Yoga: What Are The Different Types Of Yoga And Which Style Is Best For You?
Ashtanga yoga, hatha yoga, bikram yoga, iyengar yoga, jivamukti yoga, kundalini yoga... Which style of yoga is best for you?
Yoga originated in India over 5,000 years ago as an ancient practice of exercise and meditation. Traditional yoga poses (asanas) were meant to prepare the mind and body for meditation. Yoga was said to not only create a healthy body but also cultivate a balanced mind.
Nowadays there are many different types of yoga that draw on these traditional origins. Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga, for example, have undergone their own transition into a popular fitness regime, something that not only exercises the body but also relaxes the mind.
Iyengar and Restorative yoga are more slow paced and revolve around the use of props such as belts and blocks, making them excellent for those recovering from injury. Spiritual types of yoga, such as Kundalini yoga, can help you find your energy centres and restore this energy without having to chant in Sanskrit.
DIFFERENT STYLES OF YOGA: ATHLETIC YOGA
Bikram yoga is practiced in a very hot room - usually around 40°C. Founded by Bikram Choudhury, it is focused on the releasing of toxins through the skin and the development of both physical and mental strength and control. Bikram yoga is said to improve your core strength and help relax the mind.
You can read more about Bikram yoga here.
Vinyasa yoga concentrates heavily on the transition between the poses and breathing continuously throughout the class. Linking pose to breath is very important in Vinyasa. The transitions are quick, making Vinyasa Flow classes athletic and energy boosting.
"Ashtanga is a rigorous practice of yoga"
Power yoga is a derivative of Vinyasa yoga, but it has an increased focus on calisthenics and is more like an aerobics workout, such as running/jogging, cycling, swimming or hiking, than a yoga session. Poses are more like push ups or handstands, aimed on increasing your core strength and improving weight loss. The synchronicity of breathing and transition between poses is still central to the practice, making it still very much a part of Vinyasa yoga.
Ashtanga yoga is a rigorous yoga practice which focuses on the same sequence of yoga poses in the same order each time. This is called the Primary Series. Ashtanga classes usually last for a minimum of 1.5 hours.
Ashtanga yoga is very similar to Vinyasa yoga - there is the same synchronicity of breath and movement - but it is more rigid in structure. The result is an intense cardiovascular workout that will cultivate a light yet strong body and a relaxed mind.
Yoga can be excellent for healing after an injury or even emotional healing. Healing types of yoga normally focus on holding poses for extended periods of time - anything from five minutes to 20 minutes. Healing yoga is a great yoga style for beginners.
Hatha yoga, meaning 'effort' or 'force' is about balancing the mind and body. Hatha is actually an umbrella term for the physical side of yoga, meaning that Iyengar, Ashtanga and Vinyasa are all types of Hatha yoga.
Hatha has now developed into a modern practice of its own. Hatha yoga is slow and relaxed, focusing on different poses in meditative detail, making it a perfect yoga for beginners.
Iyengar yoga is a practice pioneered by famous yogi B.K.S Iyengar. It is a popular type of yoga for people with injuries and beginners, as Iyengar yoga incorporates the use of blocks, belts and blankets in order to assist practitioners into the postures.
You can read more about Iyengar yoga here.
Svaroopa yoga focuses on comfortable chair poses to maximise healing and perfection of stance. Viniyoga, often used as a replacement to physiotherapy, is a slow and methodical practice which is useful for those who are recovering from surgery or injury.
Restorative yoga allows you to relax into certain yoga poses for longer periods of time. Some poses can be held for up to 15 minutes. Restorative yoga is similar to Iyengar yoga in that the use of props is important.
Yin yoga is a practice created specifically to help with joints and the areas around them with very long poses that can be held from five to 20 minutes.
Kundalini yoga is a spiritual practice that focuses on harnessing purifying energy in the base of the spine and directing it upwards through a channel of clear chakras.
The practice concentrates on finding and clearing these chakras by engaging in chanting, breathing, meditation and Kundalini poses. It’s all about strengthening and releasing the physical, mental and nervous energies in your body. When done properly this type of yoga can be energising, purifying and healing.
Jivamukti yoga and Sivananda are perhaps two of the most spiritual forms of yoga. They are made up of meditation, sanskrit chanting, vegetarianism and the role of music in yoga. These types of yoga concentrate more on the purification of the mind and spirit as well as the study of scriptures.
Integral yoga is similar but involves less life changes. It focuses on meditation and prayer as well as poses but concentrates less on vegetarianism and scripture.
Ananda yoga is almost completely focused on meditation as it is slow and methodical and leads you towards a calm and empty state of mind.
Kali Ray TriYoga
For a more modern approach there is Kali Ray TriYoga, originating in California in 1980, which concentrates on light, dance like movements, breathing and meditation, or Anusara yoga, which focuses on a playfulness of spirit and an open heart as well as strict and challenging poses.
Read our article on what to expect from your first yoga class here.