Learning yoga isn’t just about breathing techniques and poses. It also involves familiarizing yourself with a great deal of vocabulary and gaining an understanding of the variations in styles of yoga. Here are some of the most common types of yoga you will come across as you expand your practice and explore what works best for you.
10 of the Most Common Types of Yoga
Hatha yoga is perhaps the most beginner-friendly style of yoga and has become quite popular in the United States. The Sanskrit word “Hatha” translates to physical yoga practice. A traditional Hatha yoga class will incorporate breathing, meditation, and basic postures. Classes are typically unhurried and provide an excellent introduction to the holistic benefits of practicing yoga.
If you’re still a beginner but feel like speeding things up a bit, try taking a Vinyasa class. Vinyasa flow classes incorporate more movement than Hatha, and will test your body’s endurance. Styles of Vinyasa will vary depending on your teacher and his or her method; however, you can be sure that in any Vinyasa class, you will perform the sequence a number of times. The sanskrit word “vinyasa” means “to place in a special way.” Westernized yogis often use the word “vinyasa” to describe a sequence of poses performed in this style of yoga, which is Chaturanga to Upward-Facing Dog to Downward-Facing Dog.
Ashtanga means “eight limbs” in Sanskrit and is named after the eight limbs of yoga mentioned in in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Ashtanga yoga is a physically demanding, eight-part practice and is better for more experienced yogis, as it requires stamina and synchronizing your breathing with a continuous series of postures. Daily Burn describes this pose as best for “Type A” folks. If you aim for perfection in your practice, this may be the perfect style for you!
Bikram yoga is for those who don’t mind sweating — a lot of sweating. Bikram yogis practice this style in a sauna-like room. It’s also a great style of yoga for beginners, as each session is made up of the same 90-minute sequence of 26 poses. Expect the traditional Bikram class to be taught at 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 percent humidity. The heat promotes flexibility and allows for an amazing detox.
Another type of yoga that is great for perfectionists, Iyengar yoga revolves around precision. Expect to use props, such as straps and blocks, to aid you in this practice. Despite the aim for alignment, you need not stress when practicing this (and, of course, any style of yoga!). Iyengar allows for full relaxation as you perform stretches. This type of yoga is not only beginner-friendly, but also allows the elderly and disabled to practice because of the helpful props and slow, gentle pace.
For those wishing to explore the more spiritual side of yoga, Kundalini is another option. If you are looking for more than a physical workout and aren’t afraid to participate in a bit of chanting and meditation, this might be the style for you. The intention behind this practice is to awaken the energy at the base of your spine (kundalini) and pull it upward through your body, increasing sensory awareness.
Had a long, stressful day at work? You won’t regret spending an hour in a Yin yoga class, where you will hold poses for long periods of time (typically three to five minutes). This practice works the connective tissues around your joints, allowing for a therapeutic practice. It encourages relaxation while also challenging you to be patient.
This individualized type of yoga meets you right where you’re at and allows you to achieve your yoga goals at your own pace. If you are recovering from surgery or have specific physical needs, this is a welcoming style that may be the perfect way for you to achieve your best practice and to better understand and respect your body. The American Viniyoga Institute brings up the idea of discovering yourself along the way, stating that Viniyoga gives you “the tools to individualize and actualize the process of self-discovery and personal transformation.”
Another option for novices is Anusara, which emphasizes uplifting the spirit. The purpose of Anusara is to open up your heart to connect with the divine in others around you. This relatively new, Westernized version of yoga, founded by American-born yoga instructor John Friend, involves practicing the five Universal Principles of Alignment, allowing you to refine your form and even out your body’s imbalances.
The philosophy of Sivananda yoga, a form of Hatha yoga, can be summarized by five principles: proper exercise (Asana), proper eating, proper relaxation (Savasana), proper breathing (Pranayama), and positive thinking and meditation. All of these work together to allow for a healthy lifestyle. This practice typically involves 12 basic asanas. Verywell points out that an interest in Indian philosophy is a good indicator that you’ll enjoy this style of yoga. An interest in holistic health might also be a sign that Sivananda is right for you.
Whether you are a professional athlete, a 9-to-5 hustler, or recovering from a surgery, there is a type of yoga for you.
Still not seeing one that suits you perfectly? It’s important to note that each of these common types of yoga is not entirely separate from the rest. They are often combined; for example, ashtanga vinyasa yoga is a popular modern yoga practice that incorporates elements of both styles.
If you’d like to delve further into one of these common types of yoga, go on a yoga retreat to deepen your practice.
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