Learn 21 Of The Many Types Of Yoga
There are many kinds of yoga, and it can be really hard to identify just what style is the best one for you to try out. This is a challenge that both new students and current practitioners face. However, most yoga styles are all derived from the same basic style of yoga.
Having said that, the poses, known as asanas, can result in very different experiences depending on what kind of class you go to. This guide covers nearly two dozen forms of yoga - along with brief descriptions that tell you about them and who they are good for - so that you can learn where you might want to either start your practice or shift it towards if you're already a regular on your yoga mat.
Routine yoga practice gives you a lot of benefits in terms of your health. You'll increase your flexibility, strength, muscle tone, and cardiovascular health. You'll sleep better and night and have better energy during the day. You'll also recover from injuries faster and enjoy endorphins like never before, while your stress, anxiety, insomnia, and depression all get reduced over time due to the natural healing effects of yoga.
Now that you know just a few of the benefits of doing yoga, keep reading into the following paragraphs to learn some of the major styles of yoga so you can know which one might be the best one for you to study.
1) Anusara Yoga
John Friend founded this style in 1997. It's a style that puts a strong focus on physical alignment as well as a philosophy of positivity wherein all beings are intrinsically good. Heart-openings are a running theme, and classes are often accessible to students of all levels with a light-hearted approach. Friend is actually not personally associated with this style any longer because of personal indiscretions, but he has come up with a new style mentioned later in the list.
Best For: Anyone looking to feel better, whether they're new to the mat or not.
2) Ashtanga Yoga
If you crave challenge, structure, and order on your mat, then Ashtanga is for you. Students of this style breathe and flow through six different series of poses in very specific sequences that build up internal heat. The structure is in fact so rigid, that every class will have the same poses in the same order, every time.
Best For: Perfectionists; if you have a Type A mindset on your mat, this is the way to go.
3) Bikram Yoga
If you're looking for cardio and yoga, then Bikram is a great choice. This specific series of 26 different poses is combined with a pair of breathing exercises. Classes or sessions typically happen in rooms heated up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit and a minimum of 40 percent humidity. Every Bikram studio runs identical 1.5-hour sequences for those ready for a predictable sequence.
Best For: Those who know how to be properly hydrated in advance, as well as some students that find the consistency easier to learn.
4) Forrest Yoga
Ana Forrest started this style from the California city of Santa Monica. A number of thorough asana sequences are taught in ways that should make your body cleaner and stronger, while you are able to let go of any unresolved or buried pain and emotions. Classes are typically intense workouts that emphasize deep breathing, inversions, and core work.
Best For: Students past the beginner stage looking to really release past negativity and heal from physical wounds.
5) Goat Yoga
Yoga with goats? This is a kind of yoga class that is either practiced in the presence of goats or in tandem with them. Often done in barnyards, it's a chance to practice outdoors, which is always great, as well as have goats check and trust your alignment as a teacher might lead one up or down your back during down dog poses.
Best For: Anyone looking for an awesome selfie to post on Facebook or just a good laugh with friends.
6) Hot Yoga
Hot yoga classes are very similar to Bikram classes, in that they're practiced inside humid, hot rooms. The advantage of the heat should be that you can get more limber and deeper into your poses as compared to a cold or room-temperature class. Hot yoga teachers don't have to follow the specific Bikram sequence, but some closely resemble it. If you want to be able to wring sweat out of your mat after your class, get here.
Best For: Anyone looking for Bikram on a budget; just putting the Bikram name on a studio wall or schedule means having to pay royalties and fees, so generic 'hot' classes are typically less expensive.
7) Moksha/Modo Yoga
This form of hot yoga started in Toronto over a decade ago under the Moksha name. It was changed to Modo yoga in the United States to avoid confusion with a Sanskrit word that's been part of the yoga vocabulary for thousands of years. Studios practicing these sequences of poses are often mirrored and emphasize eco-consciousness in details like recyclable paper cups and dry-erase boards.
