For the uninitiated, a yoga class is a yoga class is a yoga class. But did you know there are dozens of styles of yoga?

For the uninitiated, a yoga class is a yoga class is a yoga class.


But did you know there are dozens of styles of yoga? Some will challenge your body with vigorous moves and heated rooms while others focus on a gentle practice of physical alignment and breathing techniques. And all combine physical moves and a meditative aspect to help bring focus and clarity to the mind.


Most styles of yoga taught in the United States are based on hatha yoga, according to Yoga Journal, one of many periodicals devoted to the practice. Hatha focuses mainly on asanas (postures or poses) and breath work but also encourages a deeper mind-body awareness.


But how do you choose the proper yoga class? Perhaps it's best to start with what you hope to get out of it.


"For every goal -- flexibility, stress reduction, weight loss, healing -- people are going to find what they need (in yoga)," said Alison Olson, fitness director and personal trainer at Focus on Fitness in Framingham, Mass. Olson is also a certified and registered yoga teacher. "As long as their doctor says OK, there should be a form of yoga that's right for everyone."


The yoga classes Olson teaches are mainly in the viniyoga style.


"What I like about viniyoga is we're not looking for perfection," Olson said. "Viniyoga is about repetition and staying (in a pose). You prepare the body before you get there, then heal the body (with the postures and breathing)."


Type "yoga styles" into your favorite Internet search engine and you'll find many sources to help understand the different forms. Then contact a studio or fitness club near you to find out more. If they say they offer hatha yoga, it may be a mix of a few styles so ask questions of the teacher or owner.


"People may take one type of yoga and (not) like it, then think yoga isn't for them," said Olson. "But there are many types."


If you already belong to a health club or gym that offers fitness classes, see if they also offer yoga and speak to the instructor. Otherwise, a yoga studio might suit your needs best, often offering a variety of styles to choose from.


Here is a small taste of yoga styles and area yoga studios that offer classes.


STYLE: Svaroopa


STUDIO: Center for Yoga, 393 Worcester Road (Rte. 9), Framingham, 508-620-9642; www.centerforyoga.us


YOGA CLASSES OFFERED: Svaroopa, kundalini, kripalu, hatha, flow yoga, gentle yoga, yoga for athletes


COST: $10-$19 per class


According to Center for Yoga teacher Annette Bongiorno, svaroopa is a healing yoga. "It's not a vigorous style where you're moving a lot. It draws you inward. People seem to think of it as a gentle style. It's not athletic at all.


"It's all about reducing the...core tensions in the spine. A lot of the poses are interwoven. A lot of the tension is in the tailbone so we start there and cycle through the spine. That's the core.


"The goal is to get people into a daily practice they can do at home," she said. "We don't have mirrors in the classroom. We want them to feel the pose, not see the pose, so when they're practicing at home, they'll know that they're in proper alignment."


STYLE: Power yoga


STUDIO: Yogapower, 740 Main St., Waltham, 781-854-2866; www.yogapowerstudio.com


YOGA CLASSES OFFERED: Power yoga only


COST: $10-$15 per class


Power yoga is done in a room heated to 90 degrees.


"We're constantly moving; we'll move, then breathe, then move, then breathe," said teacher and Yogapower studio co-owner Tina Ahlberg. "When we're moving through the flow, we may hold for five breaths. It's a workout."


According to Ahlberg, her students range in age all the way up to their 60s. "For someone who's been fit all their lives, it's not hard to continue into your 60s," she said, adding that an older person new to exercise, however, might not want to pick this athletic style of yoga.


"You get the fitness, the connection with the mind. People use it as a supplement (to other exercise programs) or some use it as their main thing that they do, like me. Some people do it for weight control. A lot of people who do team sports like it too. The lower impact enhances whatever sport they do. Some people are there who don't like the gym. It's one-stop shopping."


STYLE: Iyengar


STUDIO: The Yoga Studio, 840 Main St., Suite 111, Millis; 508-376-8508; www.theyogastudiomillis.com


YOGA CLASSES OFFERED: Iyengar-based gentle yoga, kids' yoga, kundalini


COST: $96-$180 for an eight-week session


According to The Yoga Studio owner and director Cathy Mann, Iyengar is "a good type of therapeutic (yoga)."


"We use it a lot to help the body heal, like for anything that has to do with the spine, and fibromyalgia and other immune-related disease that happens in the body. I've worked with people with MS and all kinds of (limitations).


"I teach Iyengar-based yoga because I'm still going through the certification process," she said. "It takes years and years. It is the most detailed certification process there is.


"I think that it does get associated with holding poses for a long time but I think it really focuses on alignment so when you stand and you do pause, that's when the (benefits come).


Iyengar is known for using props. "If you can't reach down you can use a block. (Props) can help you get into positions," said Mann.


"I would also say it's a very heady yoga in that you really have to concentrate," said Karen Bump of Abundance Yoga, a home studio opening soon in Westborough (508-331-1347; e-mail karenbump@charter.net).


According to Bump, Iyengar yoga is about "really learning the poses and also understanding your body as it relates to the pose - what are your habits? where are you limited in your body? - and trying to bring more awareness there."


STYLE: Kripalu


STUDIO: Earthsong Yoga, 186 Main St., 2nd floor, Marlborough; 508-480-8884; www.earthsongyoga.com


YOGA CLASSES OFFERED: Kripalu, meridian yoga, kundalini, svaroopa, hatha, anusara-inspired


COST: $10-$18 per class


"One of the things that draw people to Kripalu than to other styles is it's accepting of all ages, all body types, all fitness levels," said Earthsong Yoga's Kripalu instructor Lynn Alimo. "Some of the other forms of yoga, you have to be pretty fit to participate. Kripalu has very gentle classes and a variety of opportunity.


"Kripalu yoga also really brings a deeper form of meditation into the process. It's not just about the asana. It's open and broad to all different levels.


"When you start doing yoga, it's really about the postures and where you move your feet and arms. Then, over time, you get yourself into a state where you're very relaxed and your body chooses where it wants to go; that's where the meditation in motion comes from."