What Are the Different Types of Yoga?
Basic yoga practice came to the west in the mid-19th century from India. It involves a series of poses or postures called asanas, along with proper breathing exercises called pranayamas that unite the physical, mental and spiritual bodies.
- Hot Yoga
- Kali Ray TriYoga
- Phoenix Rising
- Ishta, Kripala, Anusara, Tibetan
The original purpose of doing yoga was to reach a state of spiritual enlightenment. In the ancient language of India known as Sanskrit, the word yoga means "yoke" or "union". Combining a practice with meditation is essentially doing that very thing, connecting with the inner self.
Yoga is practiced indoors and outdoors, for ten minutes or two hours, at resorts, in gyms, studios, centers and workshops all over the world with the goal to strengthen the mind-body connection.
There are many different types of yoga available today with specific practices for just about anyone. It’s highly recommended to start with some basic poses in a beginner’s class but it's up to you where you want to start.
Take a class to get to know which of the types of yoga might benefit you the best. Don’t give up after just one class. Your body isn't used to doing some of these poses and will fight to stay the way it has always been. Once you find the style for you, there are no limits to where your practice can go. Below you can find some of the different types of yoga and their benefits. The first three are best for the beginner.
Hatha - Most yoga practices have grown from this classic style of mind-body connection. It’s based on the idea of two opposites joining -- the sun and moon, male and female, hot and cold -- to balance the body.
The pace is slow and gentle with the focus on breathing and mindfulness. Poses are held for several breaths improving oxygen intake, relaxing the body and, in turn, relieving stress. If you are working toward a meditation practice, this is the yoga to help with that.
Iyengar - The focus is on alignment and physical awareness in this style. Always holding poses for a length of time with your eyes open, you are guided to place your attention on a certain area, using your breath to loosen and improve the pose. This leads to better posture, flexibility and strength.
Using props like yoga blocks, blankets, belts and chairs, each pose is modified so you can take the pose as far as you want to go. This style is great for those with injuries, misalignments like scoliosis, inflexibility or other challenges. Often there are special workshops or classes to address your particular challenge.
Restorative - Quiet, slow and gentle, this style involves holding poses longer to address the parasympathetic nervous system. Giving you a chance to go into a deeper relaxation, it restores the body allowing you to slow down quicker, sleep better and deal with the anxieties facing you every day. Athletes benefit from this style when recovering from injuries. It’s great for pregnancy, with special modifications to accommodate.
More Advanced/Challenging Styles
Ashtanga - Beginners are welcome but since there is a strict routine it may take a few times to get up to speed. Using a series of poses synchronized with breathing, your body builds up intense heat internally that helps to purify through sweating. The end result is better circulation, a calm mind and a strong body.
You might like this style if you enjoy vigorous workouts and a sense of order. Every class involves the teacher calling out each pose in exactly the same order every time. The Mysore style, a form of Ashtanga, allows you to practice the same poses independently with a teacher available for any assistance.
Vinyasa - The quick pace of moving from one pose to another coordinating with the breath is what this form is all about. Ashtanga is considered a vinyasa style that also works with the flow of breath and movement.
Other vinyasa styles are Power, Prana Flow and Baptiste. Music might be sequenced with the poses making the practice more dance-like. The term vinyasa is also used to describe a precise sequence of yoga poses that are common in most of the classes.
Bikram - If you like to sweat, this style is for you. The same 26 pose series is used in all Bikram classes along with two breathing exercises (pranayama). The heat is turned up to 105 degrees and the humidity usually at 40 percent. It's a very strenuous 90-minute class so be sure to rest if you are feeling dizzy and drink lots of water before, during and after the class.
One of the different types of yoga based on the Hatha Yoga poses, Bikram maintains that every part of your body is addressed, including the internal organs, ligaments, muscles and veins, producing optimum health and function benefits. Toning, stress relief, detoxifying, and healing chronic pain due to arthritis, joint pain, knee injuries and back pain are some of the benefits from this different type of yoga.
Hot Yoga - Although Bikram is the original hot yoga, there are other types employing the same basics -- heat between 90 and 105 degrees, series of poses that flow but not necessarily only 26 poses and sweating profusely to detoxify -- and having the same benefits as Bikram.
Two other types of hot yoga are Moksha (embracing a green component by using sustainable carpeting and energy-efficient heating) and CorePower Yoga (taking poses to an intense workout level). Both of these are copyrighted but there are many hot yoga practices available springing up everywhere.
Explore/Go Deeper Into a Spiritual Practice
Kali Ray TriYoga - Intuitively received during a meditation, the movements came to Kali Ray and are becoming popular for those looking to advance. Deeply meditative and working toward inner peace, this style uses postures (asanas), breathing (pranayama) and seals (mudras). Music often is used in the classes and the slow flowing structure ends with a guided meditation.
Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy - Combining classical and contemporary yoga poses, the instructor guides you through this psychologically-based style. You'll receive more assistance than in other classes, and the use of dialogue, this style helps release tensions and emotional blockages leading to personal growth and healing.
Sivananda - Going deep into the core of discovering who you are, this style uses five principles to unblock energy and emotions. Proper exercise, breathing, relaxation, diet and positive thinking along with 12 hatha yoga poses help to strengthen and loosen the spine. Also included is chanting, breathing and meditating.
Integral - Classical hatha yoga poses are performed, relaxation is guided by an instructor, breathing exercises and sound vibration incorporated, followed by a silent meditation are involved in this style. The goal is to help you incorporate the yoga teachings into daily life and relationships leading to peace and tolerance everywhere.
Ananda - More than exercising, this style helps you release tensions working toward spiritual growth. Silent affirmations are used when in a hatha yoga pose. Special poses guide energy to the brain making you ready to meditate. Exploring the deeper dimensions of yoga that lead to more self-awareness, this style also focuses on alignment, transitions and breathing.
Kundalini - Once a very secret and guarded style that grew out of tantric yoga, it was introduced to all by Yogi Bhajan using the philosophy that everyone has a right to experience health, happiness and holiness. Postures, dynamic breathing exercises, chanting and meditations help to awaken the energy at the bottom of the spinal column so that it travels up through the seven chakras.
Ishta, Kripalu, Anusara, Tibetan are all styles practiced to reach a higher state of consciousness. Many of these are combined so it's best to check with the teacher or yoga center to make sure you're getting the style that you want to experience.
The benefits of yoga have been researched extensively showing that back pain is relieved and even prevented when practicing yoga along with a meditation practice. Focusing on good posture and the breathing exercises taught in the routines leads to the ability to relax and stay calm during stressful situations like asthma attacks or hypertension.
Arthritic problems can be alleviated due to the low impact, flowing movements in yoga increasing mobility and loosening stiffness. Sleep disorders, depression and other mental issues are combatted by the better moods and mental focus that yoga provides.
Hormone levels that are contributing to these conditions can also be balanced with a weekly practice. Patience while learning the poses and perseverance with the meditation aspect can bring balance back to all aspects of your life.
More natural energy and improved oxygen levels can revitalize your confidence, creativity and enjoyment of life that then spreads to all those around you.
Whether you are extremely active or prefer a relaxed lifestyle, a personal yoga style is available to you.
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