I have been practicing yoga for a few years now and when someone asked me recently what type of yoga I did, I realised I had no idea! So below you will find a short guide to some of the different styles of yoga here in the West. Hopefully this guide will help you find a yoga class that is right for you or maybe encourage you to try something new if you are a regular yogi. There are numerous styles with more and more cropping up every year, these are just some of the most popular styles in the West at the moment.
Anusara focuses on the individual, helping students to feel uplifted and guide their practice from the heart. Teachers heavily focus on alignment and tend to be very hands-on in. This is a great practice for both beginners and advanced students alike.
Astanga is made up of six pose sequence series which become increasingly challenging as you progress through and are always in the same sequential order. Each pose is linked with the breath. This is a rigorous, sweaty, physically demanding practice.
Forrest yoga is based on the intention to learn, grow, and overcome obstacles both on and off the mat. Classes will challenge mental and physical strength and flexibility. Sequences are often structured to introduce numerous poses that build up to a more advanced pose at the end. Whilst it is open to all levels, you should be prepared for a rigorous practice.
Hatha yoga is an umbrella term that refers to any type of yoga that teaches physical postures. Nearly every type of yoga class taught in the West is hatha yoga. In class you will get a gentle introduction to the most basic yoga postures. Whilst you are unlikely to work up a sweat you should end up leaving class feeling longer, looser, and more relaxed.
Iyengar is focused on precise alignment and deliberate sequencing. Props like blocks, straps and harnesses are used to help you find proper alignment. This style is appropriate for all ages and abilities and can have varying physical demands as you will sustain poses for long periods of time.
One of the most intense practices, based on Sanskrit scripture, devotion, kindness, music, and meditation. Classes incorporate chanting and philosophy whilst still requiring a great deal of physical exertion. Jivamukti can be practiced by experienced beginners and advanced yogis.
Kripalu is a three-part practice that teaches you to get to know, accept, and learn from your body. It starts with figuring out how your body works in different poses, then moves toward postures held for an extended time with meditation. It then taps deep into your being to find spontaneous flow in asanas, letting your body be the teacher.
Kundalini’s emphasis is on the internal process of yoga. Though it can be physically challenging, the intention of the practice is to awaken specific energies within the body in order to build sensory awareness, enhance consciousness, and develop spiritual strength. It is great if you’re looking to delve more deeply into the spiritual side of yoga.
Specifically designed for expectant mothers Prenatal yoga is tailored to help women in all stages of pregnancy, even those getting back in shape post-birth. When you keep your muscles strong through your term, you will have the strength and energy to return to normal.
Restorative yoga is designed to help you relax and soothe frayed nerves using bolsters, blankets, and blocks to prop you in passive poses for up to 20 minutes each. This allows the body to experience the benefits of a pose without having to exert any effort. A good class should rejuvenate you after a hectic week.
An unhurried yoga practice that typically focuses on the same 12 basic asanas bookended by sun salutations and savasana (corpse pose). The system is based on a five-point philosophy that proper breathing, relaxation, diet, exercise, and positive thinking work together to form a healthy yogic lifestyle.
Vinyasa is the Sanskrit word for “flow” and classes are thus known for their fluid, movement-intensive practices. Teachers will choreograph their classes to smoothly transition from pose to pose and often play music to keep things lively. The intensity of the practice is similar to Ashtanga, but no two classes are the same. If you hate routine and like to test your physical limits, Vinyasa may be the style for you. It is worth trying out different teachers as each will have their own style.
Yin yoga sessions focus on lengthening connective tissue, especially in the hips, pelvis, and lower spine. Poses are sustained for longer periods of time, encouraging relaxation, patience, and release. These classes are good for everyone, especially as a complementary class if you practice other rigorous forms of yoga and exercise often.
Try them all, have fun, learn and grow.