Which Yoga To Try: Different Types Of Yoga Explained

Veronica Kramer
written by Veronica Kramer
first posted on December 26, 2018
last updated on March 9, 2019

Table of Contents

The number of yoga styles nowadays is mind-boggling and can confuse even experienced yogis, let alone beginners. Though the majority of them make use of similar physical postures, there can be some key differences in the speed and difficulty of movements, whether chanting and meditation are the part of the class, or whether a studio room where the class takes place is artificially heated or not. Some yoga will keep you catching zen on the floor for the whole session whereas others will force you to move fast, sweat and burn calories.

Here you’ll find the breakdown of the major types of yoga, what to expect when attending the class, what benefits you will gain and video tutorials for each style so that you could practice yoga at home or wherever you go.

Hatha

Great for: Absolute beginners; ‘all-around’ practice enthusiasts.

What it is about: Hatha yoga means ‘yoga through force.’ Traditionally, it involves anything you can do with the body: physical postures, breathing, hand gestures mudras (the most familiar hand gesture is connecting the index finger and a thumb – you can often see it used in meditation), chanting, etc.

Hatha yoga was originally practiced to prepare the body for the extended periods of meditation. As Hatha moved to the West and evolved, it gained a new meaning and is now used as an umbrella term for any type of yoga practice that is rooted in physical postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama). With time, it branched out into different styles such as Ashtanga yoga or Iyengar, thus most of the yoga practiced nowadays is Hatha.

How the class looks like: There is no way to tell how a Hatha yoga class looks like, because it mostly depends on the instructor and their teaching style. Most often the class will mix a bit of everything.

Generally, Hatha is slow paced, yoga poses are held for a few minutes/breaths, and the session will end with some breathing exercises and relaxing Savasana (the Corpse Pose).

Hatha yoga is an excellent introduction to yoga for absolute beginners. It takes a classic approach to postures and breathing, is slow-paced, and, as some people would say, gentler than other yoga styles.

What will you get from the practice: 

  • improved muscular flexibility, according to studies;
  • released tension and decreased stress
  • better balance and concentration
  • calmer and peaceful mind.

If you’re not ready to step into the studio yet, check out the Youtube yoga tutorial below:

Vinyasa

Great for: Experienced practitioners; cardio lovers.

What it is about: In Sanskrit, vinyasa stands for ‘to place in a special way.’ Just like Hatha, Vinyasa is a general term that unites various styles of yoga and is sometimes also referred to as flow-style yoga, dynamic yoga or vinyasa flow.

The practice is very dynamic and fast. Students perform a sequence of poses that smoothly transition from one to another forming a continuous flow. The poses are synchronized with the breath throughout the practice.

Vinyasa aims to bring awareness to our bodies so that we could take this awareness into the daily routine. The practice helps perceive life as a sequence, a flow of events and aids in staying mindful during even the most mundane tasks.

How the class looks like: Vinyasa class doesn’t have a rough structure. The sequences change every session, and their flow, pace, and intensity will depend on your yoga instructor. Generally, the class starts with the series of sun salutations, which are repeated several times to warm up the body (and work up the sweat!) and ends with stretching and relaxation.

What will you get from the practice:

  • increased strength;
  • faster calorie burn (when combined with the balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, Vinyasa helps with weight loss);
  • improved cardiovascular health;
  • enhanced flexibility;
  • better mental focus and calmer mind.

Choose the comfortable pair of yoga pants and get your blood pumping and try yourself out with the vigorous Vinyasa flow with Erin Sampson.

Ashtanga

Great for: Experienced yogis; challenge-seekers.

What it is about: From Sanskrit, ashtanga translates as ‘eight limbs’ and refers to the eight-fold path that leads to liberation. While some of the limbs require practical realization in our daily life, there are four limbs we need to practice on the mat in the form of Ashtanga yoga. Because it is only when we take care of our body and make it strong and healthy that we can control and calm our mind.

Ashtanga is a dynamic and physically challenging practice that falls under the category of Vinyasa. The poses are performed in a sequence and are connected to the breath. However, contrary to a spontaneous Vinyasa Flow, Ashtanga yoga follows the exact same series of poses in the exact same order every class.

How the class looks like: Good news for those who are always afraid not to fit in a new yoga studio or change a yoga instructor – a traditional Ashtanga yoga class will be more or less similar everywhere you go. It starts off with 10 sun salutations, proceeds to standing postures, continues with a series of poses specific to the class level (Primary, Intermediate, Advanced – all in all, there are 6 sets of sequences which always follow a specific order), and end with a finishing sequence. Generally, you will perform nearly 60-70 postures in the 90-minute class.

