Whether you want a physically demanding yoga class, or a relaxing, meditative one, there are plenty of different yoga styles to suit a variety of skill levels and needs. Each style is a bit different from the others, plus you’ll find variations depending on the teacher. That being said, giving a few styles and teachers a try before settling on your favorite will enhance your overall yoga experience and challenge you to break out of your comfort zone.
Yoga And Its Benefits:
Yoga is an excellent way to get sweaty and centered, whether you’re a total newbie or longtime pro. No matter what style of yoga you choose to practice, you will likely see improvements in many areas of your health. By practicing regularly, you can:
1) Increase your flexibility
2) Increase your muscle tone and strength
3) Improve your circulatory and cardio health
4) Helps you sleep better
5) Increase your energy levels
6) Improve athletic performance
7) Reduce injuries
8) Detoxify your organs
9) Improve your posture
10) Improves anxiety and depression
11) Helps with chronic pain
12) Releases endorphins that improve your mood
13) And so much more…
Now that you know some of the benefits of doing yoga, we can now do a deep dive of the different styles of yoga.
1) Acro Yoga:
Acro yoga takes familiar yoga poses – like downward dog or plank – and makes them double the fun by adding a partner. This yoga focuses on the trust elements associated with acrobatics while practicing with a partner or a group. There are three roles that participants will choose, either the base (the individual responsible for the moving), the flyer (the person that is being moved), and the spotter (the individual that helps to ensure that movements are going smoothly). This type of yoga helps you playfully explore your mind-body connection, develops effective communication skills with a partner, and aids in setting appropriate boundaries.
Best for: Anyone looking for a fun way to bring their practice into the air, build a deeper connection with friends or their partner, or looking to meet new people! Acro yoga is a great way to make friends and break the ice rather quickly!
What to expect: A fun and relaxed atmosphere. You don’t need to be a yoga expert or be in amazing shape to practice Acro yoga, it’s completely accessible to everybody. Expect to have a few giggles and awkward not-so-graceful fails with your partner as well!
2) Aerial Yoga:
Aerial yoga involves using suspended hammocks (often slings) to place the body in postures that may not otherwise be possible. From there the hammock newcomers can easily achieve headstands, handstand, and shoulder stands. It’s a fun class to do and opens the door to benefits of inversions (upside-down postures) to all. Inversions are great for decompressing the spine, oxygenating the brain and redistributing fluid to the face (which can be anti-aging). The best part is the relaxation – where you nuzzle inside the hammock and feel like you’ve returned to womb.
Best for: Beginners who want to work on inversions.
What to expect: Expect a lot of laughter and to be ready to surprise yourself. Prior yoga knowledge is not necessary. It’s
not uncommon to feel a bit of motion sickness from the movement in your first class, especially when coming back upright
after hanging upside down.
Anusara yoga is modern-day Hatha yoga, most similar to Vinyasa in that it focuses on alignment, but more emphasis on the mind-body-heart connection. It was founded by John Friend who created a unique system called the Universal Principals of Alignment. Anusara means “flowing with grace”, “going with the flow”, and “following your heart”. This
practice is broadly categorized into three parts, known as the three A’s. They include attitude, alignment, and action.
Best for: People who enjoy a lot of instruction from their teachers and learning new things every time they practice. Not only will your teacher relate poses back to anatomical structure, but back to Hindu culture as well. If you enjoy learning about other cultures and listening to stories while practicing this is a no brainer!
What to expect: Don’t expect to just go to a class like this and focus completely on your physical postures. You will be very intellectually stimulated throughout the class and most likely learn something now!
4) Ashtanga Yoga:
If you’re looking for a challenging yet orderly approach to yoga, try Ashtanga. In this class you will be led nonstop through one or more of the ashtanga series, while being encouraged to breathe as you move from pose to pose. Each series is a set sequence of asanas, always in the same order. It is typically fast-paced, vigorous, and physically challenging. There are six series in total, increasing in difficulty as you move from the primary series on. Even though
a typical class moves quite quickly, most Ashtanga studios offer Mysore-style classes, which allows students to work at their own pace and to be assessed by senior instructors.
Best for: People who like structure. This a stricter practice compared to others but will most definitely help you improve your physical and mental strength. I wouldn’t start out with this practice if you are brand new to yoga though, as you are expected to memorize the postures in each sequence, which can be difficult if you are not familiar
What to expect: Expect most of the people to already know the postures of the sequence. The use of props is not common at all in this practice, and you are expected to have good form and endurance. This is not for the lighthearted!
