According to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the creator of ashtanga yoga, “Yoga is 99 percent practice, 1 percent theory.” But it seem like every time you turn around, there’s a new type of yoga at your local studio.
There are a ton of hybrid classes springing up, only some of which resemble a traditional yoga class. So how do you decide which type is right for you?
There are a variety of styles of yoga practiced around the globe, guaranteeing something for everybody. Here are eight of the most common types and what you can expect from them, so next time you’re checking the class schedule, you’ll know exactly which one you’ll want to try.
This dynamic style of yoga is also commonly known as “flow,” as it involves smooth and conscious movement from one pose to another. Vinyasa incorporates breath, balance, strength and flexibility. It can be a challenging and powerful practice, taking the practitioner through multiple rounds of Sun Salutations, standing poses, arm balances and core exercises. New to the mat? No worries. Modifications can be made to accommodate all levels. Linking the breath to the movement is the focus of the practice.
This sequence of 26 specific postures was developed by Bikram Choudhury to systematically work every part of the body, allowing the practitioner to maintain optimum health and function. The 26 poses are practiced in a room heated to 104 degrees, and each pose works something different in the body. If you want to give this “hot yoga” a try, make sure you’re in good physical condition (it’s not for the yoga newbie) and stay hydrated before, during and after class.
Focusing on alignment, precision and detail, this asana practice often includes the use of props, such as blocks, straps and bolsters, to help the practitioner achieve perfection in any pose. This practice integrates the mind, body and emotions. If you’re new to yoga and a lover of precision or a seasoned yoga veteran looking to expand your knowledge of the mechanics of each pose, add in one of these classes a week to your workout schedule to expand your appreciation of the asanas.
Ashtanga yoga is the dynamic sequence of poses linked together by the breath. This method is made up of six complete and sequential series, and each pose is practiced until proficiency is attained. Then the student can begin working on the next posture. This style of teaching allows students to master each pose at their own pace. All of the series begin and end the same way, including Sun Salutations, standing postures, forward bends, back bends and inversions. It’s a great way to build your practice from the ground up or for those who love structure and progression.
Also know as the “Yoga of Awareness,” Kundalini incorporates mantra, asana, breath work and meditation. This style of yoga works the energy systems of the body to balance emotions, relieve stress and strengthen the nervous system. Traditionally, white is worn to Kundalini classes. You may feel a little out of place on your first class, as Kundalini is quite different from Westernized yoga classes, which mainly focus on poses and getting a good workout. But if you’re looking for something a bit more spiritual, you’ll want to check out one of these classes.
Literally meaning “forceful,” Hatha refers to sequences of asanas. The practitioner finds balance between strength and flexibility. This physical practice aligns the body so the energy inside can flow freely. This practice emphasizes the importance of staying present and focusing on the breath. Depending on the instructor, these classes may feel a bit slower than ones that you’re used to, but you’re guaranteed to leave feeling more refreshed and energized.
In this meditative and restorative style of yoga, poses are held for approximately three to seven minutes to allow the connective tissue time to fully stretch and for you to relax deeper into the poses. Poses are done from a seated position or lying on your back or belly. Yin often involves breath work to further soothe the body and mind. This style is recommended for new yogis, as it helps build flexibility and release tension, increasing mobility and body awareness.
Founded by John Friend in 1997, Anusara yoga has flourished due to its uplifting philosophy. This movement-based practice emphasizes the good in all people and things. The word “Anusara” translates to “following your heart,” and the Anusara yoga community places special importance on harmony and joy.