If you’re a newbie at yoga, it can be confusing to find out how many yoga styles are out there.
You may wonder…
Which one do I pick? How do I decide?
If you feel like you’re lost in all the variety of styles and approaches, we’ve prepared a quick guide on the most popular forms of yoga.
Here, we explain everything from their characteristics, core practices, benefits, and even their history so you can decide which one is for you!
Take a deep breath…and let’s dive in!
The 9 most common forms of yoga: a comprehensive guide
1) Hatha yoga
Hatha yoga has been around since the 15th century.
It focuses on slow-paced routines that are all about relaxation and meditation.
Hatha yoga is a great starting point for beginners to get introduced to the primary relaxation asanas. If you come to a hatha yoga olesson, you’ll try asanas like:
- Sethu bandh;
- and Gomukhasana.
During a Hatha session, you will typically hold a pose for five to ten breaths, all while strongly focusing on stabilizing yourself. It focuses on the foundations of breath practices, enhances awareness, and strengthens the body.
While many beginners start with Hatha, countless experienced practitioners still perform Hatha yoga for its fundamental benefits.
Here are some of the main pros of Hatha yoga:
- Improved balance and flexibility;
- Muscle toning;
- An easy mobility exercise for the elderly;
- Its slower pace makes it accessible and easy to perfect;
- Serves as a full body workout;
- Its breathing exercises and final relaxation poses will help you unwind and destress;
- Strengthens your core.
However, it may be also very beneficial for experienced practitioners to go back to the basics,once in a while too.
Hatha serves as an easy way to relax and calm down for anybody.
2) Vinyasa yoga
The word “Vinyasa” literally translates to “flow.”
Once on Vinyasa yoga session, you will transition from pose to pose in a smooth manner, such as, for example, flowing from a downward dog to a chaturanga pose and then to an upward dog.
Comparing to Hatha, where you hold a pose for 5 to 10 breath, in Vinyasa you hold each pose for a maximum of five breaths only.
If you’re particularly looking to build strength and muscle through yoga, Vinyasa is one of the best options for you.
You will not only go from one pose to another in quick succession, but you will also practice various kinds of poses that focus on different muscle groups. Your body will therefore be evenly trained.
If you’re looking to get into Vinyasa, be prepared to do a lot of Sun Salutation or the Surya Namaskar. It’s a series of asanas that should be performed at dawn to absorb the sun’s power.
Vinyasa yoga has a lot of other benefits aside from building strength and lean muscle:
- Destresses your entire body;
- Boosts your immune system;
- Encourages flexibility;
- Its “movement meditation” will help focus the mind and relieve anxiety;
- It helps lower blood pressure;
- It helps develop good posture;
- Its breath practices are known to increase lung capacity;
- Improves your balance and stability.
If you’re feeling particularly stressed, Visyana’s quick-paced style can be a good solution for you!
3) Bikram yoga
Bikram yoga is often called Hot yoga for a reason.
It’s meant to be practiced in a hot and humid outdoor environment or indoors where the temperature is about 40 degrees Celsius.
Invented in 1970 by an Indian Yogi named Birkham Choudhury, who became quite controversial in the US, Bikram Yoga is all about making you sweat and lose weight.
Do you fancy heat and sweat? If the answer is yes – Bikram yoga is a perfect fit for you!
The routine is entirely based on temperature. Due to how sweaty students get in a Bikram class, they will often be in a mood to move more and burn more calories.
Some say you can burn up to 600 calories in just a single session!
Because of this, it’s important to be dressed in light, breathable clothes for a Bikram class. Make sure to bring water as well since you’ll need to rehydrate yourself often.
Here are the benefits you can expect from practicing Bikram yoga:
- You will become more flexible;
- You’ll burn far more calories than any other form of yoga;
- It’s very energizing, therefore relieving stress;
- The heat makes it fun and exciting and makes you release endorphins, thus benefitting your mental health;
- It is an excellent cardiovascular workout;
- It exfoliates the skin through heavy sweating;
- It alleviates joint stiffness;
- It improves blood circulation;
- It strengthen the immune system.
If your main purpose is to lose weight or you’re seeking a particularly intense cardiovascular exercise routine, Bikram yoga might be a great option for you. It’s a tiring but satisfying workout.
4) Kundalini yoga
Have you ever seen an entire yoga class entirely dressed in white?
Yup, that’s a Kundalini class.
Kundalini yoga is all about building vitality. Practitioners will do this through dynamic movement, intence breathing, meditation, and chanting.
One of the form’s pillars is a practice called “kriyas” where you will perform heavy, repetitive arm movements in conjunction with breathwork and hand gestures.
This is quite challenging, but it will definitely build both physical and mental endurance.
The original inventors of Kundalini wanted to focus on improving energy flow in the body through its chakra points.
Kundalini yoga is a great practice for that. It also:
- fortifies the nervous system;
- balances out your glands;
- purifies your blood;
- and improves your connection to the subconscious side of your mind.
Overall, Kundalini yoga is a great tool to train your mind to be in sync with your body.
