Which of These 6 Popular Types of Yoga Would Suit You Best?
There are several popular types of yoga styles out there, and although many of the fundamental yoga postures can be similar, there are various differences in both the sequences and the way classes are held.
The studios often vary too; some yoga classes are held in gyms and leisure centres whereas others are held in hot rooms, so the class environment is another factor to consider.
You are likely to hear the word ‘hatha’ yoga often in the yoga world, but this is simply a general category that includes most types of yoga.
The hatha system consists of the practice of yogic postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama).
The point of yoga is to cultivate peace and strength in your body and mind, and it is also part of a spiritual practice for many due its meditative qualities.
If you’re not sure whether yoga is for you, our article on reasons to do yoga might help you decide.
Yoga beginners can find it tough to decide on which of the types of yoga is the right one to start out with.
Below I’ll take a look at some of the most popular types of yoga to help you decide which would be the best fit.
#1. Vinyasa Flow Yoga/Power Yoga
Vinyasa yoga is a very popular hatha yoga style these days, and is sometimes called power yoga. It is taught in yoga studios everywhere, as well as in many gyms.
The word “vinyasa” refers to the combination of movement and breath, so you can expect to be guided in the ‘ujjayi’ breathing technique.
Sometimes called ‘ocean breath’, this technique helps the mind to focus while energizing the body with oxygen for a stronger practice.
Vinyasa yoga sequences are done in a ‘flow’ style, meaning that pauses between postures are generally short and the whole session keeps you moving more or less continuously. It could be considered a moving meditation.
The postures and sequences vary from class to class, but there are usually quite a few sun salutations involved, and soft music is normally played throughout.
Of the popular types of yoga, Vinyasa is great for people who would like to hone their physique, or combine a good physical work out with a meditative state.
It is perhaps one of the tougher styles to get into since it can be more physically demanding than other styles, but the rewards are high!
#2. Ashtanga Yoga
Another hatha yoga style, ‘ashtanga’ translates to ‘eight limbs’ and is considered to be traditional Indian yoga.
It has quite a lot in common with Vinyasa flow, since you tend to keep moving and there are sun salutations in the sequences; the same goes for ujjayi breath, which is encouraged throughout the classes.
For better focus, music is often avoided in class. However, there’s nothing to stop you playing Jimi Hendrix tunes while practicing at home if that’s your thing!
The postures in Ashtanga come in a three specific series, one of which you’ll follow at every class, depending on the level of ability you have reached. The series are as follows:
• The primary series: Yoga for Health or Yoga Therapy (Yoga Chikitsa)
• The intermediate (secondary) series: The Nerve Purifier (Nadi Shodhana)
• The advanced series: Centering of Strength (Sthira Bhaga)
Ashtanga suits those who are into fitness and enjoy physical workouts, or those who like the idea of developing precision in their postures.
It takes discipline and perseverance, but through this type of yoga you can master the many postures over time, as you’ll be repeating them at each class.
#3. Iyengar Yoga
Like ashtanga yoga, Iyengar yoga is based on the eight limbs of yoga. It was founded by ultra-famous Indian yogi B.K.S. Iyengar.
The hatha style of Iyengar became popular outside of India around the same period as ashtanga. This type of yoga is one of the most widely practiced in the world, and the main focus is on postural alignment.
For this reason your teacher is likely to give you props to better your postures. These generally include:
• Yoga straps
The classes are normally taught at a much slower pace, and focus is primarily on alignment.
Even as a beginner, with the guidance of your Iyengar teacher, you’re less likely to topple awkwardly onto your neighbour!
To enhance focus, the class will usually be run without accompanying music. Similarly to Ashtanga and Vinyasa flow, breathing techniques are a standard part of these classes.
Of the popular types of yoga, Iyengar yoga is well suited to people who prefer a slow pace but are very keen to perform perfect postures.
This is a good thing, since precision tends to mean fewer injuries! However, it might bore those who like an energetic flow or to burn large amounts of calories.
#4. Bikram Yoga/Hot Yoga
Bikram yoga is also hatha yoga and is often considered the most challenging type of yoga around.
It is certainly not for the feint hearted, and if you’re not into dripping with sweat, or slipping in other people’s, it may not be for you!
Bikram yoga was brought to the West from India by the controversial yogi, Bikram Choudhury, back in the 1970s.
Like Ashtanga, this type of yoga follows a specific sequence, but there are only 26 postures in total; breathing techniques also accompany the sequence.
Classes are 90 minutes long and the vigorous postures can be quite challenging at times―even for advanced yogis!
There is one major difference though: classes are done in a hot room, at around 105 degrees Fahrenheit, with 40% humidity.
Where Astanga and Vinyasa flow are normally done in darkened rooms, Bikram yoga is done in bright light and in front of mirrors for checking postural alignment.
Similarly to Iyengar yoga, postures are intended to be very precise, so don’t expect music.
You can also find hot yoga studios that run classes in Vinyasa, Ashtanga and similar styles. The temperatures may vary a bit, but won’t be higher than Bikram yoga classes.
Bikram yoga suits those who love a challenge, want to be in peak physical shape and desire mastery of a specific yoga type.
The heat in Bikram and hot yoga classes makes for a strong detox, much like a sauna or steam room…
But be warned: it’s not unusual for people to get dizzy in the heat and even pass out!
You must be prepared to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before and after class.
#5. Jivamukti Yoga
Jivamukti yoga is a western Vinyasa yoga style created in New York back in 1984. The word ‘jivamukti’ translates to ‘liberated being’ and the asanas are pretty vigorous.
However, the classes tend to be fun and principles are related to modern life, spirituality and contemporary music.
Each class is given a philosophical theme as part of the focus, and you can expect spiritual activities such as pranayama, meditation and Sanskrit chanting as part of the classes.
Jivamukti adheres to the philosophy of ‘ahimsa’, which means ‘non-violence’, which is why most teachers encourage a vegan diet.
Since Jivamukti aims to be as much a spiritual practice as a physical workout, it suits those in search of enlightenment and personal growth.
#6. Yin Yoga
Yin yoga is a much milder type of yoga with a strong meditative element, and it incorporates the principles of Chinese medicine.
It focuses much more on stretching and relaxation than physical strengthening (as per the yang practices like those we mentioned above), with the goal of lengthening the body’s connective tissues.
Yin yoga can help you to become very flexible while relaxing your muscles.
As with Iyengar yoga, props are often used to support your practice.
This type of yoga is a much slower-paced style, and you will hold asanas for between 45 seconds and 5 minutes depending on your teacher, or your level of ability.
Yin yoga suits people who wish to rehabilitate injuries, calm their anxiety, become more flexible or enhance meditation practice.
The above popular types of yoga styles are just a few of many, so even if you don’t find your ideal type of yoga in any of those, there is bound to be a style that suits you.
When starting out with yoga, it’s a good idea to find a type (and teacher) you like and stick with it until you become more proficient. After this point, your practice may benefit from other styles too.