Best For: Anyone looking for their first hot yoga class; the concept of accessibility is a big one in Moksha/Modo, so it's easier for beginners to get into than Bikram might be.
8) Hatha Yoga
Technically, the Sanskrit term of 'Hatha' covers any form of yoga that involves physical postures. However, in the modern lingo, it refers to slow-moving classes where each pose gets held long enough to take a few breaths.
Best For: Beginners or anyone coming back from a break, while they learn or remember the poses and build their lungs up.
9) Interactive Yoga Therapy
This is a comprehensive approach that Joseph Le Page founded back in 1993. It brings together the physical asanas with meditation, mantra, mudra, pranayama, and yoga nidra to make it more than an exercise so much as a therapeutic form of healing and medicine that now sees use in settings from rehab centers to hospitals.
Best For: Anyone looking to get every edge they can over an ailment or disease, or advanced yoga students looking to expand their practice past the mat.
10) Iyengar Yoga
If the physical mechanics of yoga practice interest you, find one of these classes. It's all about detail and precision in terms of body alignment to each pose. You'll be shown how to use props, including blankets, blocks, straps, and wall ropes, to perfect your alignment in each pose in safe, effective ways.
Best For: Anatomy enthusiasts or just anyone looking for ideas on how to use props to adapt poses to their own practice and body.
11) Jivamukti Yoga
One of the most well-known studios of New York City was the 1980s source of this kind of yoga. Founders Sharon Gannon and David Life brought a strong Ashtanga influence, but decided to work in meditation, chanting, and spiritual teachings.
Teachers of this style can be found across North America and Europe and typically bring an inspirational theme to their classes.
Best For: Students who love the physical intensity and rigor of Ashtanga but crave a more mental element.
12) Kripalu Yoga
If you Google this one, you'll find that it's both a style of yoga and also a physical retreat center located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. This particular practice dives more into the heart and mind, as the approach is spiritual, meditative, and compassionate.
Best For: Anyone limited in their physical practice by injury, weight, illness, or age.
13) Kundalini Yoga
This kind of yoga has earned something of a cult following thanks to celebrity devotees. Author Gabrielle Bernstein is one, as is actor Russell Brand. The practice is challenging both mentally and phsyically, and yet the movements are quite different from most other styles on this list. Emphasis is put on kriyas which are physical exercises repeated in a high volume alongside intense breathwork, meditation, singing, and chanting. The goals aren't so much about physical strength and flexibility as much as wearing down mental and spiritual barriers to access higher energy inside.
Best For: Anyone whose physical practice is satisfactory or even stale looking for a spiritual component to their yoga routine.
14) Power Yoga
This style of yoga showed up in the middle of the 1990s as a number of influential teachers were looking to make traditional yoga something that more people can find accessible, particularly as a form of exercise. There's a definite Ashtanga influence here, although the rigidity of the sequences doesn't carry over and teachers can pick their own poses. Power yoga is basically a thorough flow of vinyasa.
Best For: Anyone who wants to start yoga as a form of exercise or cardio.
15) Prenatal Yoga / Pregnancy Yoga
IMPORTANT: Be sure to check with your medical provider BEFORE starting a prenatal yoga class. Expecting mothers in any trimester can still get their practice on in adapted poses that are safe for both mom and child. Get better prepared for labor and delivery with an emphasis on breathing, bonding, and pelvic floor work.
Best For: Anyone carrying a child in their womb, although anyone planning or hoping to be pregnant soon might want to show up to learn the style in advance too.
16) Restorative Yoga
If you take a restorative yoga class, you're not going to feel like you're doing all that much. Truth is, that's the entire point. This class is slow in its movements, and many classes have poses held up by props like bolsters, blocks, and blankets so that you don't even have to actively hold a pose. This is the ultimate chance to rest and release while on your mat.
Best For: Those days your mind and heart crave yoga but your body doesn't.
17) Sivananda Yoga
Swami Vishnu-devananda was a disciple of the famous Swami Sivananda, and he went on to found the very first center for this kind of yoga in 1959. Roughly 80 centers around the world now maintain the practice that is based on meditation, asana, and pranayama. Students devote themselves to mastering a dozen or so poses.
