Are you confused by the various types of yoga? Here’s an overview of the most popular types to help you choose one that’s best suited to your goals.
It seems the world has gone yoga mad in recent years, with everyone from Hollywood celebrities to famous athletes praising its numerous benefits.
Getting started with yoga can be tricky for beginners though. There are many types of yoga, each with their own formats, so it’s important to choose one that matches your goals.
The types aren’t completely separate, as there’s often overlap in the poses and techniques used. The speed of transition, type of poses, length of holds and other factors can vary greatly though, which can make some types more challenging than others.
To help untangle this confusing landscape, here are seven of the most popular types of yoga. While we can’t guarantee all these types will be available in your area, they are amongst the most common in yoga studios across the western world.
Hatha is arguably the best type of yoga for beginners – and it’s certainly one of the most popular.
Before I go any further, it’s important to be specific about what we mean by Hatha though. The word “Hatha” is often used to describe a certain type of yoga, such as some of the examples below. In reality, the term Hatha really just means the general practice of yoga – but is often used incorrectly to mean a simple class with slow movements.
A typical Hatha class includes a mixture of basic postures, breathing and meditation. The focus is on relaxation rather than an intense physical workout. If you’re looking for a sedate introduction to yoga, a class labelled as “Hatha” is a great place to start.
If you’re a newcomer to yoga but want a class that’s a bit faster than Hatha, a Vinyasa class is a great next step. When modern studios talk about “Vinyasa” yoga, they mean combining breathing and poses into a dynamic sequence that’s more challenging than a Hatha class.
During a standard class, most Vinyasa teachers will ask you to perform a set sequence multiple times. The key is to “flow” between the poses while synchronising your breathing.
Note: Be aware that the classical meaning of Vinyasa is simply any set of sequential movements that are connected with the breath.
Kundalini is an older form of yoga that focuses as much on spirituality as it does on physical activity.
During Kundalini, you’ll combine rapid breathing with a set of poses to create a more intense workout. The sequences of poses are faster than many other types and incorporate conscious breathing. Kundalini also includes meditation and chanting, with the goal of awakening energy at the base of the spine to increase awareness.
4. Hot Yoga
Unlike the average yoga class, hot yoga is performed in a heated room. The temperature can be up to 40 degrees Celsius with a humidity of 40%, so it can be an intense experience!
Aside from a high temperature, Hot Yoga uses similar flow and poses to Vinyasa. This means you’ll link poses together in a smooth movement while focusing on your breathing. Some people believe that warmer temperatures help loosen up muscles and increase fat burning rates (although for weight loss you might want to check out our review of Yoga Burn).
Hot Yoga certainly isn’t for everyone. This type of class can be challenging and uncomfortable – plus it may not be suitable for people with medical conditions (check with the instructor before you start). Remember to bring a large bottle of water!
Note: Bikram yoga isn’t necessarily the same as Hot Yoga, although the two are closely related. Bikram is a specific type of Hot Yoga that involves 26 poses in a hot room. Just because a yoga is performed in a high temperature environment doesn’t make it Bikram though.
If Hatha yoga is for beginners and Vinyasa for those who want a more challenging class, Ashtanga is another step up. This type is more athletic than others and focuses on six specific sequences, each with its own focus and characteristics. The sequences are meant to be completed at the student’s pace, although some practitioners offer instructor led classes.
An Ashtanga class usually begins with a set of sun salutation A’s and B’s, followed by one of the six sequences. Each sequence has its own goals and focus.
A good example is the first sequence: Yoga Chikitsa. This sequence aims to increase flexibility, stamina and strength. You can expect it to take up to two-hours, as it contains 75 poses, although this depends on your experience.
If Ashtanga sounds a bit too difficult, Anusara is great choice for beginners. It’s a relatively new type of yoga – at least compared to other types – and focuses on aligning the body while helping you to feel uplifted.
Yin yoga is a brilliant class if you want to relax after a hard day. Poses are held for longer during a Yin class – in some cases up to 5-minutes – which provides plenty of time for contemplation.
It’s not just about feeling less stressed though. Holding poses for this long forces the connective tissue surrounding muscles and joints to adapt, which can improve flexibility.
If you’re an impatient person, the thought of holding a pose for this long might seem frustrating. But don’t dismiss Yin Yoga, as it’s a great way to practice mindfulness.
Whatever your fitness goals, there’s almost certainly a type of yoga that can help you reach them – and the seven in this article are just a small selection. Many yoga studios also combine several types of yoga in one class, so there are almost endless possibilities.
If you’re not sure which to choose, I recommend going to a few introduction classes. You’ll quickly realise which is best suited to your current fitness level and experience.
Do you have any questions about the various types of yoga? Or have I missed your favourite type from this list? Let me know in the comments section.