A beginner’s guide to the different styles of yoga: which one should you choose?

by Apr 2, 2019Healthy living

Have you been thinking about starting yoga, but not sure if it’s for you?

Or are you already convinced you want to practice yoga, but you’re not sure yet about the type?

Then this post might come in handy!

The wonderful thing about yoga, is that it is so diverse. It has so many different styles, that there has to be something in there for everyone.

To help you with choosing a style that resonates with you most, I put together a little guide with the most common yoga practices:

Hatha

The yoga style that is probably practiced the most, is hatha yoga. Some people also refer to it as basic yoga. This style is simple, gentle, and slow paced. It is therefore a great starting point for beginners. Hatha puts a focus on combining physical and mental strength and tries to stimulate a connection between mind and body. This is done by controlled breathing and holding poses only for short periods.

Bikram

Another popular yoga style is called Bikram. The style got its name from its creator: yoga guru Bikram Choudhary. But the style is also often referred to as hot yoga. The reason for this, is that this style of yoga is practiced in a room of about 35-38 degrees Celsius (95-100 degrees Fahrenheit). Because of the hot and humid environment that this creates, your joints will be lubicrated during practice. This is great for improving flexibility and stretching. And gives your body a boost in strength. This yoga style is usually done for about 90 minutes. A Bikram class consists of 26 poses with an important focus on proper alignment.

Ashtanga

This yoga style is very dynamic and free flowing. It’s perfect for people who are looking for a more faster paced yoga that is also physically more demanding. Ashtanga yoga requires both strength and endurance. It is therefore not recommended to practice this as an absolute beginner, but to take this on at a later stage if you are interested. Once you are ready for this style, it is a great choice if you want to lose weight and boost your fitness and energy levels.

Power yoga

Power yoga has a lot in common with Ashtanga yoga. However, this style is even faster paced and more intense than Ashtanga. Power yoga also does not have a strict sequence of poses and is therefore more free-style. I think it’s a really great choice if your goal is to build strength and become more flexible at the same time. However, this style doesn’t really address the spiritual side of yoga. So if that’s what you’re looking for as well, then it’s perhaps better to choose another style.

Vinyasa

The Vinyasa yoga style has a strong focus on flow and breathing techniques. The sun salutation plays a very important role when practicing Vinyasa. The aim is to synchronise the movements of your body with your breathing. In this style, the flow is accomplished by using very smooth body movements. Also, the different poses are all connected with each other through either inhaling or exhaling. Vinyasa yoga is a great choice if you for instance want to lose weight, because of its faster pace and strength increasing poses.

Kundalini & Anusara

Both these styles are very spiritual of nature. They both incorporate chanting mantras as well as breathing exercises with energizing movements. Both Kundalini and Anusara have a very strong focus on your inner self, mind, and soul. Where Kundalini yoga lays a strong emphasis on the “root chackra” around the lower spine, Anusara yoga is designed to open up your heart. They are both really great choices if you want yoga to help you gain a healthier mind and become more at peace with yourself. These styles are not for everyone though! If you are a naturally shy and quiet person, you’re probably going to find it a bit harder to enjoy this style of yoga. But, as one of my favourite former trainers always says: If you don’t try, you’ll never know.

Iyengar

Iyengar yoga is a style that makes use of props, such as: blocks, straps, cushions, and harnesses. This style is often referred to as a methodical style of yoga, and has a key focus on proper alignment. The props help your body in accomplishing proper alignment, and also help to support your muscles and joints. When practicing Iyengar, poses are usually held for a set amount of time. In this way, you have time to master each pose with body and mind.

This is the style that I practice myself, and I absolutely love it. I’m insanely inflexible and have quite a bad posture. And using all these props really helps me to get the most out of my body without overdoing it. Plus, it’s fun using props!

(That’s me in the picture below, wearing the colourful pants. As you can see, I’m very happy to have blocks to support me! That’s really as far as I can go 😉 )

Restorative yoga

This type of yoga has a strong focus on relaxation. For this reason, it is often called “yoga for lazy people”. However, I don’t like to use that name, as it has a negative connotation. Just like for Iyengar yoga, this style also makes use of some props. For restorative yoga, the props however mostly exist of blankets, cushions and eye pillows. In combination with doing quite simple poses, these props help to accomplish total relaxation. Restorative yoga is a great choice if you are looking for a style that helps you to rest your body and clear your mind. You’ll feel really refreshed, reenergized, and at peace after this class.

Yin yoga

Some of the more intense yoga styles that I described earlier, such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Power yoga, fall in the energy category of “Yang”. In contrast to that, there is Yin yoga, which is much more passive and holds poses for a long time. Even up to 20 minutes. Where Yang yoga styles mostly help to improve strength and flexibility of superficial muscles, Yin yoga addresses the deeper parts of your body. It works more on connective tissue, ligaments, tendons, fascia, as well as your bones. This is possible because of the long still holds, giving your body time to work on these deeper components. These long holds also allow you to work on your meditative practice and help you find inner peace.

Yin yoga is a great choice for you if you like a slow-paced class. And if you like to go deeper into the different yoga poses, while at the same time working on a peaceful mind.

However, I would like to add that this style of yoga is not designed to be your only form of exercise. It is meant as a complement to other more active yoga styles, or other sports for that matter.

Prenatal yoga

Prenatal yoga is a style that is created specifically for pregnant women. The poses that are practiced in this style of yoga are altered in such a way, that they are safe for you as a mom as well as your unborn baby. So if you are expecting a baby, this style of yoga is a very safe way to stay active. It will help you to keep working on your flexibility, and it will help to prevent back pain that often comes with pregnancy. There furthermore is an important focus on working on a calm and peaceful mind. What is also really wonderful for expecting women, is that Prenatal yoga has the ability to make labour easier. The reason for this, is that breathing exercises and hip openers help to make the body ready for childbirth.

Fertility yoga

If you’re not pregnant (yet), but would like to give your fertility a boost, then Fertility yoga might be the choice for you. This style of yoga was created by Sherry Long, a registered nurse and yoga instructor. She designed this style in such a way, that only gentle poses are used. Poses that help to reduce stress in your body, and promote blood flow to your pelvic area. Fertility yoga specifically stays away from any poses that put tension on your body. Not only does this yoga style give your fertility a boost, it is also a good choice if you are looking to find inner peace.

Wrapping up

As you can see, there are so many different yoga styles, that there must be something in there for everyone.

Please do let me know in a comment which style resonates with you the most!

Of course, you don’t have to choose only one, if there are more styles that really spark your interest.

I’d suggest to try out every style that seems interesting to you, and see where it leads you. 😊

About Me

My name is Lenore and it is my mission to present women with tips and tricks on how to create a healthier lifestyle, but also on how to live more sustainably where less is more. So if you're looking for just that, you're in the right place!