5) Buti yoga:
Buti yoga is about working on a spiritual level by activating our inner energy or chakras while also getting a workout. This type of yoga finds its inspiration from tribal dance moves and incorporates cardio with deep core exercises. This type of class has sequences like a vinyasa class, just with a faster pace. This workout tones and sculpts the entire body while facilitating complete inner transformation.
Best for: Both men and women who like an engaged, fast-paced workout. Buti yoga works to create a feeling of empowerment by embracing the skin that one is born in, encouraging self-love, and being around a community of like-minded people.
What to expect: You can expect to have the best time of your life. You will encounter fast-paced sequences, contemporary music, the uplifting message of self-acceptance, and a lot of sweat!
6) Hatha yoga:
Hatha is a general category that includes most yoga styles. It is an old system that includes the practice of asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises), which helps bring peace to the mind and body and preparing the body for deeper spiritual practices such as mediation. Typically the asanas are approached in a calm, mediative environment, where practitioners sit quietly for a few moments, then begin the series, slowly, with control and grace. Awareness of the mind and breath is held as the body performs the various poses selected for the practice session.
Best for: Beginners or anyone looking for a less intense class that will leave you feeling looser and more relaxed.
What to expect: Don’t expect to break a sweat in Hatha yoga class, but do expect to learn the foundations of proper alignment in basic poses. Some poses may be held a bit longer than in other classes, which is why this wouldn’t be a good class to try if you’re looking to get in a good workout.
7) Hot yoga:
When people refer to “Hot Yoga” it usually means a hot vinyasa style yoga class. “Hot” yoga is not at all like a traditional Bikram class. The postures and sequences vary just like any Vinyasa class and it is done in a heated room about 105 degrees with a humidity of 40%. You can be certain you will sweat, the room is hot and the class challenges you both physically and mentally. The class helps with detoxifying the body, building muscle strength and endurance, and can aid in weight loss due to excessive sweating.
Best for: People who love a great workout, or anyone that enjoys a flow style yoga class and wants to add a little heat to their practice (literally). If you aren’t good with tolerating heat, don’t do it! The room gets as hot as 105 degrees and the class is fast paced.
What to expect: A HOT room, with lots of flows and chaturangas! It is beginner friendly, but with how fast the pace is compared to other practices, I would suggest at least taking a few more basic classes before trying it out. Also be prepared to SWEAT and bring a towel and water bottle! The classes start off slow, then quickly builds into multiple flows just like any Vinyasa class, then you wind back down to gentler stretches at the end.
8) Iyengar yoga:
Iyengar yoga was founded by B.K.S Iyengar and focuses on alignment as well as detailed and precise movements. In a typical Iyengar yoga class, poses are held much longer than in other schools of yoga, in an effort to pay closer attention to the precise musculoskeletal alignment within each asana. Another trademark of Iyengar style of yoga is the use of props such as blocks, belts, bolster, chairs, and blankets, which are used to accommodate injuries,
tightness or structural imbalances, as well as teach the student how to move into a posture properly.
Best for: People who are detail oriented and are interested in practicing a precise practice. You need to have some level of patience to practice Iyengar, but if you don’t this will help improve it! This is also great for people who have old injuries or for the elderly that are less flexible, as props are heavily used and the practice is much slower compared to others.
What to expect: Just like Hatha, don’t expect to get a cardio workout at an Iyengar class, but do expect to focus highly on proper alignment and use a lot of props. Also, expect a lot of support and adjustments from your teacher if you are practicing in person! They are there to help you and want to make sure you have every single pose down pat before moving on.
9) Kundalini yoga:
Kundalini yoga focuses on awakening the kundalini energy up the spine through energy centers called chakras. This physically and mentally challenging practice looks very different from your typical yoga class. You’ll perform kriyas – repetitive physical exercises coupled with intense breath work – while also chanting, singing, and meditating. These yoga sequences are carefully designed to stimulate or unlock this energy and to reduce stress and negative thinking. This style of yoga enables students to shed their ego and awaken the truth within.
Best for: People looking for a dynamic yoga practice, and that’s not exactly meaning physical. This is definitely a class where an open mind is needed, and knowledge of the chakras would be beneficial, but is definitely not mandatory!
What to expect:
Lots of chanting, mantras, meditation, and physical movements paired with intense breathing patterns. You’ll feel a weird sense of calm afterwards paired with a natural boost in energy and wellbeing!
