So let’s say, you decided to start doing yoga. Just when you thought you could just head to any studio and sign up, they asked you what type of yoga you’d like to take and told you there are more than ten to choose from. How overwhelming! Don’t worry though, we elaborated this comprehensive guide of the yoga types and put everything in simple terms so you can choose what is the best one for your body, mind, and soul.
New types of yoga emerge every day. Long-time instructors come up with their version of existing classes and name them to something new. There are established, traditional yoga types that you can find anywhere though, and we round up the fifteen most classic ones you should know about. There are some terms of yoga that are useful to know, and we will be using them through this article. The most common of them are Asana (yoga poses), Pranayama (yoga breathing techniques), and Savasana (relaxing).
The 14 Most Common Types of Yoga and All You Need to Know About Them
1. Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga is an umbrella term. It refers to any type of yoga that was originated from the teachings of traditional yogis in the 15th century. Because it is a broad term, we don’t know what to expect when we see the term “Hatha” on a studio’s schedule. It is best to call ahead or take an experimental class and see for yourself.
You should expect a mix of postures (asana) and breathing exercises (pranayama) though, and some meditation in the beginning and end of class. The word translates “sun and moon”, and it refers to the opposite energies in the body. The goal is to balance them, to bring them together in harmony.
Vinyasa yoga’s main feature is the string of movements that flow together seamlessly one into the other. There are no hard breaks in Vinyasa, and the poses blend together as one. The name comes from Sanskrit, and it can mean “variation among prescribed parameters”. This is very interesting because the movements of the Vinyasa class always change among the known asanas, and one lesson is not twin to another.
As a philosophy, it recognizes the changing nature of things. As an exercise, it helps with balance and injury prevention. Breathing techniques connect one pose to another, and your heart rate is positively challenged by the constant movement. Expect to build up strength and flexibility with this type of yoga.
Unlike Vinyasa, on a Bikram class students all over the world repeat the same twenty-six poses every class. Bikram Choudhury visualized this style in the 1970s and it has become extremely popular. The other distinctive name for it is “Hot Yoga”, and that is because it is practiced in a very hot room. Temperatures can reach 105 degrees, and there is a lot of sweat involved.
The poses were picked from Hatha yoga and Bikram justified picking them to oxygenate 100% of organs and body. These traditional positions do not include inversions on beginner classes, but advanced yoga students may try them. Breathing exercises are also heavily used.
Also Read – Best Hot Yoga Pants
4. Power Yoga
As the name suggests, power yoga is an intensive, powerful exercise. It is a general term, meaning that it can change from studio to studio. You should always, however, expect a vigorous exercise. Some people don’t think of Power yoga as real or traditional yoga, as it can change a lot and it is usually offered in gyms.
Even so, this yoga type incorporates the athleticism of Ashtanga and it is composed of traditional positions used in Vinyasa. The difference is that each teacher is free to do the poses in any order, and that adds interest to the lessons. With a heavy emphasis on strength and flexibility, it helped to introduce yoga as a way to work out in the USA.
5. Yin Yoga
Have you ever heard of Yin Yang? Yin is the passive, dark, receptive, introspect in all of us. It is an interesting take on yoga developed in the 70s that focuses on different parts of us. Ashtanga and Vinyasa are Yang types of practice and target the “superficial” muscles on the body. Yin yoga, on the other hand, aims to exercise the parts of the body many of us overlook, ligaments, bones, joints, and deep fascia. Compelling right?
Poses are held for as long as five minutes, and are usually passive floor poses, which does not mean it’s easy! You work a lot on your lower spine, hips, and pelvis, as these areas are particularly rich in connective tissues. People who practice Yin yoga also report feeling very relaxed and emotionally calmed after some time.
Sivananda is a special type of yoga that has not been compromised over the years. It has stayed the same since the 1930s, and still follows the same format around the world. It is a branch of Hatha yoga, and it focuses deeply on keeping physical and mental health. It has its eyes on long term benefits, aiming to slow down the aging of the body and keeping diseases at bay. There are five basic principles all Sivananda teachers and students follow:
- Pranayama – breathing
- Asana – poses
- Savasana – relaxing
- Sattvic diet – vegetarian diet
- Vedanta and Dhyana – positive thoughts and meditation 7. Ashtanga
Ashtanga means eight limbs of yoga. That refers to the eight principles of yoga – the composition of the yogi philosophy. Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. In practicality, Ashtanga lessons focus a lot on breathing techniques, focusing your gaze and different postures. The poses and order are predetermined and the instructor does not change them. They may add some music or explain in their own way, but Ashtanga is a very traditional yoga variation. Poses are challenging and you see a lot of growth in your practice, with many inversions and core engaging movements.