Consistently practicing this yoga style, you’ll learn to react calmly to challenging situations and not be carried away by emotions instead.
This does not mean suppressing your feelings, but being able to manage and regulate in a healthy way.
Here’s a full rundown of Kundalini yoga benefits:
- It grants you enhanced physical and mental endurance;
- Helps improve strength and flexibility;
- Reinforces the nervous system;
- Cleanses your blood and glands;
- Improved mental awareness and cognitive function;
- Relieves anxiety and stress;
- Boosts self-confidence and self-esteem.
If you want to make yourself a physically and mentally stronger person, then Kundalini yoga is an amazing choice.
5) Yin yoga
Yin yoga is all about stretching and improving your mobility and flexibility.
It’s mainly comprised of postures that deeply stretch out and lengthen your muscles, joints, and fascia.
Expect to hold poses for minutes at a time—at least for two minutes, but often up to 10 minutes.
While this might sound daunting, it’s also a great opportunity to release deep-seated tension in the different nooks and crannies of your body.
It’s a slow-paced style of yoga and because there is not much physical movement, practitioners often take it as a chance to rest, meditate, and simply enjoy the moment.
Here’s how Yin yoga can benefit you:
- It stretches connective tissues, gradually lengthening them in the process;
- Yin yoga greatly improves flexibility;
- Enhances blood and energy circulation;
- Alleviates mental and physical stress;
- Corrects improper posture;
- Has a solemn, meditative vibe;
- Helps you sleep better at night.
Sounds too good to be true?
Well, Yin yoga is a very powerful practice!
Because you’re holding the poses for such a long time, your body will quickly develop flexibility, strength and stillness. You’ll surely feel that you’re moving much more fluidly in your daily life.
If you’re looking for a yoga style that is relaxed in one way but intense in another, then Yin yoga is a great option that builds a stronger, more limber body.
6) Restorative yoga
Restorative yoga is for you if you want a relaxed, slow-paced, and restful style of yoga.
Restorative yoga is aimed to be supportive, therapeutic, and deeply relaxing.
The style uses more passive asanas relative to the others. This allows your nervous system to adapt and relax during the routine.
This is the perfect option for those looking to relieve the stress bought on by the day-to-day grind primarily.
Practicing restorative yoga can be highly beneficial in times of fatigue, illness, and emotional strain.
While at the restorative yoga class, you’ll findl put yourself in incredibly restful poses. You will then hold the poses for a very long time to promote a deep healing.
The quiet, relaxed nature of restorative yoga gives you an excellent opportunity to meditate and process any thoughts or emotions bugging you.
Here are the main benefits of restorative yoga:
- It soothes your mind, body, and spirit;
- It gives the nervous system a chance to relax and reset;
- Induces feelings of peace and calm, improving your mood;
- Alleviates chronic pain;
- Helps you sleep better;
- Highly therapeutic.
If you’re feeling burnt out or emotionally exhausted, or are one of those people who are always busy but have a hard time turning the switch off, then restorative yoga just might be the best style for you.
7) Power yoga
Power yoga generally does not refer to any established school of yoga like Vinyasa or Bikram, but is broadly used to describe yoga that uses arm balances and inversions.
One could say that it’s a bit of a combination of Bikram and Vinyasa.
It adopts Vinyasa’s quick-flowing style and aims to induce heavy sweating like in Bikram.
It’s also compared to the traditional Ashtanga, but power Yoga is often harder, faster, and generally even more intense than the already challenging Ashtanga yoga style.
Overall, it’s quite the workout and offers many benefits:
- A full-body strength and cardiovascular workout;
- It trains your lung and breath capacity;
- Alleviates high blood pressure;
- It helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels;
- Strengthens muscles and joints;
- It can help you lose fat
- Improves the sleep quality;
- It is substantially energizing.
If you think you have the energy it takes to do Power yoga, then it’s an excellent workout for you.
8) Rocket yoga
Rocket yoga is a trendy Western alternative to Ashtanga yoga for those who find the latter a bit too challenging.
While some use it as a stepping stone to prepare themselves for Ashtanga, it’s also perfectly fine as a standalone, more accessible practice.
Many find Ashtanga too stiff and rigid, and Rocket yoga makes it an easier, more seamless practice.
When you’re at the Rocket yoga session, you can expect to have the same routine each time.
You will follow the specific pattern: start with sun salutations, then standing and seated poses, then inversions and arm balances.
While this might sound a bit boring to some, there are several variations and modifications taught in class, and you are more than welcome to incorporate them into your own practice.
The style also involves a lot of meditation and breath control, bandha or the locking of energy, and Drishti or gaze point as meditation techniques.
Despite being an easier version of Ashtanga, Rocket yoga still has a lot of pros:
- It gently but effectively stimulates your nervous system;
- It’s an esy routine with several variations;
- Builds strength and flexibility;
- Improves balance,
- Heightens your consciousness and awareness;
- It serves as a way to cleanse your body inside-out.
All in all, Rocket yoga is a very empowering practice despite being an easier derivative of another style.
