Nine Types of Yoga

Did you know there are over nine different types of yoga. Each one is basically a variation or adaptation of another. They have been structured to meet a specific variety of needs based on the goal of the yogi. Some offer more physically demanding practices, while others focus on meditation and/or relaxing.

Each style will also be a bit different than the other based on the instructor leading the practice, if you are practicing in a group setting. When exploring a yoga practice you prefer, remember, you don’t need to stick with only one. Also, remember, that the setting and instructor can make your practice enjoyable and uplifting or a stressful nightmare. Be patient with yourself in your exploration and enjoy the journey.

Let’s explore the yoga types:

1. Vinyasa yoga

Vinyasa means “to place in a special way” and, in this case, yoga postures. Vinyasa yoga is the most athletic yoga style. Vinyasa was adapted from ashtanga yoga in the 1980s. Many types of yoga can also be considered vinyasa flows such as ashtanga, power yoga, and prana.

How to practice:

The movement in vinyasa yoga is coordinated with your breath. The body moves in conjunction with the breath to flow from one pose to another. Vinyasa styles can vary depending on the teacher, and there can be many types of poses in different sequences.

2. Hatha yoga

The Sanskrit term “hatha” is an umbrella term for all physical postures of yoga. In the West, hatha yoga simply refers to all the other styles of yoga (ashtanga, Iyengar, etc.) that are grounded in a physical practice. However, there are other branches of yoga such as kriya, raja, and karma yoga that are separate from the physical-based yoga practice. The physical-based yoga is the most popular and has numerous styles.

How to practice:

Hatha yoga classes are best for beginners since they are usually paced slower than other yoga styles. Hatha classes today are a classic approach to breathing and exercises. If you are brand-new to yoga, hatha yoga is a great entry point to the practice.

3. Iyengar yoga

Iyengar yoga was founded by B.K.S. Iyengar and focuses on alignment as well as detailed and precise movements. In an Iyengar class, students perform a variety of postures while controlling the breath.

How to practice:

Generally, poses are held for a long time while adjusting the pose in small specific ways. Iyengar relies heavily on props to help students perfect their form and go deeper into poses in a safe manner. Although you won’t jump around, you will definitely get a workout and feel incredibly open and relaxed after an Iyengar class. This style is really great for people with injuries who need to work slowly and methodically.

4. Kundalini yoga

Kundalini yoga practice is equal parts spiritual and physical. This style is all about releasing the kundalini energy in your body said to be trapped, or coiled, in the lower spine.

How to practice:

These classes work your core and breathing with fast-moving, invigorating postures and breathing exercises. These classes are intense and can involve chanting, mantra, and meditation.

5. Ashtanga yoga

In Sanskrit, ashtanga is translated as “Eight Limb path.” In Mysore, India, people gather to practice this form of yoga together at their own pace—if you see Mysore-led ashtanga, it’s expected of you to know the series. Vinyasa yoga stems from ashtanga as the flowing style linking breath to movement.

How to practice:

Ashtanga yoga involves a very physically demanding sequence of postures, so this style of yoga is not for the beginner. It takes an experienced yogi to really love it. Ashtanga starts with five sun salutation A’s and five sun salutation B’s and then moves into a series of standing and floor postures.

6. Bikram yoga

Bikram yoga is named after Bikram Choudhury and features a sequence of set poses in a sauna-like room—typically set to 105 degrees and 40% humidity. Choudhury faced sexual assault and harassment lawsuits in the U.S. and fled to Mexico in 2017. Many studios that were formerly Bikram now practice hot yoga, in an effort to disassociate with the founder. 

How to practice:

The sequence includes a series of 26 basic postures, with each one performed twice. Many of these poses are focused on proper alignment. If you’re interested in yoga with the heat turned up, look for studios that offer hot yoga classes. 

7. Yin yoga

Yin yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga with seated postures that are held for longer periods of time. Yin can also be a meditative yoga practice that helps you find inner peace.

How to practice:

Yin is a great class for beginners, as postures can be held for from 45 seconds to 2 minutes. The classes are relaxed, as you’re supposed to let gravity do most of the work.

8. Restorative yoga

Restorative yoga focuses on winding down after a long day and relaxing your mind. At its core, this style focuses on body relaxation. Restorative yoga also helps to cleanse and free your mind.

How to practice:

You spend more time in fewer postures throughout the class. Many of the poses are modified to be easier and more relaxing. Like Iyengar, many props are used and are placed just right such as blankets, bolsters, and eye pillows. All of the props are there to help you sink deeper into relaxation.

9. Prenatal yoga

Prenatal yoga is carefully adapted for “moms to be” and is tailored to women in all trimesters. Many have said that prenatal is one of the best types of exercise for expectant moms because of the pelvic floor work, focus on breathing, and bonding with the growing baby; prenatal yoga also helps mothers prepare for labor and delivery.

How to practice:

During this practice, you’ll use props in order to modify your poses and ensure stability—in this class, it’s way more about stability than flexibility.

Whichever type of yoga you choose to practice, make sure you’re being patient with yourself. Enjoy the possibilities each differing practice has to offer and have fun with the practice.

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