Styles of Yoga

*This is yet another article brought to you by Rachel Stagnaro who runs Zen Kids Yoga in Washington. Follow her on Instagram and view her website for more information. Keep an eye out for the other two articles in this series

Yoga classes can vary from gentle and relaxing to strenuous and challenging; the choice of style tends to be based on physical ability and personal preference.

What type of yoga is right for you?

You may be familiar with some yoga poses, such as standing forward bend, but different styles of yoga vary in speed and approach. You can explore which style of yoga works best at a local studio or community center. Many studios will offer discounts or promotions for first-time customers.

To figure out which style of yoga is best for you, consider these questions:

  • Why are you practicing? Are you looking for a workout, or are you attracted to yoga’s restorative properties? Are you searching for a spiritual experience or relief from an injury?

  • Be honest about your personal needs: Do you want personalized attention or are you motivated by a community vibe? Do you like to be pushed or do you need a more compassionate approach? And then be honest with yourself about possible physical, financial, and time limitations.

After considering the answer to these questions, read on to see which type of yoga sounds like the best fit.

Types of yoga

Gentle/restorative yoga styles (good for beginners and those with injuries)

Hatha Yoga

What it’s like: Gentle

“Hatha yoga” originally meant the physical practice of yoga; the poses rather than the breathing exercises. The term now is often used when a few different yoga styles are combined to create a simple class that’s good for beginners learning to do basic poses.

Iyengar Yoga

What it’s like: Gentle

Detail-oriented and slow-paced, Iyengar yoga is good for beginners.

You may use props — belts, blocks, and pillow-like bolsters — to get into poses with correct alignment. Similar styles include Anusara yoga and viniyoga.

Kundalini Yoga

What it’s like: Gentle

What it’s like: Kundalini yoga is more spiritual and philosophical in approach than other styles of yoga. Kundalini yoga classes include meditation, breathing techniques, and chanting as well as yoga postures.

Kripalu Yoga

What it’s like: Gentle

Kripalu yoga begins with slow movements that barely cause a sweat, and progresses through three levels of deeper mind-body awareness.

Sivananda Yoga

What it’s like: Gentle

You do 13 poses and lie down in between the poses. Sivananda yoga is easily adaptable to people of different physical abilities.

Yin Yoga

What it’s like: Gentle

You focus on how your breath moves through your body and affects each pose. It’s not so much about doing every pose precisely. The long, deep stretches of this style of yoga are ideal for beginners and people who want to focus on flexibility, recovery from injury, body awareness, and relaxation.

Advanced yoga styles (good for those with previous yoga or athletic experience)

Ashtanga Yoga

What it’s like: Challenging

You do a nonstop series of yoga poses. Ashtanga yoga also uses a special breathing technique that’s said to help focus the mind and control the flow of breath through the body.

Bikram Yoga

What it’s like: Challenging

You do a sequence of 26 yoga poses in a very hot room, above 100 degrees.

Check with your doctor if you have any medical condition, including hypertension or diabetes, before starting this “hot” style of yoga.

Power Yoga

What it’s like: Challenging

Power yoga is one of the most athletic forms of yoga. Based on the sequence of poses in Ashtanga yoga, power yoga builds upper-body strength as well as flexibility and balance. You flow from one pose to another.

Vinyasa Yoga

What it’s like: Intermediate

Vinyasa yoga uses sun salutations in order to build heat in the body. Poses are aligned with breath to create a flow sequence. Vinyasa yoga can be tailored to meet the needs of all students, but is generally strength building and faster paced than the gentle styles.

It is important to try different styles of yoga in order to find the best fit for you. Maybe you are looking for a workout or a spiritual aspect. Each location and teacher often different styles and a feel to the class, so see which one resonates best with you.

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