Yoga has been around for thousands of years, and there’s no doubt that it’s well and truly here to stay – A recent study found that more and more doctors with traditional Western training are prescribing yoga as a form of therapy and treatment to their patients, and the body of research behind its multitude of benefits just keeps growing.
Whether you’re looking to try yoga for the first time, or looking for a new challenge with your practice, it can be difficult to navigate the seemingly endless list of different types of yoga, classes and variations of yoga, let alone choose which one might be the best option for you.
To help make things easier, we’ve put together this handy guide to 15 different styles of yoga, what their benefits are, what to expect in a class, and why you might like to give a particular version a try.
|Ashtanga Yoga||Bikram Yoga||Hatha Yoga|
|Hot Yoga||Iyengar Yoga||Kundalini Yoga|
|Power Yoga||Prenatal Yoga||Restorative Yoga|
|Siddha Yoga||Sivananda Yoga||Tantric Yoga|
|Viniyoga™||Vinyasa Yoga||Yin Yoga|
Ashtanga is a relatively intense form of yoga which is performed in a heated room (the room is not heated to be as hot as a Bikram yoga class). An ashtanga class involves practicing a series of postures in the same order each time, meaning that almost any studio you visit for an ashtanga class will be the same.
Teachers will generally not demonstrate the poses, but instead, will move around the room, calling out the names of the postures, instructing with their voice, and also performing gentle corrections and adjustments on students individually (you’ll need to be 100% comfortable with being touched!).
This type of class is ideal for those who want a helping hand to go deeper in their bends and stretches, and is also great for those who wish to practice the sequence at home if they can’t make it to a class, since the series of postures can easily be memorised. The class is also great for those looking for a more intense workout than other types of yoga.
More information on Ashtanga yoga.
Prepare to sweat! Bikram Yoga is a popular style of yoga developed by Bikram Choudhury in the 1980’s, and involves performing a series of 26 postures in a room heated to 40°C.
Classes always last for 90 minutes, and the same sequence of postures is performed in every class, in the same order. The benefits of Bikram Yoga are numerous, and include improved flexibility and strength (proven by a 2013 study), detoxification of the body through sweating, and better posture, mobility, and alignment of the body.
The warmth of the room also makes the muscles and ligaments more limber, which in turn makes it easier and more comfortable for you to achieve those deeper bends, stretches and twists. While Bikram is an extremely challenging form of yoga, beginners are always welcomed and encouraged to try a class. If at any point the class gets too intense for you, you are welcome to adopt child’s pose until you feel ready to continue.
More info on Bikram Yoga.
Hatha yoga is a blanket term used to refer to any type of yoga which involves asanas, or postures – Physical postures are actually only one of the eight “limbs” which guide the practice of yoga, the rest being focused on spiritual elements, as well as the breath and thoughts.
More information on hatha yoga.
Hot yoga simply refers to any type of yoga which is performed in a heated room. The temperature of the room will normally vary depending on the studio you go to, and the postures performed may be different from class to class as well.
Similar to Bikram Yoga though, the heat of the room in a hot yoga class encourages detoxification through sweating, and also makes the muscles and limbs more limber. Many people also find the heat of the room deeply relaxing and calming (especially when it comes to savasana at the end of class!)
Iyengar Yoga is a style of yoga developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, a prolific yoga teacher, author, and the main person credited with popularising yoga around the world (he is often referred to as having been “The Father of Modern Yoga”).
Iyengar yoga classes are very meticulous, and focus on achieving perfect alignment in the postures, which are generally fairly static. To help with achieving this perfect alignment, students are encouraged to use yoga aids such as blocks, straps, chairs, and rope, all of which will be provided for you in your class.
Expect to receive very specific instruction, slight adjustments and feedback throughout the class from your instructor – perfect for those wishing to gain a solid foundational knowledge of a range of asanas, or those who want to take their practice to the next level. Not only will your body be challenged, but so too will your mind – it takes a lot of concentration to hold a pose perfectly for an extended period of time!
More information on Iyengar yoga.
Kundalini yoga is a dynamic and transformational form of yoga which aims to bring a higher sense of awareness and spirituality to those who practice it.
Kundalini yoga incorporates the use of kriyas – specific exercises and breathing techniques which aim to generate kundalini energy in the body’s chakras, and in turn, foster a greater sense of inner peace, truth and compassion.