9) Prenatal yoga
As the name suggests, prenatal yoga is meant for pregnant women.
While you might have concerns over the safety of pregnant women doing yoga poses, prenatal yoga is easily performable for the vast majority of expectant mothers.
Of course, each pregnancy may have its own unique set of complications, so it’s still wise to consult your doctor before engaging in prenatal yoga.
Not only will they determine if you’re able to engage in it (you most likely are!), but they will also help you prepare for it.
Like other forms of yoga, prenatal yoga will involve performing asanas, meditation, and breathwork.
However, all practices, especially the asanas, are specifically tailored for pregnant women.
They will be relatively gentler and will emphasize the blood circulation.
Prenatal yoga is also aimed to train the muscles that will be used during childbirth.
While at the class, you can expect using different props, such as belts and cushions, to help you perform the movements and hold the poses.
Here’s how prenatal yoga helps both the mother and the baby:
- It helps improve sleep quality and timing;
- Eases stress that can be harmful to the baby;
- It helps the mother physically and mentally during childbirth;
- It alleviates pregnancy-related symptoms such as lower back pain, nausea, headaches, and shortness of breath.
If you’re a pregnant woman, then you should most definitely check out prenatal yoga.
What’s the best type of yoga? Is there even a ‘best’ type of yoga?
In short, nope, there is no best type of yoga.
If there was, then all the others wouldn’t even exist!
Well, actually there is a best type of yoga—the one that’s best for you.
The practice that fits your goals, your preferences, your mood, and even the time you have to spare is the best choice.
Or the ones that fit you.
After all, it’d be unwise to simply limit yourself to just one style.
Different styles of yoga can equally benefit you in many ways. In fact, people’s preferences often change as time goes on!
How to find the right yoga style for you
Step 1: Determine your goals
The first and perhaps most important step is determining your goals. If you have many, list them down. Rank them even according to priority if that would help you.
Answer the following questions to get more clarity:
- Do you want something relaxing, or do you want something intense?
- Do you want something solemn meditative, or something active?
- Do you want to focus on building muscle or improving flexibility?
This step alone can already point you in the right direction.
Step 2: Consider your needs, preferences, and circumstances
Now, ask yourself if you have preferences or limitations regarding your yoga practice:
- Do you want to practice solo or with a class?
- How many minutes a day can you devote to yoga?
- Do you want to chant?
- Do you want something challenging or something accessible?
Be honest with yourself. Some people feel pressured to reach for a supposedly “cool” practice even though it’s not something they really want.
Make sure to be clear about your time and location limitations, financial constraints, and personal preferences.
Step 3:Try it out!
You’ve probably already made your choice after steps 1 and 2, so now it’s time to actually try it out.
Remember that just because you tried it once or a few times doesn’t mean that you have to stick with it forever.
The truth is that even if it may have sounded good on paper, the actual practice still might not suit you.
So it’s important to take note of how you actually about the class and the style.
Thinking of the following things will help you understand if you picked the right style:
- Was the yoga style what you expected?
- Did it make you feel fulfilled?
- Did it alleviate stress or made you even more stressed out?
- Did it invigorate you or tire you out?
- Did you feel grounded or disconnected after class?
If you feel it’s not for you, then you’re more than welcome to try out other styles.
Actually, even if you love the style you choose, it can still be of great value to try participating in the other ones.
Feel free to experiment and look around as much as you like until you find a routine you feel happy about!
How do I know I’m in the right class?
Determining the proper yoga routine is far from just picking the right style for you.
Because maybe the style is for you, but the class or instructor isn’t. Maybe you don’t like the vibe of the class or you don’t feel fulfileld after the lesson.
Next time you’re in class, take note of how your experience goes.
Here is the list of green flags to look for to see if you’ve found yourself in the suitable class or not:
- You feel welcomed. The teacher is friendly but professional. They have a good command of all the students and also acknowledge any new ones that come in;
- The teacher explains and demonstrates the poses, techniques, and movements very well;
- The teacher customizes the pace and level of their instruction according to what is appropriate for their students;
- The teacher strikes the fine balance between pushing you outside of your comfort zone while still acknowledging your limitations or preferences;
- The teacher does not discriminate. From total beginners to seasoned veterans, they teach respectfully and adjust their instruction accordingly;
- The teacher is open to questions and answers them politely and adequately (so don’t be scared that your question might be “stupid” — we’ve all had to start from somewhere!);
- You like the time and venue of the class;
- Other students actively participate in the class;
- You simply feel fulfilled and satisfied with the class!
Getting started with yoga isn’t exactly easy.
While having a lot of available styles might mean greater freedom of choice, it can also result in choice paralysis for a lot of people.
We hope that our quick overview helped you narrow down your picks!
Don’t be afraid to join that class!
Also, keep an open mind as other styles might be the one for you even if it didn’t seem like it at first.
At the end of the day, you will know deep inside if you’ve made the right choice.
Not only will it feel fun and satisfying, but you will also feel improvements both physically and mentally.
So what are you waiting for?
Start picking because there are countless yoga studios out there that’d be happy to welcome you!