Yoga is full of surprises. A rigorous vinyasa class may make toned muscles of the toughest athletes quiver, and a relaxing restorative class may be the exact self-care you needed to mellow your mind and oxygenate your body.
Even some longtime yoga aficionados aren’t aware of how many types of yoga there are—and which ones may benefit them most. Yoga is a melting pot of physically demanding classes and more meditative, relaxing classes that’ll stretch tired muscles and calm your mind—and the sky is the limit and the choices are vast.
Let’s take a look at the different types of yoga so you can find the special practice that’ll suit your mind, body, and spirit.
Often called the parent of Vinyasa Flow, Ashtanga yoga is a sweat-breaker. It’s an athletic and energetic modern form of classical Indian yoga that involves a series of poses done in a synchronous, uniform nature. There are six sequences in Ashtanga, which are followed in a precise order in a traditional Ashtanga class. Overall, this style of yoga is physically demanding—and physically rewarding.
Get ready to crank up the heat. Bikram yoga is named for its founder, Bikram Choudhury, and takes participants through a series of 26 postures in a hot room with temperatures typically set to 105 degrees with a 40% humidity. The series is performed twice, and all classes run 90 minutes.
Hatha is an old system that blends asanas (yoga poses) and pranayama (breath work) into a gentler, relaxed class that is designed to soothe and restore your mind and body. Hatha yoga classes can vary greatly in methods of style and flow, but you can generally expect a slower-paced class perfect for beginners or those looking to take it easy.
Iyengar yoga—developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the most influential yoga teachers in history—is a form of Hatha yoga that stresses correct alignment and precise sequencing of poses. It’s perfect for learning proper pose positions and is detail-oriented and slow-paced, which makes Iyengar a dream for beginners.
If you’re seeking a vinyasa flow-style class with a spiritual kick, Jivamukti yoga is your new go-to. Jivamukti yoga takes Vinyasa’s energy and infuses it with chants, Hindu spiritual teachings, and the yoga method’s five tenants—ahimsa, bhakti, dhyana, nada, and shastra. Jivamukti yoga places great emphasis on harmony with living beings on earth, and following this principle, many Jivamukti devotees are vegetarian.
Kundalini yoga is another spiritual-physical blend, bringing together meditation, invigorating postures, breathing techniques, and chants to awaken the senses and arouse energy. The word Kundalini in Hinduism refers to divine energy at the base of one’s spine, and Kundalini yoga works to uncoil that trapped energy.
Yes, restorative yoga is as relaxing as it sounds. Restorative yoga aims to bring your mental and physical state into better balance through passive stretching and long poses. In some classes, you may not move much at all, and props—rather than your own muscles—support your body. It’s a great before-bed class that can unburden a heavy mind and increase circulation.
Vinyasa yoga is essentially a modern, freestyle form of Ashtanga yoga that links each pose with flowing movements and breathing techniques. Vinyasa is commonly referred to as “flow” yoga and is one of the most popular methods of yoga in the world, and the level of difficulty (depending on the instructor) may surprise a first-timer, as it’s almost guaranteed you’ll work up a sweat in a Vinyasa class.
Yin yoga is a slower-paced yoga style involving deep, long stretch holds anywhere from two to seven minutes. While it’s certainly not as active as Vinyasa Flow, Yin can be slightly challenging due to the nature of the lengthy poses. That said, the yoga style is highly regarded for its relaxing elements and capacity to give those that practice better flexibility and range of motion.
Yoga is Defined by You
While each style of yoga incorporates different elements and levels of difficulty, always remember that your yoga practice is your own. This means going at your own pace, not comparing yourself to others, and channelling whatever most benefits your unique self. So awaken your senses, go at your own speed, and remember to breathe. Namaste.
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