So you’ve heard about the many benefits of yoga and you’re motivated to start a yoga practice, but while searching for a yoga class you see a confusing list of names you’ve never heard of… but yoga is yoga, right?
WRONG. There are many different types of yoga with different benefits. While there really is no right or wrong option to choose, people tend to develop a preference for different styles. To help you identify which yoga style you’d like to try most, here are 8 common types of yoga with their benefits.
Tip: if you’re new to yoga then check out these awesome 30 day yoga challenges to get started!
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Types of Yoga
Who it’s good for: beginners, anyone wanting a slower and more mindful style of yoga
Hatha yoga is actually a broad term, which refers to the physical practice of yoga, rather than a style in itself. However in the West, classes at your local gym tend to be marketed as Hatha if they are slow paced with a focus on individual poses. So if you’re heading to a Hatha yoga class, expect beginner-friendly yoga poses and mixture of all ages and abilities.
Who it’s good for: those wanting more of a cardio workout
Vinyasa yoga places emphasis on the movement between postures to create a flowing sequence. The addition of music and connection to the breath means that this is naturally a more fast-paced style than traditional hatha yoga and is more likely to get your heart pumping.
Vinyasa is not only physically challenging but it is fun too – yoga teachers often create exciting and new sequences that allow your body to move in different ways. Note that in the West, Vinyasa classes are often referred to as “flow” classes, simply because it’s easier for people to relate to if they’re not into their ancient sanskrit.
Who it’s good for: experienced yogis, those who like routine and discipline
Ashtanga classes are similar to Vinyasa, except each class follows the Ashtanga series of postures. You can expect each class to begin with several rounds of sun salutations before moving onto standing and seated postures. Ashtanga is great if you like to follow a set routine, and it can really highlight your progress or struggles in particular postures. I say that Ashtanga is good for experienced yogis because this is a really demanding class. Expect to twist yourself up like a pretzel in lots of binds!
I personally love Ashtanga and it is one of my favourite types of yoga for sure. This probably comes from the fact that I’m a Taurus and I love a bit of structure and routine in my life. When I go to an Ashtanga class I know exactly what I can expect. Plus, as you learn the Ashtanga series you can switch off from learning a bit and get into your own head space more.
Want to learn more about Ashtanga? Check out The 10 Best Ashtanga Yoga Books for Your Home Practice
Who it’s good for: those interested in the spiritual side of yoga
Kundalini is defined as “latent female energy believed to lie coiled at the base of the spine”, often imagined as a serpent. The aim of Kundalini yoga is to allow this energy to awaken and travel up the spine to the crown, by using asana, pranayama, meditation and chants. It’s important that you know what you’re walking into with this one, otherwise the whole thing can be a bit confusing and bizarre. But if you’re open to different beliefs and ideas then this can be a really positive style to experience!
I’ve only been to one Kundalini class before and it was an interesting experience to say the least. It was a super small class of only three students, which made it really intimate. I’m not the most confident of people so finding my voice to chant in that small space was quite overwhelming. As you might have guessed, I’ve not been back since. This doesn’t mean that you won’t love it though! And I’m sure once I find my confidence I’ll give it another shot.
Who it’s good for: experienced yogis, those who want to sweat and detoxify
Bikram is a style of yoga founded by Bikram Choudhury, and is traditionally a 90 minute class with 26 postures performed in a room heated to 35-42 degrees Celsius and a humidity of 40%. This is an intense workout, which has resulted in injury and illness for many yogis, mainly due to low sodium levels as a result of the intense sweating that occurs. Let’s just say this is not for the faint hearted! Alternatively, you may see ‘hot yoga’ advertised on your class schedule. This is more likely to be your standard vinyasa-style class, but in a heated room. This is much more accessible than traditional Bikram, but still not recommended for beginner yogis.
I don’t practice hot yoga all that regularly because I feel like you need to have the right energy for a hot class. But every time I practice hot yoga I feel so invigorated afterwards. The first time I practiced hot yoga I was so surprised by the amount of sweat on my body. I’m not kidding, I didn’t know one person could sweat so much… so be sure to equip yourself with a yoga towel before heading to a hot yoga class!
Who it’s good for: those with injuries or those focusing on their posture
Perhaps contrasting with flow styles of yoga, Iyengar is heavily focused on detail, precision and alignment of asana, as well as pranayama. Poses tend to be held for an extended period of time in order to make adjustments and experience the full benefits of the posture. Props are commonly used in Iyengar in order to get into poses that would otherwise be inaccessible. Although slow in pace, Iyengar requires a lot of muscle strength (and will power) to hold the asana.
Who it’s good for: those with limited mobility, those wanting to work on flexibility in a relaxing way
Typically, Yin poses are floor based meaning that you don’t require a lot of strength or endurance to perform them, which is great for beginners. Poses are held for several minutes to allow your body to relax into them. This allows for increased flexibility of muscles and ligaments. There is also a heavy focus on meditation in yin, which makes this a really relaxing style of yoga.
Yin is one of my favourite types of yoga to practice. I find it really stress relieving due to the meditative aspect and I love how effortless it is. My body always feels so open and relaxed after a Yin class and it would definitely be my class of choice if practicing in the evening.
Who it’s good for: anyone that needs some time out to unwind and relax
Restorative yoga is a blanket term (pardon the pun) for any style of yoga that is targeted at relaxation. The room is designed in a way to help stressed yogis unwind and recharge. Think scented oils, blankets and lavender eye bags – aaah, bliss. Poses are also modified using blocks, bricks and bolsters in order to take the effort away from the yogi completely. If you’ve had a stressful day at work, or looking after the kids, restorative yoga might just be what you need.
Which style of yoga is right for you?
I know that getting your head around sanskrit names can be confusing as a beginner yogi! So I’ve created this handy infographic as a reminder of the different types of yoga and what they involve. Pin it to your relevant pinterest boards so you never have to get confused about yoga styles again!
Related: Shiva Shambo Mantra Meaning
Let me remind you that these are just guidelines! There is no real rule for which type of yoga you will like the best and you may find that you love something that you least expected. For example, I went straight into Vinyasa as a beginner and absolutely loved it! And yet I found the more beginner-friendly Hatha yoga more challenging because my muscles didn’t have the strength to hold poses for a longer period of time.
So I’d encourage you to try all of the types of yoga to establish what works best for you – don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it! The only thing I would stress is DO NOT go straight into hot yoga as a beginner, because if you’re not used to practicing yoga the heat can be really intense.
I hope this has simplified the different types of yoga for you! I’d love to hear what your favourite style is or what style you’d like to try next!