Yoga Blog for Midwives - Yoga styles unpacked

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Hello and welcome to the third yoga blog for midwives!

If you have read the previous two blogs (the Introduction and the one about Breathing), I am sure you already realise that yoga is much more multi-facetted than what they describe in mainstream media or what they tell you at your gym.

Though tides are slowly turning, the two reigning perceptions are still that yoga is either boring because it’s just about sitting cross-legged and humming with closed eyes or because yoga is only for flexible and pretty people because you need to be able to pretzel yourself into impossible shapes and look good on Instagram. Neither could be further from the truth and unfortunately many who would enjoy and benefit from practicing one form of yoga or another, don’t even know about its existence and really miss out.

One of my favourite examples to illustrate this is when a person tells me they do yoga. When I ask them what type of yoga, their answer is usually a blank stare followed by… “Ehm, I didn’t know there were different types of yoga.”  I then explain that it’s like saying “I play music”. The next logical question would be “What kind of music do you play?”, right? I mean, do you play piano? Violin? Drums? In a rockband? In symphonic orchestra?

It’s the same with yoga. Though the ultimate goal for all yoga styles may be the same (reach enlightenment of course), there are many variations in yoga to get there.

With this blog, I hope to give some clarity about the most popular physical practices of yoga and to help you decide which type is most suitable for you or your clients.

Are you looking for stress- and physical tension relief?

Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga are your answer. For either you do not need to be flexible or trained in any way. Experienced teachers should also be able to accommodate students with chronic or restrictive conditions such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis or scoliosis. People with these conditions would enormously benefit from these types of yoga.

Restorative Yoga is super, super relaxing and accessible to anyone who is able to move on the floor without too many restrictions. The poses are all seated or lying down, with plenty of bolsters, blankets and other props to support you. The objective is to relax the entire body and as much of the mind as possible by remaining in very comfortable poses for several minutes. The parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, allowing the body to restore and the mind to truly rest. It’s pure bliss for anyone who grants themselves the time.

Yin Yoga is a gift from heaven if you are looking to release tight joints, relief from chronic aches and restrictions in any body part and would like to cultivate some more flexibility. Yin Yoga is also the perfect complementary practice for those who usually exercise hard such as runners, cyclists, boot campers, weight lifters, etc. Yin Yoga is aimed at restoring connective tissue health, opening up joints and releasing energy that is locked up in tight muscles (or tight minds). Strength and stamina are useless if you can’t move. Yin Yoga promotes flexibility and therefore mobility. The poses are mostly on the floor and require full relaxation of the muscles with limited prop use. The aim is to allow the body to stretch for 3 to 8 minutes in each pose in order to create more opening and release than we would in daily life.

Are you looking for a dynamic practice, with plenty of movement and sweating?

Ashtanga Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga are probably your thing. Both classes build strength, stamina and flexibility. Even when you are a beginner, these styles are accessible for you, although it’s a good idea to check whether the level of the class is for beginners or more experienced students.

Ashtanga Yoga is for those who enjoy practicing regularly. You will sweat, for sure. It involves a fixed sequence of dynamic Sun Salutations followed by standing and seated poses whereby muscle activation and postural alignment are important. Once you become familiar with the sequence and the asanas (postures), you can really get into the groove, focus on the breath and your stability as you hold each pose for five breaths. That’s when the practice becomes a moving meditation. Don’t think that it ever gets boring; though the poses may be the same each class, the challenges that your body and mind face are different each practice. If you like to measure progress and fare well with routine and discipline, Ashtanga yoga is perfect for you. Great for hyperflexible people who need to cultivate strength as well as for strong individuals who need to lengthen their muscles. Ashtanga yoga is also very suitable for people who cannot always make it to a class. Once you have memorised the fixed sequence, it’s easy to practice in your own time at home or wherever you are (hotel rooms, empty meeting rooms, you name it). This self-practice is encouraged during Mysore style Ashtanga classes, whereby the teacher does not lead the class but each student practices the sequence at their own pace.

Vinyasa Yoga is for the creative souls among us. Though based on Hatha and Ashtanga yoga, each class is a different choreography of poses that flow from one to the next. Poses are not held for a long time and the transition from asana to asana in sync with the breath makes this practice special. Vinyasa Yoga can vary wildly from teacher to teacher and it is worthwhile checking out different classes to find the one that resonates with you. This style of yoga is the most popular as it complies with all the “required” elements of the modern world: it looks good, it’s a workout, it’s always different so not risk of being boring, there is usually music so no silence to be confronted with and you get to try a lot of funky poses once you get to the more advanced levels. Vinyasa yoga is fun!

