers just what yoga is all about. Essentially, he says, it’s like getting stoned without drugs, and then he proceeds to go through some loud, convulsive breathing exercises that make him sound like a man with a sinus condition. What this Age of Aquarius practitioner was doing was kundalini yoga, and the practice of this style of yoga is still described on the website iyogalife.com as “getting buzzed off yoga.” But it’s not just a cheap thrill: Kundalini — “the yoga of awareness” — is a serious form of practice that, unlike many of the other common styles, includes a devotional element that uses chanting and meditation.
For older adults? If you’re looking at yoga practice as simply a way to improve your flexibility or de-stress after a hard day, kundalini may not be for you. “There’s a strong spiritual element here,” Stanforth says. “Some ... may be put off by that.”
The style: power
What it is: Essentially, it’s a good workout. Beryl Bender Birch helped develop and popularize power yoga, although she is recovering from hip replacement surgery and now practices a slightly less demanding routine. Power yoga classes are a fixture at many studios. The style, which is similar to ashtanga but is not strictly based on a specific sequence, emphasizes poses designed to promote strength as well as flexibility.
For older adults? “In its original form, power yoga was generally not recommended for seniors because of its level of difficulty and pacing,” Logan says. “But if you’re one of these fit seniors looking for a challenge, an entry-level power yoga class might be worth checking out. Just make sure you start slowly; and if you’re unsure about any of the movements, ask the teacher.”