Choosing a Yoga Style

What Type is Best for You?

Choosing a yoga style can seem a bit confusing. There are many different types of yoga, and from each main style, there can also be several derivatives. Although most types share the same poses, the way they are sequenced and executed can vary significantly. 

Some styles use a limited number of asanas while others have dozens. Some are slow-paced and others will flow rapidly.

Some target relaxation, but others focus on increasing the heart rate and working up a sweat. Every style offers a wide variety of benefits, and which one is right for you will depend on your personal preference.



Choosing a Yoga Style

Find the yoga style that best fits your personal goals and fitness level from the yoga types listed below. Trust me...there is a style out there for everyone.


Bikram Yoga

Description:

  • Expect the room to be HOT! 105º and 40% humidity. This helps improves flexibility and prevents injuries.

Focus:

  • Very focused on proper alignment and to target all components of fitness: 

Who can do it:

  • Since there are only 26 poses, Bikram is a great style for those who are new to Yoga.
  • Those who like to sweat. If you feel like you haven't really exercised unless you are sweating then this is the yoga style for you!

Benefits:

  • Weight loss.
  • Increases stamina.
  • Improves strength.
  • Detoxifies the body


More on Bikram Yoga


Hatha Yoga

Description:

  • This is the foundation of all other Yoga styles and includes aspects of many different types of yoga. Slow, gentle movements with attention given to proper breathing. 
  • You probably won't sweat or get your heart rate up, but you will loosen and stretch tight muscles. 
  • Combines postures, breathing, and meditation into a slow-paced yet challenging workout.

Focus:

  • Training and teaching the body.
  • Achieving a mind/body balance.
  • Emphasis on proper alignment.

Who Can Do It:

  • Hatha Yoga is easy to learn, poses are straight-forward, and there is a pause between each posture.
  • Anyone who wants to loosen tight, sore muscles.


More on Hatha Yoga


Vinyasa Yoga

Description:

  • Also called “Flow Yoga”.
  • Based on the principle of “breath-synchronized movement”.
  • You will flow quickly from one pose to the next with little or no rest, so you will get a great aerobic workout.
  • Very intense and challenging.
  • Vinyasa does not follow a set sequence of poses, so every class will be different

Focus:

  • Connecting breath with movement.
  • Allowing “flow” through breathing and asanas.

Who Can Do It:

  • Those looking for a fast-paced, challenging yoga workout.
  • People who enjoy change and don't want to do the same sequence every day (as is common with most other styles of yoga).
  • NOT for beginners: Vinyasa is not the best choice for beginners because it moves quickly from one pose to the next. You should learn all the postures before moving on to this style. However, some studios do offer special classes that will slow down the speed for beginners.

Benefits:

  • Builds muscle
  • Improves flexibility
  • Weight loss
  • Improves circulation
  • Energizes the body
  • Releases toxins
  • Calms the nervous system



Iyengar Yoga

Description:

  • This is a slow moving style that emphasizes proper alignment and correct posture.
  • Props are used to help you achieve and maintain correct position.
  • You won't increase your heart rate or work up a sweat, but Iyengar yoga holds poses longer than any other style, and this can be almost as challenging as the quick movements of Vinyasa.
  • Very methodical, deliberate, and a lot of attention to detail.

Focus:

  • Correct alignment and technique, deliberate sequencing, and an emphasis on the fundamentals.

Who Can Do It:

  • All ages, abilities, and fitness levels: the slow pace, focus on correct posture, and use of props makes it ideal for beginners who need to build a good foundation for other styles.
  • Those with chronic pain or injuries.
  • Iyengar is a great tool for those in need of physical therapy.
  • A good option for the elderly or those with fragile muscles and bones.

Benefits:

  • Increases strength.
  • Improves flexibility.
  • Improves endurance.
  • Improves balance.
  • Good for learning proper alignment.
  • Great for muscle and joint recovery.



Anusara Yoga

Description:

  • A fun and upbeat style of yoga that focuses on both the physical and the spiritual.
  • Emphasis on alignment.
  • Expect a lot of breath work.
  • While proper technique is expected, participants are encouraged to simply do their best and focus on the inner light within themselves.
  • You will likely find a more relaxed atmosphere that focuses on opening the heart both physically (expect a lot of backbends) and spiritually (you will be challenged to connect with the inner light or goodness within yourself).