Are you a novice looking for a good foundational practice?

Ashtanga Yoga for beginners or Hatha Yoga are what you should be looking for.

As described above, Ashtanga Yoga is based on a fixed sequence so ideal for classes set up for beginners. Experienced teachers will know how to explain the poses to you step by step, building up your knowledge of alignment and correct posture as you go. You will intimately get to know your body, its strengths and its weaknesses. Ashtanga is an excellent basis for other yoga practices and will improve your fitness immensely.

Hatha Yoga is often considered a great starting point for beginners. Poses are held for a long time (often eight breaths of longer) so you have time to assimilate what your body is doing, there are no complicated or fancy transitions between postures and traditionally-oriented teacher will also incorporated plenty of pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation in the practice. Make no mistake, Hatha Yoga can be very challenging the moment the poses become even only a little bit more difficult, since the technique is to hold them for a while.

Is your pregnant client asking for advice on yoga classes?

Prenatal Yoga is of course, the go-to yoga class for pregnant women without prior yoga experience. Super gentle classes (no full shoulder stands for sure!), with lots of mindfulness and exercises to connect to the being growing inside their belly while at the same time getting some movement and breathing going. Prenatal Yoga is also an excellent way to get to know women from the neighbourhood who are about to give birth as well!

However, there is no reason why healthy pregnant women cannot do yoga outside of Prenatal Yoga classes. Of course, their current condition needs to be taken into account but women who were already practicing yoga before they got pregnant can continue whatever they were doing. Some poses are to be avoided, such as twists and poses that put pressure on the belly. As you can see below, my friend Katja from Norway, long time Ashtanga practitioner, is quite happy to hang upside down in shoulder stand.

(You should also check out her Instagram account to see a post of an amazing backbend she does…

And what about all those other classes?

The above-mentioned styles are the most common variations of yoga taught in studios and gyms around Australia.

There are of course many other forms of yoga, though some of them are simply modern names for traditional practices or classes in a style adapted by an individual teacher. You might have heard of Power Yoga, Flow Yoga, Hot Yoga, Gentle Yoga, Dru and many others. Most of these forms of yoga are a somewhere in between Ashtanga, Hatha and Vinyasa.

And you will also encounter other very specific schools of yoga, such as:

  • Iyengar - very alignment-oriented and with the use of props to support postures
  • Kundalini - emphasizing the consciousness that activates energy centers throughout the body, by stretching, breathing, jumping, running, dancing, yelling, chanting and meditating
  • Bikram - fixed sequence of 26 Hatha poses in a room heated up to 40 degrees

Any questions about a specific style? Don’t hesitate to drop me a line!

Today's Tip

Today, you’ll get two!

  1. Do not get discouraged if during your first class you get confused or feel that you are not performing. Try out different styles and teachers before concluding that yoga is not “your thing”. All yoga styles have the same objective: to optimise your physical health and to strengthen the connection between your body, mind and soul. But the technique, execution and energy flow can be totally different. (image from
  2. Practice different styles for balance. I am an Ashtanga practitioner and love the sweating, the focus and the challenge that the practice poses to my body and mind. However, I cannot do without a good dose of Yin Yoga either. I need the stillness, the long stretches and the release as much as I need the work-out of Ashtanga. So my second tip to you is to try the same. I can guarantee you that you will feel the positive effects on your physical and your mental health!

More about Yaisa

Yaisa is an ex-banker and ex-scuba diving instructor. She now spends her time between Bali, Europe and South Australia teaching yoga and working as a health coach and appropriately named her business Yoga Here & There. Since 2016 she is also yoga teacher trainer and every day, she is amazed at how much more there is to learn about yoga. She is happy to (try and) answer any questions you may have.

Phone: +61 455107533 (only WhatsApp when overseas)



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Special offer for ACM Readers

Yaisa is offering a fabulous discount for midwives.

  • Offer: 10% discount, for any yoga class, yoga teacher training or yoga retreat with Yoga Here & There
  • Eligibility: any midwife that reads the Yoga blog
  • Booking: Use the code "ACM" when you email or call Yaisa to find out more.  The booking process is online, so you don’t need to print any vouchers.