If you see Ashtanga class labeled as Mysore-style, be prepared to know the sequence by heart and work individually progressing into the poses at your own pace and when you are prepared. In Mysore-style class, teachers do not set the pace but are just observing and monitoring the students, help them when needed and give alignment tips.

Prepare to sweat a lot so make sure to bring a non-slip yoga mat.

What will you get from the practice:

  • enhanced muscle tone and core strength;
  • increased flexibility;
  • clear mind;
  • better balance and concentration;
  • stress relief;
  • improved blood circulation.

Also, some claim Ashtanga yoga helps detoxify your system though we haven’t found any scientific backup to this particular yoga benefit.

Check out the primary Ashtanga series from Kino Yoga below. This is a great place to start or complement your yoga practice from the comfort of your home.

Power Yoga

Great for: Moderately-fit and healthy people looking for an intensive yoga workout with a minimum of meditation.

What it is about: Inspired by the traditional Ashtanga, Power Yoga became popular in the US in the 90s as a more accessible and fitness-based form of yoga. It is a more creative if compared to Ashtanga because there’s no set structure and every class is different.

Nowadays, Power Yoga is an umbrella term that encompasses other styles that mostly focus on the physical aspect of the yoga practice – asana. Power Yoga is a highly athletic and vinyasa-based practice that will get your heart pumping and sweat rolling. There might be a minimum focus on meditation or chanting, but it will largely depend on the style of Power Yoga you choose.

How the class looks like: Each class is different but generally starts with integrative postures such as the Child’s Pose or Standing Forward Fold. These will progress into a warm-up sequence such as Sun Salutations, some strengths postures, backbends, and hip openers. The class usually ends with a Savasana (the Corpse Pose) for deep relaxation. Expect to break up a sweat.

What will you get from the practice:

  • enhanced stamina;
  • increased flexibility and muscle tone;
  • intense calorie-burn (the practice can help you lose weight when combined with a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle);
  • relieved tension.

If you’re not sure that Power Yoga is for you, check out the video tutorial below.

Hot Yoga/Bikram

Great for: Healthy practitioners of all levels who appreciate a sweaty workout.

What it is about: Hot yoga and its branch Bikram are relatively new yoga styles that emerged about 30 years ago. They are practiced in a heated classroom (105 degrees with 40 percent humidity) to imitate the Indian climate of the hometown of hot yoga pioneer – Bikram Choudhury. Thanks to the heat, your body loosens and becomes more supple, the range of motion is increased, allowing for much more comfortable and efficient stretching.

The primary objective of Bikram is to cultivate self-discipline, concentration, and patience and work towards the unity of body and mind through physical training. Traditional Bikram yoga follows a trademarked series of 26 poses in a fast vinyasa-style flow. The sequence is strictly followed in every class by every Bikram yoga instructor of the world.

How the class looks like: Each traditional Bikram session follows the exact same sequence and will appeal to those who like routine. The class is divided into two parts – 45 minutes is allocated for the practice of standing poses which then progress into 45 minutes of floor practice. In addition, there is a set of the same two breathing exercises in every class.

Other types of hot yoga, such as Forrest Yoga, for example, don’t have a strict order and structure but just like Bikram are physically demanding and will make you sweat buckets. Make sure to bring your hot yoga towel and a water bottle.

What will you get from the practice:

  • increased body strength and muscle tone
  • better flexibility, concentration, and balance
  • enhanced endurance and cardiovascular health
  • moderate calorie-burn (can be a part of a weight management programme when combined with a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle).

Want to see Bikram yoga in action? Check out the workout below, which will give you an idea of what to expect from your first hot yoga class.

Iyengar

Great for: Everyone including those with injuries, disabilities or back/neck pain; yoga perfectionists.

What it is about: Iyengar yoga is centered around proper alignment and correct posture in asanas. Yoga props such as yoga blocks, straps, bolsters, and wheels are used extensively in the class to make the practice accessible for people of any age, abilities or disabilities.

Iyengar yoga is slower than other types of yoga, such as a Vinyasa class for example, and requires precision and increased focus. Instead of jumping from a pose into the next one, students in the Iyengar class are performing fewer poses during the session, but hold them for longer.

It might be mentally hard to stay put for an extended period of time. But when mastering proper posture and aligning it with breath, Iyengar yoga is believed to bring balance into the body, emotions, and senses to allow us function as proper human beings in real life.

How the class looks like: The class generally starts with a quiet meditation to prepare the body and mind for the practice. After some opening movements to activate the muscles and calm the brain, you will proceed to standing poses and later to special postures such as backbends, forward bends or inversions. The class ends with breathing exercises – pranayama and recuperative poses.

The methodology of teaching remains the same around the world so you can join the class anywhere and fit in.

What will you get from the practice:

  • increased flexibility;
  • back and neck pain relief;
  • uneven part of the body realigned;
  • improved focus and concentration;
  • released emotional tension.