10) Power yoga:
If you’re looking for a form of yoga that gets the heart pumping, then power yoga will not disappoint. Like Vinyasa, Power yoga traces its roots to Ashtanga but is less regimented and is more open to interpretation by individual teachers. With this practice, you have strength, flexibility, stamina, cardio, and balance – it’s a multi-dynamic approach towards wellness. Classes vary widely from teacher to teacher, but the main component that remains constant is a flow-type with less emphasis on the spiritual practice of yoga, and more of a focus on the fitness and physical practice. This style is most offered in gyms.
Best for: People who are looking to get into yoga for a great workout but are not interested in it for the spiritual aspect. This style is very fast paced, so I would say you definitely need to be in decent shape and know a few basic poses before trying an intense class like this out.
What to expect: A fast-moving class focusing on building strength, flexibility, and toning. Don’t expect any Om’s or for your teacher to adjust you or take the time to assist you in a pose but do expect to feel comfortable practicing modifications for poses if needed.
11) Restorative yoga:
Restorative yoga focuses on soothing both the mind and body through a combination of deep breathing and passive stretching designed to open and expand various muscle groups. The poses will help its students activate the parasympathetic nervous system and by activation that helps the PNS ‘rest and digest’. This style makes use of a wide range of props, including bolsters, blocks, straps, and blankets. The intention is to provide support within each pose,
making it easier to completely let go and is less physically demanding than some other yoga styles.
Best for: People who are drawn to slow paced classes or who need a place to wind down. People often compare the feeling after a restorative yoga class to that of getting a massage. It is a great treat for those that thrive in a quiet, low stimulus environment.
What to expect: A calm, relaxing vibe with lots of prop use-especially bolsters! Bolsters are a prominent tool used in restorative yoga to support the body in various postures. Do not expect to get any type of workout, except if you’re talking about the mind!
12) Vinyasa yoga:
One of the most popular styles of yoga in the U.S, Vinyasa yoga is a dynamic set of flowing poses that focuses on coordination of breath and movement. In most classes, you won’t linger long in each pose and the pace can be quick, so be prepared for your heart rate to rise. This yoga is one of the most effective to practice for weight loss and can also be a great cardio workout.
Best for: People interested in practicing yoga to improve their endurance and strength. This can also be beneficial for people with anxiety as it focuses on integrating the breath with movement, forming a mind-body connection and bringing you into the present moment. Although this class can be beginner friendly, I think it is better to take a slower paced class that focuses on the basics before practicing Vinyasa. It can be very overwhelming if you are not familiar with the poses.
What to expect: Expect to start off with a simple warm up, then go into several different “flows” throughout your practice. Poses aren’t held for too long, so definitely expect to get a great sweaty workout in. Every single class you practice will be different but will usually have the same basic poses.
13) Yin yoga:
The goal of Yin yoga is to slow down movements and turn inward to reach the deep connective tissues of the body. It is a type of yoga with roots in martial arts as well as yoga, and it’s designed to increase circulation in the joints and improve flexibility. The practice focuses on the hips, lower back, and thighs and uses props like bolsters, blankets, and blocks to let gravity do the work, helping to relax. It is simple yet often challenging as it can be quite intense due to the long period of holding of the postures, which typically lasts from 1 minute to 5 minutes.
Best for: People who need a set time to slow down from fast paced living, or a time to destress. This is also a great supplemental practice to anyone who practices a faster paced type of yoga.
What to expect: A slow paced class that is spent on the floor with lots of hip opening poses. Don’t expect this to be a completely relaxing class, it’s not meant to be relaxing. It’s meant to be a physical, mental, and emotional release and balance for you from your yang practice.
14) Yoga Nidra:
Otherwise known as yogic sleep, yoga Nidra seeks to ease participants into a state of deeply relaxed consciousness between sleep and wakefulness. Yoga Nidra uses guided meditation to induce this near-sleep state, and is considered within the yoga community to be one of the discipline’s most relaxing and transcendent styles. This style is easily learned and modified so that all levels of yogis can reap the benefits of reduced stress and improve sleep!
Best for: This style is great for anyone! The guided mediation is deeply restorative when practiced with care and intention. Whether you struggle with a mood disorder, experience chronic pain, or are just looking to improve your overall health and wellbeing, Yoga Nidra can help.
What to expect: This is an opportunity to detach and explore your mind. Be prepared for a lot of relaxation. You will mediate to the rhythm of your own breath, be asked to perform visualization exercises, and then the teacher will slowly bring you back down to earth. This class is truly one everyone should experience!
There are different types of yoga for everyone. Find out the technique that works best for your needs with the guidance of a certified yoga trainer. Remember that one cannot feel the benefits of yoga in a short time frame. It is a long-term commitment. Once you get involved and regular, you will never want to give up on yoga.