Celebrities espouse its benefits, and studios are opening up in even the smallest cities around the world. So why is yoga so popular? It can be a way to achieve self-awareness and inner peace -- not to mention that it's a great low-impact way to get in shape. Discover which type of practice is best for you based on your zodiacal element: Fire, Earth, Air or Water.
ACTIVE FIRE SIGNS: ARIES, LEO, SAGITTARIUS
Yoga may not be fitness first choice for Fire signs … it just seems so slow. You're more attuned to high-impact, high-intensity workouts, physical challenges that offer you instant gratification. You subscribe to the 'no pain, no gain' philosophy of exercise, and so you may look at the deliberate, pretzel-like stretches of yoga and say 'Why bother?' But you would be surprised how challenging yoga really is -- especially in the boiling hot intensity of Bikram or physically demanding Ashtanga, or Power Yoga.
With the thermostat of the yoga studio cranked to the max and constant movement through the 26 asanas (poses), get set to sweat like you never have before. Bikram is based on the notion that muscles, ligaments and tendons should be stretched in a particular order and under high temperatures to really warm your body up. Just right for a Fire sign.
Take away the rainforest climate of the Bikram studio and you've just about got Ashtanga. Widely known as Power Yoga, it provides a very aerobic, swiftly moving workout through a series of asanas that improve circulation and focus on the harmonization of the breath (Ujjayi Pranayama) with movement. Strenuous and with an emphasis on the invigorating Sun Salutations, Ashtanga is perfect for those who are energetic and easily distracted.
PRACTICAL EARTH SIGNS: TAURUS, VIRGO, CAPRICORN
Fitness for the Earth signs must be realistic and regimental. These persistent, practical signs see physical health as a personal responsibility to themselves, a promise they make to themselves. Earth signs don't mind putting in the hard work it takes to really get into good, maintainable shape. That said, they do need to know that they'll be seeing results for all their effort, or else their precious time has been wasted.
For that reason, Iyengar yoga, with its careful attention to detail and precise positions really suits the no-nonsense Earth signs. Couple that with the use of 'props' like belts and blocks and the strict training requirements of Iyengar instructors, and you've got a yoga practice that meets all the criteria for a sensible and effective Earth sign workout.
There's also Jivamukti, an adaptation of Ashtanga, which places more importance on the spiritual possibilities of meditation and study. This combination of challenging physical practice and more metaphysical activities like chanting could really suit the ambitious drive of the Earth signs, challenging you to integrate your physical and mental energies in pursuit of personal enlightenment.
SOCIAL AIR SIGNS: GEMINI, LIBRA, AQUARIUS
Air signs have a pretty indifferent, kind of laissez-faire attitude toward fitness. They tend to keep so busy fluttering around socially and talking up a storm that they may feel that they don't need to take time out to exercise -- much less breathe! For that very reason, yoga could be quite beneficial to these intellectual, active signs.
In Sanskrit, Kripalu means 'compassionate union of body, mind, and spirit.' This 'yoga of consciousness' offers a balanced (Libras will love it) approach that aligns the breath and the body. For signs with such a vested interest in their mental flexibility, Kripalu can open the mind's channels to free up the energy that flows in from the world. It is said to honor the wisdom of the body.
Another physical yoga that is said to build mental consciousness is Svaroopa. For the easily bored Air sign, this practice teaches many different approaches to the same old poses. With each new way of moving the breath and holding the pose, Svaroopa allows you to further open yourself up and release the tension created by constant activity and stimulation. You may be mentally agile, but your body could benefit from increased flexibility.
INTUITIVE WATER SIGNS: CANCER, SCORPIO, PISCES
Water signs would seem to take most naturally to the overall philosophy of yoga. With your introspective bent and openness to the more subconscious realms of human experience, yoga's meditative qualities probably appeal more to you than do its physical benefits. You might even opt to explore the more spiritual -- non-physical -- yogic practices like Tantra or Karma yoga. If you would like to increase your flexibility and strength, though, Ananda or Anusara could work for you as well.
The practice of Ananda yoga strives for stillness and for harmony between the energies of your body and mind. The chakras play a role in Ananda, too, as do unspoken affirmations. Ananda's purpose is to stir you metaphysically, to awaken to experience that is both controlled and harmonious. The workout itself is more internal than it is aerobic -- perfect for reticent Water signs.
Anusara literally means 'flowing with grace' or, more simply, 'following your heart'. It's a sensitive and holistic approach to mental and physical self-awareness. It's based on the notion that we gain strength and insight by opening our hearts and accepting the world -- and ourselves -- the way we are. Very respectful of individual skill levels and pace, Anusara yoga is more lighthearted than some other disciplines, emphasizing play and creativity. Each action is seen as an artistic expression.