14 Types of Yoga: Which Is Best for You?
Yoga has swept the nation in recent years—and for good reason.
Yoga boasts a wide variety of health benefits that almost everyone can reap. For instance, the relaxation techniques incorporated into yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, and headaches. Yoga also lowers blood pressure and reduces insomnia.
Other health benefits include:
- Increased flexibility, muscle strength, and tone
- Improved athletic performance
- Weight loss
- Improved energy and vitality
- Cardio and circulatory health
Yoga: What’s Not to Love?
Really, what’s not to love? But if you’re interested in learning yoga, things might be confusing at first. There are so many different types of yoga, ranging from hot yoga to hatha. It might be hard to find which one is right for you.
Don’t worry! We’re here to help you figure out all the different kinds of yoga out there.
There are fourteen general categories of yoga to choose from:
Anusara is often described as one of the most pure forms of yoga. It’s meant to be heartfelt and accepting. Instead of trying to fit everyone into standard positions, students are encouraged to express themselves through the poses to their fullest ability. Anusara is best for mood enhancement. It’s an upbeat, cheerful form of yoga. It’s also the easiest to do if you’re out of shape because you won’t be pushed too far.
Ashtanga yoga is rapid, flowing from one pose to the next with each inhale and exhale. Each series of poses linked by the breath this way is called a vinyasa. This type of yoga originated in Mysore, India, and is best for weight loss, high impact cardio, gaining strength, and making you feel young again. This style takes you through a repetition of athletic poses. Ashtanga is great for people who like to be challenged, and you need to know your poses before your first class, so it’s not ideal for beginners.
Bikram yoga is basically yoga in a sauna-like room. The heat is cranked up to nearly 105 degrees. There’s also 40 percent humidity in official Bikram classes. One session consists of 26 basic yoga postures, each performed twice. Bikram is best for weight loss. You can burn 350 to 600 calories in one class, and you’ll build stamina to boot.
Hatha is one of the six original branches of yoga. It encompasses nearly all kinds of modern yoga. This type of yoga is excellent for calming down and de-stressing. Everyone can benefit from Hatha because you choose the pace and style best for you.
Iyengar yoga uses props like blocks, straps, harnesses and incline boards to get you more perfectly into positions. Appropriate for all ages and abilities, Iyengar yoga is all about precise alignment and deliberate sequencing. This style of yoga may be ideal for you if you want to learn the yoga fundamentals—it builds a superior foundation for other styles of yoga. Iyengar yoga is excellent for working every part of your body, giving you great muscle definition.
Jivamukti yoga seeks to reintegrate yoga’s traditional spiritual elements in an educational way. Expect a theme for each class, Sanskrit chanting and references to ancient scripture are all fair game. This kind of yoga is best for experiencing an authentic, all-encompassing yoga practice.
Kripalu yoga teaches you to get to know, accept, and learn from your body. This type of yoga usually begins with figuring out how your body works in different poses. It then moves toward longer held postures and meditation, before tapping deep into your being to find spontaneous flow in asanas. This type of yoga lets your body be the teacher. Kripalu yoga is best if you’re looking for self-empowerment.
Kundalini yoga consists of constantly moving, invigorating poses. The fluidity of the practice is intended to release the kundalini energy in your body. This kind of yoga is best if you want to get a yoga high. The breathing will skyrocket your energy, while the postures and meditation keep you grounded and focused. So you should definitely sign up for a Kundalini yoga class if you’re seeking greater spiritual and mind and body awareness.
Power yoga is an active and athletic style of yoga. It doesn’t stick to the same sequence of poses each time, so the style varies depending on the instructor. This yoga is best for burning calories and working every muscle in the body. It also improves flexibility and strength.
Prenatal yoga postures are carefully adapted for expectant mothers. It’s tailored to help women in all stages of pregnancy; it’s even good for getting back in shape post-baby. Prenatal yoga is safe and excellent at warding off pregnancy aches, pains, and swelling. It also keeps the core strong to help maintain good posture, and it strengthens pelvic muscles.
Restorative yoga is more about relaxation. You’ll spend as many as 20 minutes each in just four or five simple poses using props like blankets and lavender eye pillows to help you sink into deep relaxation. This type of yoga is ideal for stress and injury rehab. It’s great for everyone, really.
Sivananda yoga is based on the philosophy that proper breathing, relaxation, diet, exercise, and positive thinking work together to form a healthy yogic lifestyle. This type of yoga is best for boosting your spirit. Each class opens and closes with chanting and meditation.
Viniyoga is a highly individualized practice where you learn to adapt poses and goals to meet your own needs and abilities. Instead of focusing on stretching to get strong and flexible, Viniyoga emphasizes warming up and contracting muscles before stretching them. This decreases your chance of injury. This type of yoga is especially good for back-pain sufferers of all types—from lower back to sciatica. Viniyoga will stabilize your sacrum, loosen back muscles, and balance out your spine.
Yin is a quiet, meditative yoga practice that focuses on lengthening connective tissues. Yin poses are passive, meaning you’re supposed to relax muscles and let gravity do the work. Yin yoga is best for preparing the body and mind for meditation practice. You’ll develop a deeper, more thorough understanding of your entire body, aiding both your meditation and other kinds of yoga.
Yoga Really Is the Perfect Workout
Of course, there are other types of yoga out there, but these fourteen different kinds of yoga are the most common you’ll encounter.
Because yoga is so versatile, it really is the perfect workout! Remember, with any style of yoga, you can improve your strength, flexibility, and balance. And all yoga styles release tension in the body, quiet the mind, and help you relax. To get the most benefit, you should choose a yoga style that matches your current fitness level as well as your personality and goals for practicing yoga.
If you’re still having trouble deciding which style of yoga is right for you, ask yourself three questions:
- Are you just doing yoga for fitness reasons? Or do you also want to explore the mind-body connection? If you want to achieve both these things, then choose a more vigorous yoga style like power, ashtanga, or Bikram yoga.
- Do you have any physical limitations? If so, then start with a slower class that focuses on alignment, like Iyengar, Kripalu yoga or viniyoga.
- Are the meditative and spiritual aspects of yoga your primary goal? Then try one of the yoga styles that incorporate meditation and chanting, like Kundalini yoga.
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