If you have practiced other forms of yoga, you may be familiar with one of Kundalini’s more common kriya techniques – an exercise which involves alternate nostril breathing (closing the left nostril, breathing through the right nostril, and then vice versa). In terms of the physical postures of Kundalini, a majority of them focus on the core and spine, as well as applying pressure to certain meridians in the body.
More information on Kundalini yoga.
Power yoga is a term which refers to any type of vigorous yoga which is designed to provide a more intense workout than other “traditional” forms of yoga.
Classes will vary slightly from studio to studio, and will depend greatly on your instructor, but the aim is normally to perform sequences of asanas relatively quickly in a flowing, fluid sequence in order to elevate the heart rate, and strengthen the muscles, and improve the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
Power yoga is perfect for those who want a more intense workout, but who can’t participate in high-impact activities such as running or aerobics.
Prenatal yoga refers to a type of yoga class which is specifically formulated for expectant mothers, and also new mothers and their babies.
Each class will be a little different, depending on the studio you decide to visit, but generally, poses, postures and stretches will be adapted according to how far along in pregnancy you are.
Prenatal yoga has been deemed as a great way to strengthen the muscles involved with birth, and is designed to make labour easier and more enjoyable for both mother and baby, as well as make returning to yoga and exercise postpartum easier.
More information on prenatal yoga.
Restorative yoga is one of the gentlest and most relaxing forms of yoga out there, and a personal favourite of ours!
Classes will involve using yoga props such as blocks, bolsters, and blankets to hold students in passive poses, so that they don’t have to exert any physical effort.
Restorative yoga is the perfect type of yoga class in which to relax and unwind, or for those whose mobility is limited by certain physical conditions or injuries.
More information on restorative yoga.
Siddha yoga is often also described as a form of meditation as well as a type of yoga, and aims to bring a higher sense of self-awareness and spirituality to those who practice it.
Siddha yoga and meditation classes involve turning one’s attention inwards, and will often involve music, chanting and the repetition of mantras throughout the class.
Siddha yoga is perfect for those who like a strong focus on the mental and spiritual aspects of yoga, rather than simply performing the physical asanas and stretches.
More information on Siddha yoga.
Sivananda yoga is a gentle, deeply calming and relaxing form of yoga focused heavily on yogic breathing. A regular class lasts for 90 minutes, and involves 12 postures, which may vary slightly from class to class depending on the instructor.
As well as asanas and breathing, this form of yoga also recommends its practitioners follow a yogic diet comprised primarily (or totally, if possible) of vegetarian foods.
Sivananda yoga is perfect for those who like a gentler, more relaxing form of yoga, or who are looking to make bigger changes in their life outside of the classroom as well.
More information on Sivananda yoga.
Tantric Yoga (often referred to as Tantra yoga) is a form of yoga which aims to help one form a deeper connection with their own inner thoughts, while strengthening their mind at the same time.
It is not, as many in modern times have come to believe, necessarily a sexual form of yoga – Although, tantra yoga when practiced in pairs by couples can deepen and enhance the relationship they share by strengthening their bond and their understanding of each other.
More information about tantra yoga.
Viniyoga™ is a style of yoga in which classes, postures and sequences are tailored to the individual depending on their individual skill level, needs, goals, and physical condition.
Classes will often involve a lot of feedback and personalised instruction from your teacher, and it’s the perfect style of yoga to try if you have a pre-existing medical condition that needs special care and attention.
More information about Viniyoga™.
Often also referred to as Vinyasa Flow yoga, this popular type of yoga class involves sequences of postures that literally “flow” from one to the other in fluid movements.
The almost constant movement throughout the class raises the heart rate, and strengthens the cardiovascular system. Depending on the studio you visit, instructors will often play music to create a more upbeat atmosphere, and the routines you perform in your class may at times feel slightly like a choreographed dance.
More information about vinyasa yoga..
Yin yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga which involves holding asanas for longer periods of time than with most other forms of yoga.
Asanas may be held for up to 5 minutes or more in a yin yoga class, and postures generally involve very little use of the muscles. The effect is a more meditative, relaxing class which focuses on gently stretching and opening up the joints, muscles, and ligaments, and focusing the mind.
Yin yoga is perfect for those who like a more relaxed and gentle form of yoga, and those who wish to gradually improve their flexibility and overall mobility.
More information about yin yoga.
Need more help choosing what type of yoga is best for you? We love this quiz by Gaiam – What type of yogi are you?
Pregnant? This in depth guide shows you how to practice yoga during pregnancy