Yoga is an ancient form of mind-body exercise with tons of benefits for the modern world. Research shows this practice can help you with weight and stress management while gaining spiritual enlightenment.
Many therapists and counselors now recommend this yoga as a complementary therapy, as it has decided mental health perks. Recent research shows it can even alter your brain structure, replenishing volume in areas grown thin from stress or disease.
Best of all, there’s a style of practice to suit everybody, from more energetic sorts to laid-back folks seeking deep relaxation and inner stillness. Which should you try? Here’s your complete guide to ten types of yoga.
If you’re a serious athlete, vigorous Ashtanga may be for you. It’s one of the most ancient forms, first referenced between 200 to 250 B.C.E. However, Pattabhi Jois — an instructor from India who began his yoga journey at the young age of 12 — brought it into the modern consciousness.
Ashtanga is widely considered the first form of vinyasa yoga, a style that matches movement with breath. However, unlike typical vinyasa classes today, Ashtanga follows a strict pattern of postures. There are six series in all, although most yogis never progress beyond the initial primary series. The challenging third through sixth series incorporate hardcore acrobatics that will test your strength, balance and endurance.
Ashtanga takes place in a studio called a “shala,” which translates to home. Stepping into one is like entering a sanctuary — you’ll find sacred images, candles and essential oils.
The term “hatha yoga” has become a catch-all in modern times, encompassing nearly any yoga class that doesn’t fall into a more formalized style. This practice can be more energetic like power yoga or gentle, edging toward restorative.
Hatha yoga classes combine postures, breathwork and meditation. Teachers may instruct you to “take a vinyasa” to transition between poses, which typically means flowing through a modified Sun Salutation A variation. You’ll hold poses longer than you do in traditional vinyasa classes and your instructor may advise using props to get into challenging asanas.
Some yoga teachers take a very hands-on approach. However, you might not want a stranger adjusting your form if you have a history of trauma or sensory issues that make you sensitive to unwelcome touch. If so, please arrive at class early and inform your guide to make your experience more comfortable and enjoyable.
Hot yoga is to Bikram what vinyasa is to Ashtanga. Both draw upon the more ancient styles but include more room for interpretation and variation. You won’t necessarily flow through the same sequence each time you enter a hot yoga class.
You will work up a sweat, however. Although many hot yoga guides don’t seek to replicate the climate of the southern Indian continent, they nevertheless crank up the thermostat to well over 90° Fahrenheit.
Therefore, you should talk with your doctor before attempting this yoga form if you have a medical history, particularly heart disease. Warm temperatures make your heart beat faster, creating excessive strain in people with some conditions.
Do you want the ultimate strength training workout without lifting a single weight? If so, power yoga may be the variety for you. This style builds on Hatha and vinyasa techniques, often holding challenging poses for a considerable time to challenge your balance and core. For example, you may hold Warrior II for several minutes before transitioning to a formidable Warrior III balance.
During transitions, though, power yoga picks up the pace. You may flow through multiple vinyasas to keep your heart rate elevated throughout your class. A towel is a must — you will get sweaty.
Power yoga is ideal for folks looking to increase their overall strength and cardiovascular fitness. It is more vigorous than many other styles, so consider starting with a Hatha class if you’re a beginner and working your way up in intensity.
If you associate yoga with chanting and breathwork, you might know someone who embraces the kundalini style. This practice focuses less on physical movement — although there is some — and more on specific breathing techniques called kriyas.
Kundalini practice also incorporates positive affirmations, although practitioners often repeat them in Gurmukhi instead of English. You might chant these several times throughout the class. You’ll also concentrate on chakra alignment, a series of seven energy centers in your body running from the base of your spine through the top of your skull.
Were you a gymnast as a child? If so, you might gravitate to acroyoga, which combines acrobatics with this ancient practice.
Acroyoga might be the ideal pastime to put the spark back into your relationship. That’s because it has many poses involving more than one person — a base, a flyer and a spotter.
However, don’t worry if you don’t have a workout buddy. You can try many of the postures independently to build your strength.
A good synonym for vinyasa yoga might be “flow.” This style of yoga connects breathing and body movements, with an inhale or exhale for each part of the posture. Classes can be challenging or more gentle, but they will keep you moving, providing a great cardiovascular workout.
Vinyasa yoga evolved from the Ashtanga style and you’ll see plenty of sun salutations in many classes. However, your vinyasa teacher will mix things up, guiding you through a different routine every time.
Your biggest frustration as a beginner may be learning the names of the poses — these classes are faster-paced than your typical Hatha offering. Many studios and shalas have posters you can study or simply follow along as best you can until you develop mastery. Remember, yoga is a mindfulness practice and enjoying the journey is part of the lesson.
Bikram shares much in common with hot yoga. However, it’s a more formalized style and will really get your sweat glands in gear. This practice takes place in a room heated to 105° Fahrenheit with 40% humidity — it’s designed to imitate the climate conditions in the region of India where this form originated. The practice consists of 26 asanas similar to those used in Ashtanga.
However, this practice’s history is dark in the United States. Multiple women have accused the founder — Bikram Choudury — of misogyny, racism and even sexual assault, although he denies the allegations. Choudury has since fled the United States but continues teaching. As a result, many teachers eschew the name and instead offer hot yoga, even if they lead the class with similar postures.
If you want a yoga class that focuses on deep healing, consider a restorative class. This style is typically slow and gentle — many sessions don’t even require you to stand up on your mat. You generally hold poses longer to allow for deep muscle and connective tissue relaxation, sometimes remaining in a single asana for up to 20 minutes. However, many teachers invite you to segue after only three to five, especially those who take a trauma-based approach.
Restorative and Yin classes use many of the same postures — the difference is in your mindset. While Yin emphasizes remaining still and mindful throughout discomfort, restorative invites you to explore ways to make a pose more comfortable, wiggling into it and using your breath to ease chronic aches and pains.
If you want the ultimate Zen experience — or simply to unwind before bed — give Yin yoga a try. This practice has you holding deep stretches for anywhere from three to five minutes to work into your ligaments and tendons, releasing more superficial muscle tension.
Yin is also a mental discipline. By breathing through challenging asanas, you train your parasympathetic nervous system to activate even under stress. This practice translates into a greater sense of peace and serenity as you navigate daily life.
This form of yoga may be the best type for arthritis patients. People with this condition often have connective tissues that grow tight from seizing up to protect swollen joints. Unfortunately, this tension can increase pain, but gentle Yin can help release it without jumping or jarring.
Are you considering starting a yoga practice? This ancient art offers various health benefits for your mind and body.
Fortunately, there’s a style to suit everyone. Explore this complete guide to ten types of yoga and enjoy the journey as you discover the kind that works best for you.