Just like our own bodies, yoga comes in many different forms. You don’t have to be athletic, skinny or flexible to practice yoga. There are various types to choose from, which can be modified to suit a range of experiences and abilities.
Before we delve into all the different kinds of yoga and which type might benefit you the most, let's explore what yoga is.
Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “Yuj”, which in its simplest form means “union.” Yoga is a practice that encourages the unification of body and mind, creating a peaceful experience of our inner and outer worlds.
What do you want from your yoga practice?
It's vital you remember that there is no right or wrong type of yoga. Instead, finding the best kind for you depends on what you want to achieve.
Want to be more flexible? Are you looking for dynamic movement or something slower? Do you want to find new ways of managing stress?
These are essential questions to ask when choosing the best kind of yoga for you.
How do you know which type of yoga is best?
Your motivation for beginning a yoga class will inform the type you choose. Your goals might be to lose weight, gain greater flexibility or limit the effects of stress on your life.
With so many styles to choose from, this guide to the most common types of yoga will help you better understand what will work best for your body. Choose one that you can connect with and that makes you feel comfortable.
Keep in mind that yoga isn't a quick fix. The benefits come over time with consistency, patience and self-compassion.
Ten common types of yoga: from Yin to Ashtanga and everything in between
The word “Hatha” comes from Sanskrit. It can be broken into two parts meaning “sun” (ha) and “moon” (tha).
Hatha yoga combines movement, breathing and meditation techniques designed to align the body, mind and spirit. It is ideal for beginners as the postures are practiced slowly and mindfully. Instructors will often say both Sanskrit and modern names for the poses, which is a great way to get familiar with the strange-sounding words.
In Sanskrit, Ashtanga means “eight-limbed path.”
This type of yoga is a demanding set of postures, which flow from one pose to the next. Ashtanga yoga is not suited to beginners as the postures are more complicated and fast flowing. Ashtanga is often described as "one breath, one movement."
Through a series of standing and floor postures, Ashtanga creates intense heat in the body. The dynamic movement builds strength and stamina and causes you to sweat out toxins.
Developed by B.K.S Iyenger, this type of yoga focuses heavily on alignment. Using equipment such as blocks and belts, this type of yoga teaches you to get into the postures with precision.
With hundreds of different poses in varying degrees of difficulty, beginners and more advanced yogis can reap the benefits of Iyengar yoga. Using equipment allows students to move into postures safely, reducing the risk of injury.
It is the perfect kind of yoga for those who are looking for alignment, rehabilitation from injury or who want to have an in-depth knowledge of yoga.
The essence of restorative yoga is total body relaxation. Postures are usually performed in reclined positions, making use of equipment such as bolsters, blocks, straps and blankets.
Restorative yoga is fantastic for cleansing the mind, de-stressing and letting the body unwind. It's not dynamic at all. The postures are modified to make them more comfortable, with variations held for longer, allowing you to sink down and completely relax.
It's suitable for beginners and highly beneficial for those recovering from injury.
Hot yoga is performed in a heated room that reaches around 40°C. The temperature generates heat in the body, causing you to sweat profusely. This form of yoga is excellent for detoxification and flexibility as the heated room allows your muscles to stretch further.
With regular practice, this type of yoga is well known for improving stamina and boosting the performance of your vital organs. Through the steady control of breath, lung capacity increases, and your heart rate recovers more quickly.
You burn a lot of calories in a hot yoga class, so this type of yoga is ideal for those who want to lose weight and tone up. Those with cardiovascular issues and high blood pressure should avoid hot yoga due to the stress it puts on the circulatory system.
Yin yoga is a profoundly relaxing, slow and mindful practice. It focuses on the connective tissues in the body rather than the main muscle groups. The postures are held for two minutes or more, allowing the body to sink into relaxation.
Once you settle into a pose, the instructor will guide you to slow the breath, allowing it to become expansive and steady. The extended inhalation and exhalation facilitate a deeper release for your ligaments, joints and fascia.
Yin yoga is perfect for relieving stress and anxiety. The practice is also known for releasing stored emotional tension in the body. You can practice as a beginner. Over time, you'll notice greater joint flexibility and better circulation to your joints.
Vinyasa yoga synchronizes the breath and movement in fluid sequences without pause. Depending on the teacher and student's abilities, it can be slower or more dynamic. Each posture flows from one to the next, using the breath as the guide for movement.
This yoga type will incorporate many poses, including twists, balances and binds. Vinyasa flow is more suited to those who already have an active lifestyle. If you have injuries or issues with your back or neck pain, this probably isn't the best yoga style for your body.
Aerial yoga involves traditional poses performed with a robust silken hammock suspended from the ceiling.
The hammock supports you in various postures and is particularly good for inversions. It enables those who wouldn't usually be able to perform inverted postures to have the experience of a fully supported head or handstand.
It can be dynamic, challenging and complicated or easily modified for beginners.
If building strength and stamina is one of your yoga goals, this could be the type to try. Power yoga is less focused on the traditional spiritual aspects of yoga. Instead, working the body hard by holding challenging poses like plank, chaturanga and three-legged dog for quite some time.
These classes are not suitable for beginners, as you need a lot of strength to maintain the postures.
Power yoga is ideal if you are already familiar with yoga and are looking to boost your muscle density and flexibility.
This yoga is practiced with a partner and can be adapted to suit all abilities. Taking acro yoga classes with your beloved or friends can be an excellent way to connect.
One of you will stay as the base, elevating the other in various poses adapted explicitly for the acro yoga style. It builds an enormous amount of strength and also improves non-verbal communication with your partner.
The main element here is trust. Once you trust that your base partner supports you appropriately, your body will begin to flow between one pose and the next. Classes will range in abilities, so it's perfect for experimenting, even as a beginner.
Now that you've read through the different types of yoga, it's time to choose the kind that will benefit you most. If you are a beginner, I suggest finding a local class that teaches hatha yoga. You'll learn the basics and familiarize yourself with the postures. As your confidence builds, you can try vinyasa or even hot yoga if you enjoy a good sweat.
The most important thing is to listen to your body and choose a type of yoga that resonates with you. Take your fitness and mindset goals into account and select a style that feels aligned with those goals.
If you are in doubt, call local yoga schools, and talk to them about where you are on your yoga journey. Most teachers enjoy talking about their practice and love to help potential students find the best type of yoga for them.
- There are many different forms of yoga to suit all body types and abilities.
- Remember: there is no right or wrong type of yoga.
- Choose the style that best aligns with your fitness and mindset goals.
- Don’t go straight into an advanced class, start slowly and build confidence.
- It’s okay to do more than one type of yoga.
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The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. “I'm More in Balance”: A Qualitative Study of Yoga for Patients with Chronic Neck Pain.