Have you ever gone to a yoga class and felt like you were completely lost? Maybe it was the first time you have been, or maybe it’s just that your style is different than what the instructor is teaching. Well, whichever it may be, we’re here to help!
Yoga is an ancient Indian practice that’s become a trending fitness activity in the Western world. There are so many different types of yoga, it can be hard to know where to start.
This blog post goes over each of the most popular types of yoga styles and breaks down which ones are best for beginners, intermediates and experts. The next time you go to a class at your local studio or gym, this will be an invaluable resource!
Translated to ‘sun and moon,’ Hatha yoga is the entry point for physical and mental balance.
Hatha yoga typically focuses on classical postures, breathing, proper alignment, and gradual transitions. All movements are completed on both sides of the body so you can walk away feeling balanced.
Flow and let it go. Vinyasa is the kombucha of yoga, it’s pretty much available on every corner in a variety of flavors.
Vinyasa is a style of yoga characterized by stringing postures together so that you move from one to another, seamlessly, using breath. Commonly referred to as “flow” yoga, it is sometimes confused with “power yoga“.
Vinyasa classes offer a variety of postures and no two classes are ever alike. The opposite would be “fixed forms” such as Bikram Yoga, which features the same 26 postures in every class, or Ashtanga which has the same sequence every time.
The variable nature of Vinyasa Yoga helps to develop a more balanced body as well as prevent repetitive motion injuries that can happen if you are always doing the same thing every day.
As a philosophy, Vinyasa recognizes the temporary nature of things. We enter into a posture, stay there for a while and then leave.
Vinyasa is a breath initiated practice, meaning that every movement is connected with the breath, which in turn connects every action of our life with the intention of moving towards what is sacred, or most important to us.
If you’ve ever thought yoga isn’t a workout, think again. Power yoga is Vinyasa’s marathon-running friend.
In a nutshell, Yoga Sculpt is a class that incorporates hand weights and high-intensity cardio bursts for a maximum calorie-burning effect. The hand weights add a new challenge to traditional yoga classes. Yoga Sculpt also incorporates cardio exercises to get your heart pumping and your blood flowing. And of course, there’s always a challenging core workout mixed in!
On par with a Cirque-du-Soleil showcase, aerial yoga will elevate your practice—and we’re not speaking metaphorically.
Unlike traditional yoga, which focuses specifically on, well, yoga, aerial fitness incorporates elements of other exercises too—all while working to defy gravity. Depending on the teacher’s background and education, there may be more emphasis on certain elements than others and choice of apparatus.
Dreaming of the day you can seamlessly slip into a full split? Yang’s other half brings you a smooth way to increase your flexibility by getting you into the deeper layers of connective tissue.
Yin yoga targets your deep connective tissues, like your fascia, ligaments, joints, and bones. It’s slower and more meditative, giving you space to turn inward and tune into both your mind and the physical sensations of your body. Because you’re holding poses for a longer period of time than you would in other traditional types of yoga, yin yoga helps you stretch and lengthen those rarely-used tissues while also teaching you how to breathe through discomfort and sit with your thoughts.
Are you someone that gets lunch from the same place every day? Creatures of habit, this one’s for you. The yoga system developed by Bikram Choudhury in the 20th century is made up of 26 postures and two breath techniques (AKA 26+2).
Technically, Bikram is a version of Hatha, a traditional branch of yoga that combines postures and breathing. But it’s not just a style, it’s a specific experience with a cult-like following. Every class features the same 26 set poses, takes place in a 105-degree room, and is taught by a Bikram-certified instructor. But the heat and tough postures can provide different challenges than a traditional yoga practice.
As if yoga didn’t already require enough self-discipline, K. Pattabhi Jois leveled up with his modern system of Ashtanga yoga. This physically demanding method requires yogis to practice a progressively structured series of postures.
In Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, the word “Ashtanga” means eight limbs.
The term was first used by an ancient Indian sage called Patanjali, who wrote The Yoga Sutras; the authoritative text on yoga. He described eight practices (“limbs”) that we should master in order to transcend suffering and recognise our true nature.
So Ashtanga Yoga is the practice of these eight limbs in order to experience the true goal of yoga.
- Yamas (behavioural observances – things you SHOULD do)
- Niyamas (behavioural restraints – things you SHOULDN’T do)
- Asana (practice of physical postures)
- Pranayama (practice of breathing techniques to control our life force energy)
- Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses)
- Dharana (concentration)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (transcendence)
Kundalini is the loveable, eccentric aunt, dressed in all white and inviting more than just physical modalities of yoga to activate the sacred, spiritual energy located at the base of your spine.
Kundalini yoga is a combination of breath, movement, and sound. It derives from the Sanskrit word kundal, which translates to “coiled energy.” The idea is that we all have energy gathered at the base of our spine and, through the practice of Kundalini, we bring that energy up our spine through the seven chakras, and out the crown of our head.
B.K.S. Iyengar was a yogi who was all about the alignment. And could you blame him? No one is looking to get hurt doing yoga!
Iyengar Yoga is a purist style of yoga developed by and named after B.K.S Iyengar in the 1960s. Iyengar Yoga is a very meticulous style of yoga, placing the emphasis on precision and alignment. The practice is all about the details of your breath control (pranayama) and posture (asana) and is excellent for building strength and flexibility. Iyengar yoga is great for learning the subtleties of correct alignment for all ages and abilities.