Right now there are a zillion different styles of Yoga, most of them with funny names and undefinable meanings. Because of the sheer number of them it’s easy to get confused about which style would fit to you.
If you want to find out your perfect style you have to find out what exactly it is you want to gain from your Yoga practice first.Try getting clear about the following questions before you read the guide:
Do you want an intense workout or do you just want to relax?
Do you want to calm your mind and relief stress or is it more important for you to build strength and flexibility?
While most Yoga practices give you all of these benefits, some target the strength and flexibility aspect more, while others focus more on relaxtion, so it is important to know what you’re up to.
If you are clear about what you want and want to find out which Yoga style is best for you, read this explanatory guide on the most popular styles of Yoga.
- Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga is “the original Yoga” and very ancient. It describes all the asanas (poses) out which the new styles teached in the west are made of. Although in this way most Yoga styles are Hatha Yoga styles, there are also specific Hatha Yoga classes.
In Hatha Yoga we perform different asanas, suited to the student. The poses are hold for some time while focusing on the breath, before we release and adopt another posture. Because there is no specific sequence to be followed, Hatha Yoga classes are never the same and can target completely different objectives.
👍 The main focus of Hatha is always to strengthen and stretch the body in order to achieve the best state of health possible while balancing mind and body. Therefore, Hatha Yoga is beneficial for everyone.
You simply have to try out different classes because depending on the teacher, it can be too easy for some and too strenuous for others. That’s why I recommend trying out different teachers before you commit to one class.
Ashtanga Yoga is a style that was popularized by Pattahbi Jois (search for his teachings on YouTube, they are amazing) in the 70s, but relies on an ancient system. It contains 7 complete Yoga sequences in which the asanas (poses) are linked by vinyasas, meaning that you flow from one pose into the other, which makes it more intense. Ashtanga Yoga is a difficult practice, containing many difficult asanas, but it is really nice to see how you evolve trough this practice because the sequence stays the same and you follow it strictly. This means that you practice the same flow every time which leads to fast progress.
👍 Ashtanga Yoga is perfect for you if you want an intense workout and like strict guidance. It’s good for the ambitious Yogis, who like to make progress and be able to see where they are on their Yoga journey. Because it’s so repetitious, it can also relief stress and calm your busy mind.
👎 I would not recommend Ashtanga to those who just want to relax, as it is very physically demanding.
- Power Yoga
Just as Hot Yoga is the “westernized” form of Bikram Yoga, Power Yoga is actually a less strict form of Ashtanga Yoga. Benefits and contraindications are the same, but the sequence and asanas are different and it is not that strict.
- Bikram Yoga
Bikram Yoga was developed by Bikram Choudhry about 30 Years ago and is one of the most popular Yoga styles right now. During Bigram Yoga, 2 Pranayama (breathing exercises) and 26 asanas are performed in a specific order. All of this happens in a room heated to 40 degree Celsius, which will have all parts of your body dripping with sweat. Literally, all parts. (Did you now that the inside of your ears could sweat?!)
These are the different Bikram Yoga poses :
👍 Due to the heat Bikram Yoga increases your flexibility immensely and prevents stretch-related injuries. It is also very good for detoxing and losing weight, as you sweat everything out. Heat is also proven to have a calming and stress relieving effect, which makes Bikram Yoga a good choice if you want to rebalance yourself.
👎 It is not recommended to try Bikram if you have any illness that will make you faint due to heat, or if you are just in general too sensitive to sustain physical movement in a hot environment.
- Hot Yoga
Hot Yoga is actually very similar to Bikram Yoga, they just don’t stick to the sequence developed by Bikram himself, so they had to invent a new name but the benefits stay the same.
Vinyasa Yoga or Vinyasa Flow Yoga is all about movement. In Vinyasa, you link all postures fluidly together with the breath so that you achieve a flow during the whole practice.
👍 The flowing movement is amazing to restore balance between mind and body and really get you into a meditative space. Thereby, it is a great practice to relief stress and relax.
Furthermore, the constant movement makes Vinyasa Yoga a good workout which strengthens every part of the body, a good cardio workout and provides a good stretch.
Because Vinyasa Yoga can be practiced in so many ways it is suitable to everyone.
- Yin Yoga
Yin Yoga is also called restorative Yoga. In Yin we hold the different poses for a long time, mostly between 2-5 minutes. In this time we focus on “breathing into the stretch and letting go.
👍 Because we hold the asanas for so long, Yin Yoga is an amazing practice to build flexibility. Furthermore, it is extremely calming and helps with all kinds of stress related problems. In addition to that the deep stretch can help to release stuck emotions, as they are stored in tight parts of the body, as for example in the hips. Therefore, it’s the best practice to go for if you want deep relaxation.
👎 As you see Yin Yoga is very calm and thus not suitable for those who want an intense workout.
There are far more styles than those that I have listed here, but they all provide wonderful benefits for your whole being. I invite you to try out different classes and see which style you like most. You don’t even have to stick to one style, you can switch and change your practice as you like. In the end the most important thing is that you enjoy it and have fun! So start practicing and see what wonders Yoga can do for you!
What is you favorite style of Yoga? Do you like to visit classes or do you prefer to practice on your own? Let me know!