You’re all set and ready for your first yoga class and can’t wait to finally dive into the fascinating and infinite universe of yoga and meditation when all of a sudden you find yourself looking at the class schedule and reading words like Yin, Ashtanga, Hatha, Vinyasa, etc. This can be quite confusing at first (it definitely was for me), but in this blogpost I’m gonna explain the 10 most common yoga styles in order to help you choose a class for the next time.
Anusara yoga derives from Hatha Yoga (see below), was originally founded by John Fried and focuses on deep spiritual teachings and its principles of “Opening to Grace” and “Aligning with the Divine.” The practice enables students to open up their hearts (often through various chest opening postures) and let their inner light shine through. The focus lies upon the connection of body, mind and heart and experiencing grace. Anusara means seeking consciousness in all levels of being.
In Sanskrit (= the old/holy Indian language) Ashtanga is translated as eight (‘ash’) limbs or parts (‘tanga’), meaning there are 8 different elements involved, such as yoga poses, breathing tequnices, withdrawal of senses, meditation, etc. (I plan on doing a seperate blogpost on Ashtanga Yoga only) 🙂 But to keep it short for now, Ashtanga yoga consists of six different series, all of which follow a specific sequence of postures, the most commonly practiced series are the first and second one, as they are already physically demanding and only very few yogis are able to move on to a higher level. Ashtanga yoga always starts with an opening mantra and sun salutations (five sun salutation A’s and five sun salutation B’s), followed by a standing sequence and then moving on to the floor. The practice ends by chanting a closing mantra. It’s a very dynamic form of yoga and all the poses are linked to the breath, meaning you always spent five breaths in one pose before moving on to the next one.
You can take a look at the primary series here: Primary-Series-Ashtanga-Yoga
This type of yoga is going to make you sweat. A lot. Bikram yoga features, similar to Ashtanga yoga, a specific sequence of postures, which are carried out in an artificially heated, sauna like room. This class is composed of 26 different poses and named after Bikram Choudhury, who developed this type of yoga almost 50 years ago in California. If you’re ready for a sweaty yoga session, this style might be for you, but make sure to drink tons of water in order to stay hydrated!
Hatha (meaning ‘effort’ and ‘forceful’) yoga is the basic core and origin of all physical yoga styles out there, as it dates back to Patanjali, who is also known as the father of Yoga and the author of the Yoga sutras (which are basically the classical guidelines for the entire yoga philosophy). It is assumed that he has lived around the 2nd century BCE or 5th century CE. In the West, almost every type of yoga class is based on the concept of Hatha yoga, with old styles such as Sivananda, Iyengar and Ashtanga Yoga or new styles, as Yinyasa, Yin, Restorative, etc. A common Hatha yoga class consists of Meditation, Pranayama (=breathing exercises), Sun Salutations, Standing and Sitting sequenses and Savasana at the end. Since Hatha yoga itself spends much more time on focusing on a single posture and is slower paced in general, it is definitely suitable for beginners.
This style of yoga was founded by B.K.S. Iyengar and has its specific focus on proper alignment of the yoga postures. In an Iyengar yoga class, students concentrate on precise movements, as well as breathing in a controlled and mindful way. This style of yoga is generally slower paced and the poses are held for a longer period of time in order to fully understand the purpose and benefit of it. You might not break a sweat in this class, nevertheless is it physically and mentally challenging and especially for those, who are/were suffering with injuries Iyengar yoga can be very helpful. Also, props are your best friend in this class. 🙂
Jivamukti yoga classes were founded in the 80’s in New York City by Sharon Ganon and David Life and integrate traditional Hindi teachings, such as mantra chanting, as well as indian music into the dynamic Vinyasa style classes. These type of classes usually start with an opening mantra, followed by a choreographic posture sequence, which are performed almost dance-like in order to gain deep awareness and peace within yourself. Jivamukti is an ethical and spiritual practice and a path to enlightenment through compassion to all living beings.
Prenatal yoga classes are a great way for all ‘moms-to-be’ in all trimesters to prepare for childbirth. While this style of yoga is helping expectant moms to stay fit and healthy throughout the pregnancy, specific breathing exercises, strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, as well as connecting to the baby is a wonderful way to get ready for labor and delivery.
Restorative yoga mainly focuses on deep relaxation and letting go of all tensions, which might be stored in different areas of the body. While the number of postures in this class is low, the amount of time spent in a pose is high. A Restorative yoga class provides you with various yoga props, such as blankets and pillows to help you fall deeper in to body relaxation. This class is ideal if you want to wind down after a long stressful day and it is also suitable for beginners.
Vinyasa is translated as ‘to place in a special way’, which refers to the yoga postures and its sequence. This style of yoga is known to be very dynamic and fast-paced, similar to Ashtanga yoga, even though it changes the sequence every single time, so no two classes are the same. In a Vinyasa yoga class you link your breath to your movements in order to create a vibrant flow with your body, mind and spirit. Often times, background music is played to enhance the fluid practice. It can be quit challenging, but also very rewarding at the same time, because of this wonderful feeling of ‘going with the flow’ (I personally am a huge fan of Vinyasa yoga).
Last, but not least there is Yin yoga, which gained popularity in the middle of the 1980s due to Paulie Zink. This style of yoga is a very slow-paced, since the yoga postures are held between 45 seconds (for beginners) and 5 minutes or more (for advanced yogis) to achieve deep muscle relaxation. Yin yoga focuses on deep stretching of the tendons, fascia and ligaments, as well as keeping the awareness on the breath the whole time. This practice is not only a wonderful tool to increase your flexibility, but it is also helping you internalize inner peace and silence due to its meditative approach.
I hope that this article provides you with all the information you need for choosing your next yoga class! It’s always fun to try out different yoga styles, as you can learn a lot from any of them and depending on your mood and state of mind today you now know what kind of class might be the best for you. So, let’s get flowing everyone 🙏