Focus:

The 3 As:

  • Attitude
  • Alignment 
  • Action

Who Can Do It:

  • Beginners: Anusara is a non-threatening, welcoming style of yoga. Props are allowed for extra support and participants will not be pushed too hard, making it ideal for beginners and those who are not physically fit.
  • Those looking for a fun style of yoga that still offers a challenging workout.
  • People who want to focus on both the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga.

Benefits:

  • Enhances mood.
  • Balances emotions.
  • Relieves fatigue and improves energy levels.
  • Increases flexibility.
  • Greater lung capacity.
  • Boosts immunity.
  • Improves attitude


Ashtanga Yoga

Description:

  • Very similar to Vinyasa -  this style of yoga involves co-ordinating breathing with poses; however, unlike Vinyasa, Ashtanga follows a specific sequence that never changes.
  • Continuous and rapid movement between postures.
  • There are 6 sequences, completed one right after the other without rest.
  • Very rigorous, challenging and physically demanding.
  • You can expect to get a great aerobic workout and you will definitely sweat!
  • If you take a class, you can also expect to begin with some chanting.

Focus:

  • Connecting the body with the breath.

 

Who Can Do It:

  • Not for beginners: You should learn the poses and build up your strength and endurance before taking an Ashtanga class.
  • Those who are athletic, well-conditioned and want an intense, driven workout.



Benefits:

  • Detoxifies the body.
  • Improves circulation.
  • Increases stamina.
  • Weight loss.
  • creases energy.
  • Calms the mind.


Restorative Yoga

Description:

  • There are only a handful of poses since the postures are intended for a very specific purpose.
  • Designed to restore and reset the body so it can repair the damage caused by the stresses of life.
  • Props are used regularly for support.
  • Expect a lot of breath work and poses that open the heart.
  • Most sequences will also include more prone postures than you would find in a regular practice.

Focus:

  • Deep relaxation.
  • Surrender – physically, mentally, emotionally.

Who Can Do It:

  • Anyone who wants to de-stress and relax.
  • Those recovering from injury or surgery.

Benefits:

  • Relieves stress.
  • Creates mind/body balance.
  • Promotes healing and recovery.
  • Boosts immunity.
  • Alleviates depression.
  • Relaxes tight muscles.
  • Stimulates abdominal organs.

More on Restorative Yoga



Juvamukti Yoga

Description:

  • This type was created as a way of returning to the spiritual aspects of yoga practice that have been abandoned by many contemporary and Western styles.
  • Classes are often themed and will include scripture reading, Sanskrit chanting, meditation and music.
  • You can expect the instructor to do a lot more talking than you would normally hear with other types of yoga.
  • A very physical, vigorous, and challenging style.
  • Heavy emphasis on philosophy and spirituality.

Focus:

  • Combines the key principles of Scripture, devotion, non-violence, meditation, and music.
  • Emphasis on applying these principles to life outside of the yoga class.

Who Can Do It:

  • Those who are looking for a more traditional and pure form of yoga that emphasizes both the physical and the spiritual.
  • Those who want more than just a workout but want to apply the philosophy of yoga principles to everyday life.

Benefits:

  • Tones muscles.
  • Stimulates abdominal organs.
  • Eliminates toxins from the body.
  • Improves respiration and circulation.
  • Increases flexibility.
  • Relieves stress and tension.
  • Calms the mind.

Choosing a Yoga Style

NOTE: This information provides an idea of the types of yoga you will typically find in North America. However; if you plan to take a class, it is a good idea to call the studio and ask for a description of each style as well as their recommendations.

Tell them about your fitness level, yoga experience, and the benefits you are hoping to achieve, and their experts should be able to suggest the right fit for you.


Other pages that might interest you:



I will continue to share ideas about diet and exercise that have helped me along the way. If you have any questions I can help you with, or ideas you would like to share, feel free to contact me or visit our Q&A forum



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