Get more relaxed and concentrated with the Iyengar yoga video tutorial below.

Anusara

Great for: Beginners; those looking for goodness in life.

What it is about: An offshoot of the Iyengar, this new and Westernized style of yoga founded by an American-born yogi John Friend roots in the idea that we are all inherently good inside. With the help of yoga practice, we can learn to see the Goodness within ourselves and others and experience Grace.

The physical practice consists of more than 250 Hatha-inspired poses and includes everything: from standing postures and twists to hand balances and restorative poses. Guided by the 5 Universal Principles of Alignment, Anusara yoga will help you find more balance, freedom, and safety in your practice that transcend into all yoga poses and into the everyday life as well.

The Anusara class is usually strongly community-oriented, and you may often find your instructor gathering you in a circle to demonstrate the pose. Instead of fixing students, instructors tend to give verbal cues about the principles of alignment so that everyone would develop their own.

How the class looks like: Each yoga session revolves around a heart theme, a virtue that can be based on a personal challenge story, an attribute, a message from the poem, to name the few. The practice involves fast and rigorous Vinyasa flow that progresses into slower-paced key poses that are held for a longer time. The class ends with relaxation/meditation.

Bring your props to the class – the use of yoga blocks, yoga straps, bolsters, and yoga wheels is strongly encouraged.

What will you get from the practice:

  • stronger and more flexible body;
  • toned muscles;
  • faster healing of injuries;
  • happier and balanced mind.

Try Anusara yoga without visiting the studio with the video tutorial below.

Yin Yoga

Great for: Practitioners of any level of fitness; peace and flexibility seekers.

What it is about: Yin Yoga is a passive and slow practice which focuses on stretching the deep connective tissues (fascia, ligaments, and tendons in the joints) to help the healthy body reach its optimal performance.

Yin Yoga sounds to be easy, but in fact, can be quite challenging. It trains your mind and body to find peace while holding the poses for an extended period even though the pose might feel uncomfortable. It is an excellent style of yoga to balance out a more vigorous strength workout so Yin Yoga will fit great into the routine of athletes but will bring significant benefits on its own.

Yin Yoga is said to balance the flow of the vital energy called Qi that is responsible for emotional well-being and organ health.

How the class looks like: You will stay seated for most of the class and hold the poses for as long as 5 minutes and even more. Expect to get out of your comfort zone from time to time. You can use the yoga props if needed.

What will you get from the practice:

  • increased flexibility and joint mobility;
  • deep relaxation;
  • calmer mind;
  • stress reduction.

Find your edge with this 1-hour class of Yin Yoga below.

Restorative Yoga

Great for: Injured, stressed and tired practitioners of all levels.

What it is about: Restorative yoga is all about healing your body and mind, beating the stress with relaxation and ‘letting it go.’ The poses are held for a long time and supported by the use of yoga blankets, bolsters and others to help your body and allow it to get deep into the stretch without any physical exert or discomfort. With the release of the body, you can calm your mind, focus on the breath and internal sensations and take this mindfulness out of your practice into daily life.

How the class looks like: You will hold a few poses during the class, sometimes as little as 10, for an extended period of time. Restorative yoga encourages passive stretching so just relax and let the gravity do all the work.

What will you get from the practice:

  • deep mental and physical relaxation;
  • stress relief;
  • help with headaches, insomnia, and anxiety, thanks to the stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Take your flexibility and zen to the next level with this 30-minute restorative yoga tutorial below.

Kundalini

Great for: Bliss-and-happiness seekers of any level.

What it is about: Kundalini yoga, also referred to as the Yoga of Awareness, is one of the oldest yoga practices and among the most spiritual ones. Its primary objective is to awaken the divine energy – kundalini – which is believed to be trapped by our Egos in the base of the spine. When being released, kundalini energy moves up through our energy centers and helps us reach the state of self-awareness, self-actualization and access the Divine that lives in each of us.

Kundalini yoga can be physically demanding. It involves vigorous physical movements called kriyas done at a fast pace, repeated several times, and aligned with the breath. It also incorporates singing, chanting, challenging breath work, mantra, and meditation.

How the class looks like: The Kundalini class is somewhat spontaneous and combines a bit of everything. At least half of the time is dedicated to the physical workout.

A 60-90 minute session starts either with chanting or with the spiritual teachings from the instructor. Then, students perform exercises also called kriya and proceed to the breath work, meditation and relaxation. The whole practice revolves around enhanced and conscious breathing to increase sensory awareness.

What will you get from the practice:

  • increased sense of body awareness and consciousness;
  • improved muscle tone;
  • strength and flexibility;
  • emotional balance and relaxation.

