Workout fads come and go, but none can compare to the longstanding traditional practice of yoga. Rich in history- yoga dates back over 5,000 years ago, yoga isn’t just limited to asanas (aka yoga poses). The immense benefits of yoga also have to do with the uniting of body, mind and breath, resulting in peace of mind, stress relief, improved immunity, and and increased energy to live with greater awareness. Beyond just choosing the right teacher, when you are starting at a class schedule board, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer number of types of yoga. We’ve compiled a guide to the most common yoga class styles (listed in alphabetical order) seen in studios and gyms so you can get a better sense of how your personality fits into your yoga. Keep calm and yoga on.
A lighter and modified take on the traditional Iyengar yoga, the Anusara style teaches you poses that allow your heart to open, incorporating philosophy, yoga therapy and alignment principles. Founded by American-born yogi John Friend in 1997, this more recent form of yoga practice uses props like blocks, straps and belts for extra support. Anusara shares the same benefits of other yoga practices but a focus on With all the increased strength flexibility and inner peace.
Ed. Note: John Friend has been involved in repeated sex scandals since 2012. We mention this yoga form because it has many devotees but we do not condone the founder’s criminal behavior.
Challenging, quick-paced, and repetitive, Ashtanga yoga possesses six set sequences of established and dynamic poses that ashtangis follow in the exact order every time. Based on ancient yoga teachings popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois, (pronounced pat-tah-bee-joyce), as a modern day form of classic Indian yoga, similar to Vinyasa yoga, Ashtanga links every movement to a breath to produce internal heat composed to purify the body. This practice places a big focus on learning Ujjayi breath, an ancient yogic breathing technique that involves bringing your breath into the back of your throat; the term is commonly translated as ‘victorious breath.’ Hearing it is supposed to help you connect your movements with each inhale and exhale. Prepare to sweat. A lot.
A popular yoga practice with a devoted fanbase including celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, George Clooney and Lady Gaga, available in many studios all over the world, Bikram Yoga is a 90-minute class taught in 40-degree Celsius heat (with at least 40% humidity) from a single memorized dialogue of 26 specific hatha yoga postures performed twice each. Founded by Bikram Choudhury, it’s worth noting if you’re looking at studio schedules that “hot yoga” and “Bikram” are not the same. While both happen in a heated room designed to make you sweat, the floor of Bikram yoga studios must be carpeted whereas hot yoga studios can choose to practice on various mediums; and while Bikram consists of the same poses performed in the same order during every class, hot yoga can be comprised of different postures that vary according to the studio or teacher’s preference.
Ed. Note: Bikram Choudhury has been involved in repeated sex scandals since 2013. We mention this yoga form because it has many devotees but we do not condone the founder’s criminal behavior.
In Sanskrit Hatha refers to the application of physical yoga postures, meaning that practices like Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Iyengar are all forms of hatha yoga. A classic and basic approach to yogic breathing exercises and postures, Hatha offers a more gentle yoga class that introduces basic yoga asanas you’ll need for other yoga studio classes. For yoga novices, this yoga style is a good starting point as it doesn’t require memorizing a specific sequencing pattern.
Developed by BKS Iyengar (pronounced eye-yen-gar), one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world, Iyengar yoga is all about precision and detail. Slow-paced and intentional, props such as blocks, straps, and belts are used to help achieve proper alignment, holding each pose for long moments. There is a lot of focus on breaking down and paying attention to each individual part of the body, making it ideal for people of all ages and abilities.
For those looking for a more spiritual practice, Kundalini yoga is a mental and physical practice blend aimed at getting in touch with your deeper self. Referred to as the yoga of awareness, Kundalini emphasizes the idea that your consciousness is what activates energy throughout the body. An ancient Sanskrit word that means ‘coiled snake,’ the term kundalini developed with the belief that each person possessed a divine energy at the base of the spine. Kundalini yoga classes include postures as well as meditation, breathing techniques and chanting.
Vinyasa Yoga (AKA Flow Yoga or Power Yoga)
Influenced by Ashtanga yoga, this yoga style is known for its fluidity of movement in a dynamic sequence of poses. Developed by Beryl Bender Birch and Bryan Kest (both of whom studied under K. Pattabhi Jois of Ashtanga fame), Vinyasa is especially loved as the flow and the breath are synchronized to deepen the mind body connection. The biggest difference from Ashtanga yoga is that Vinyasa does not adhere to the same sequence- the pose style and flow will depend on your teacher. Also referred to as flow yoga or power yoga, teachers will often lead flows from one pose to the next without stopping to increase.
Based on the Taoist concept of yin and yang, Yin Yoga is a very slow paced style of yoga during which postures are held for longer periods of time (45 seconds to two minutes for beginners; five minutes or more for advanced students). Meant as a complement to your yang yoga practice (to whit, the arduous Ashtanga, Iyengar, or Vinyasa flow), the Yin practice focuses on stretching connective tissue around the joints like the knees, pelvis, sacrum, and spine to increase overall support and flexibility. Muscles are relaxed in postures that are designed to let gravity do the heavy lifting work.