Over the years, yoga has evolved to include many styles. It can be quite confusing in the beginning knowing Ashtanga from Vinyasa or Iyengar from Yin. In order to help you wade through which style to try, we’ve put together a quick rundown on 8 of the most popular styles today. There is something for everyone no matter your body, age or limitations. Doubt it? Read on!
Hatha: The most basic and classical approach to breathing techniques, postures and meditations is found in this style. Most classes marked as Hatha probably include an introduction to some of the more basic postures, taking a gentle approach throughout. You probably won’t break a sweat in Hatha, but you will feel looser and more relaxed as a result. Hatha is an appropriate option for anyone looking for a lighter take on yoga practice.
Ashtanga: One of the more traditional styles out there, Ashtanga is detoxifying and invigorating. It includes a series of six set sequences, and most classes you’ll find are focused on the primary series. Known to be more rigorous with sequential progress, there is heavy focus on the breath combined with movement. Led classes are available and also “Mysore” style, which is working under a teacher who guides you at your own pace. Ashtanga is ideal for regular practice, where most progress can be seen.
Vinyasa Flow: An adaptation of both Ashtanga and Hatha, most Vinyasa Flow classes focus on creative sequencing often centered on one area of the body or a general class theme. Examples of this include: hips, core work, balancing and more. Also included is the element of breath combined with movement. No two Vinyasa Flow classes are the same so one can expect to find a variety of sequences from class to class. For those that do not want routine, this might be your ticket.
Iyengar: Developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, this popularized style is meticulous in that most attention is paid to reaching proper alignment in each posture. To do this, Iyengar classes include a wide variety of props including blankets, blocks, straps, bolster pillows and sometimes chairs. You might not find your heart rate increasing or much jumping around in these classes, but if you have a chronic condition or injury, Iyengar is a suitable option. Often times, Vinyasa classes include an Iyengar approach.
Restorative: Similar to Iyengar because it is one of the better options for those with injuries or other limitations, it’s useful for any and everyone to try restorative yoga from time to time. Mainly focused on relaxation and rejuvenation, it relieves exhaustion and restores energy levels with its slower approach. There is less work, fewer poses and an inclusion of props to help each student gain the maximum benefit from each posture. We wouldn’t be surprised to drift off in a truly juicy restorative class.
Yin: Designed to be a complimentary practice to more “yang” (read: active and physically warming) styles including Ashtanga and Vinyasa, Yin is a more meditative, quiet practice focused on stretching the body’s connective tissues. There are traditionally fewer postures while each one is held between approximately 3-7 minutes, allowing the practitioner to explore the posture further with passivity and patience. This style is unique in its mental challenge and appropriate for anyone looking to release tension.
Sivananda: Another form of gentle yoga, Sivananda is based on a set series of postures including traditional sun salutations and 12 basic postures. Similar to Hatha, classes are carried out at a slow pace providing the practitioner time to experience each posture. A typical class would include a variety of breathing exercises and meditations. This style is a wonderful option for beginners or those looking for a simple routine.
Kundalini: Most likely the most mysterious form of yoga one would hear about, Kundalini is primarily focused on breathing exercises along with the use of mantras and chanting; fewer postures are included. Translated as ‘Coiled Snake’, Kundalini describes the substantial amount of energy which is said to reside at the base of the spine. The main aim of this niche style is to unlock that energy so the individual can thrive at his/her potential. It is unique, so head in with an open mind and heart.
For further guidance in choosing the right style for you, don’t hesitate to ask your local studio or instructor.