Always keep an open mind when attending a Kundalini class. Though if you’re not ready to join the group, try some chanting and work your core with the following video.

Jivamukti Yoga

Great for: Those who look for the physical challenge laced with spiritual teachings and meditation.

What it is about: Jivamukti yoga is a proprietary style of yoga developed in 1984 by Sharon Gannon and David Life after their training in India. Its central idea is that the relationship between all the beings has to be mutually beneficial.

The ultimate objective of the Jivamukti Yoga is to find the path to achieving the Divine “through compassion for all beings,” discover the happiness and realize the oneness with all the things in the world. Jivamukti yoga encourages veganism, kindness, and integration of the yoga philosophy into everyday routine.

Jivamukti yoga combines vigorous, vinyasa-style physical practice with the chanting, meditation, and spiritual teachings or ancient texts readings.

How the class looks like: There are different types of classes depending on your needs.

The Open Class is the most universal. It starts with a standardized warm-up sequence that is unique to Jivamukti combined with chanting, breathing and followed by the meditation, relaxation and sometimes yoga education from the instructor. In the Open Class, you work at your own pace following the teacher’s verbal cues and assistance.

The Fundamentals Class is aimed at the beginners mostly. It strongly emphasizes alignment and how-to’s regarding the asanas. The use of yoga props is encouraged.

Spiritual Warrior class lasts only for an hour and consists of the fast vinyasa sequences combined with chanting and meditation. Some previous experience is needed to join due to the pacing. The class is aimed at busy yogis who are trying to stay in shape.

What will you get from the practice: all the benefits of the physically demanding yoga session such as increased body strength and muscle tone, body flexibility along with benefits gained from meditation and chanting – calmer and peaceful mind, stress relief, and the decrease of emotional tension.

Check out a series of yoga exercises that can be done in 10 minutes

 developed by the co-founder of the Jivamukti method.

Viniyoga

Great for: Those recovering from injuries or suffering from back pain; individualized approach advocates.

What it is about: In Sanskrit, Viniyoga means adaptation, application, and differentiation. Viniyoga views yoga as a therapeutic tool that can help people recover from injuries, find relief from pain and lead to self-awareness and personal transformation.

Viniyoga practice is highly individualized to suit the needs of every student regardless of their age, ability, illness or injury. One-to-one practice with the teacher is encouraged, but the group classes are common and offer personalized instruction not worse than the private ones.

Though alignment is vital, in Viniyoga, there’s a stronger emphasis on function rather than the form and breathing as a way of getting into the pose and going deeper into it.

How the class looks like: Individual needs in Viniyoga play the central role so the classes will be adapted specially to you. The Viniyoga session may include physical postures – asanas that are usually repeated and held for an extended period of time, breathing techniques – pranayama, as well as meditation, chanting, the study of the ancient texts, etc. The physical aspect may be both gentle or challenging.

What will you get from the practice:

  • improved flexibility;
  • faster recovery from injuries;
  • increased body awareness and concentration;
  • deep relaxation;
  • peaceful mind.

Give Viniyoga a try with this video tutorial below.

Sivananda

Great for: Beginners; gentle practice enthusiasts.

What it is about: Sivananda yoga takes a holistic approach to harmonize your body, soul, and mind for the overall health and spiritual growth. Sivananda yoga focuses on five principles in its practice: proper exercise (asana) – a set of 12 basic postures recommended to perform daily, proper breathing (pranayama), proper relaxation (savasana), proper diet (vegetarianism), positive thinking and meditation (Vedanta & Dhyana).

How the class looks like: The class typically lasts for 90 minutes and starts with breathing exercises and the warm-up sequence such as Sun Salutations. The students then perform a set of 12 basic postures in a specific order and at a slow pace. The postures are usually held for a long time and can be modified for more proficient students. The practice finishes with a relaxing Savasana (the Corpse Pose).

What will you get from the practice:

  • improved flexibility;
  • increased body awareness and concentration;
  • deep relaxation;
  • peaceful mind.

A video tutorial below will give an idea about what to expect from the Sivananda class.

Which type of yoga practice do you prefer?

Share your story in the comments!

Veronica Kramer

Veronica Kramer

Unhype co-founder, entrepreneur, registered nutritionist, traveler, writer, translator, coffee aficionado, yoga buff.

Veronica is keen on exploring the stories that hide in the most unexpected of places. She enjoys thinking about the future we face and has strong opinions about different "isms" and how modern technology influences the globalized world.
Veronica Kramer

2 thoughts on “Which Yoga To Try: Different Types Of Yoga Explained”

  1. Wow, that’s an eye-opener! Didn’t realize there are so many styles of yoga.
    I’m a beginner and mostly do Hatha for now but would like to progress into Ashtanga later. Anyway, thanks for the comprehensive guide. Cheers!

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