Iyengar yoga is a very precise type of yoga. It insists on correct posture and body alignment, and it teaches a lot about Pranayama (breathing) and Asana (postures). It was developed by BKS Iyengar in India around the 60s.
It is amazing for those who want to go deeper in their practice, the order of the movements are planned to achieve a result and the timing of poses and holding is precise to the second. It focuses on balance and forces the mind and body to reach stability through controlled practice. It is a quiet lesson that starts with a small meditation moment to push the brain into a meditative state.
The name Jivamukti means “liberation while living on earth”. It is also a branch of Hatha Yoga and has a lot of movements from Ashtanga. It brings occidental yoga back to the roots of ancient yoga practice, and it wants to connect the physical, spiritual, and ethical in yoga. It is a very vigorous class that will leave you breathless. It follows five basics principles:
- Dhyana – meditation
- Nada – music
- Ahimsa – non-violence
- Bhakti – devotion
- Shastra – scripture
9. Restorative Yoga
Passive stretching. Sounds great right? This is what restorative yoga is all about. It is a very different experience from other types of yoga. In restorative yoga, it is common to stay in relaxing positions for a long time. Your muscles are allowed to just relax, and props sustain your body into positions of resting. In fact, props are heavily used in restorative yoga to support you in poses for longer periods.
A lot of asanas in Ashtanga or Hatha can be turned into restorative poses with the use of props. If your studio offers more than one type of class, it is a great idea to do restorative yoga one time a week to recover and deeply stretch your muscles.
10. Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini is considered by many to be one of the most ancient types of yoga. As the mother of all yoga types, it combines Asana (positions), Pranayama (breathing), Kriya (exercises series), meditation and mantras. As a matter of fact, this is the type of yoga where mantras are present the most. It is also one of the yoga practices where the lessons are predetermined by ancient recipes that were first envisioned in the 20s.
Kundalini yoga believes that we all have energy dormant in the base of our spine, and it strives to awaken that energy. Several call this the yoga of awareness, as it encourages us to be conscious of or mind, body, and movements.
11. Prenatal Yoga
Did you think pregnant women couldn’t do yoga? Think again! Not only yoga can help you keep fit during your pregnancy, but it can also make your birth easier and promote the fetus’s health. First of all, always check with your doctor before engaging in any kind of exercise while pregnant, and look for their approval on doing prenatal yoga.
It can be very beneficial to practice yoga while expecting your child, it can help you sleep better, reduce anxiety and relieve symptoms like nausea, headaches and back pain (all common in pregnant women). Do look for specific lessons and not just any yoga class, because the prenatal ones will focus on breathing, gentle stretching, positions that help the baby and relaxation techniques.
12. Integral Yoga
If you read so far, chances are you recognize yoga not only benefits the body but also the mind. The Integral yoga preaches exactly that, a holistic approach that teaches students to elevate their spirits and connect with their inner selves. It associates the asanas and pranayamas with a lot of mantras, selfless service, self-analysis, and meditation.
The poses are challenging but not impossible, and can be performed by a patient student with time to practice. If you wish to take yoga not only as an exercise but as a lifestyle focused on spiritual growth, then Integral yoga may be for you.
Kripalu has a very positive and interesting view of the body. It believes that the body is the center of your being, and it should be respected, loved and listened to. It encourages you to listen to your deeper self and focuses on meditation, asanas, and breathing exercises. The positions are born from Hatha and are gentle and mild while still offering a positive challenge.
With time, Kripalu yoga wants you to recognize the limits and potential of your body and push through it, flowing through positions like a pro. Interestingly, while all yogis say “namaste” at the end of the class, Kripalu practitioners say “ai Bhagwan”, which means the same (I bow to you) but in Hindi instead of Sanskrit.
Which one is the Best for me?
After reading about all the yoga types, we know that you already have a good idea about which one fits your lifestyle and needs better. To make it even easier, follow this straightforward guide to give you a jump start on the process.
- Do you want to sweat? Try Bikram.
- Do you want to learn self-love? Try Kripalu.
- Do you want to explore your creativity? Try Kundalini.
- Do you want to do an intensive workout? Try Power Yoga.
- Do you want to be more centered and focused in life? Try Integral Yoga.
- Do you want to gain balance and stability? Try Iyengar.
- Do you want to get toned and engage your core? Try Vinyasa.
- Do you want to develop your spirituality? Try Jivamukti.
Even though most of the yoga types follow the same postures, each of them has a particular emphasis. If you are still in doubt about what type of yoga is the best for you, there is nothing wrong with taking some experimental classes and seeing how you feel about them. Respect your body and give it time to settle in, and remember that it only gets easier with time. If you don’t like a class, don’t feel discouraged. There are so many different types that it may take you some time to find the right fit, and we guarantee it’s totally worth it.