Best For: Those looking to study core and traditional yoga fundamentals in-depth.
Remember John Friend who started Anasura yoga near the start of this list? Good, you're still reading, or you just skipped down. In either case, he paired up with Desi Springer, who owns a yoga studio in Colorado to start up this kind of yoga in 2012. They introduced a new system of alignment that they called the bowspring. It's very different from a lot of other kinds of yoga in that many poses will actually keep the knees bent and the practitioner's pelvis is tipped forward to keep the spine curved. Advocates of it say this alignment gives them newfound power and strength.
Best For: Anyone that doesn't quite feel right in traditional practices, or students just looking to experiment outside the box a little.
T. Krishnamacharya was a highly regarded teacher who developed this style of yoga later in his life, although the terminology was derived by his son T.K.V. Desikachar. This approach is very different from many studio classes in that the practice is created at an individual level to suit each student based on where they are in life and health. It can still be taught in group classes, with adaptations done at a student level.
Best For: Students who have heard teachers say "Yoga meets us where we're at" and need that to happen!
20) Vinyasa Yoga
This dynamic practice is likely to get you breaking a slight sweat and your heart pumping, It's almost like dancing in the way that breath and movement are linked to each other at a fast pace. Many teachers love pumping upbeat music, including rock n' roll, rap, and even hip-hop during their sequences.
Best For: Lovers of HIIT and anyone living an otherwise sedentary lifestyle who'd like to get their cardio and zen on simultaneously.
21) Yin Yoga
On the other hand, if your life is constantly keeping you in a state of stress or even anxiety and agony, then this style of yoga is great for calming and then balancing your body with your mind. As almost a direct opposite to fast-moving practices (we're looking at you Ashtanga), the poses in Yin yoga are held for multiple minutes at a time. It's a meditative practice that emphasizes deeper connective tissues and your fascia, as you restore elasticity and length using body props to support you. Ironically, this practice might cause some anxiety at first, since your ever-active mind will jump all over the place, but you'll eventually settle in. However, if you have a connective tissue disorder, it's best to avoid this kind of practice. Also, anyone that's already very flexible might overdo some of these poses and injure themselves.
Best For: Days or weekends you want to unwind, or if there just aren't enough restorative classes on your studio's schedule.
Hopefully, you've at least browsed or scrolled through most of this list. Most of the styles were presented in alphabetical order, because none of them are honestly any 'better' than the others. The optimal types of yoga are the ones that you can physically do safely and derive benefit from. As you try out various forms, don't restrict yourself or fall into the trap of doing only one style all the time. You might find that Ashtanga or Vinyasa gets you through the week, but your weekends are reserved for Yin and Restorative. Bouncing back and forth between active and resting styles on alternating days is also a great way to practice yoga daily while still having rest days in between the days of pumping your heart and building strength up.
Even though yoga is a form of exercise to some and a spiritual discipline or pursuit for others, you always need to treat it as a form of exercise in terms of your doctor or primary care physician. Most forms of yoga should be practiced quite safely if the teacher is trained and certified. Still, it is important and highly recommended that you get looked over first by your medical provider and get clearance to practice before you start. Try and pick something basic and simple so you can learn how to listen to your body and avoid injuring yourself on the mat. You might hear a saying in classes that if it doesn't feel good, don't do it, and that will usually hold. Your growth as a yogi will often come just a little outside your comfort zone but far before you feel any physical pain.
As you look around your community for classes, keep in mind that you can practice yoga in many different settings. Many prefer the cost-effectiveness and company involved in studio group classes open to the public, but you can also find private group classes, private lessons one on one with a teacher in a studio, their home, or your own home. YouTube and other video sites often have streaming content, and there are premium services that provide these too. There are also more DVDs than you can possibly imagine. No matter what style you choose from this list, you can find sources of the material and teachings quickly and easily.
Good luck and namaste (the light in me honors the light in you)...
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