Styles of Yoga: Finding the right class for you

Do you get your Hatha confused with your Yin? Your Vinyasa with your Ashtanga? Well, hopefully this article will give you all the knowledge you need to be a pro when it comes to choosing the right yoga class for you and your mates!

So in general, what are the different styles of yoga classes and what do they entail?

Vinyasa Flow Yoga – This encompasses classes named ‘Flow Yoga’, ‘Vinyasa’, ‘Flow’ etc. Expect a dynamic class of traditional postures linking breath with flowing movements & postures that are linked or ‘flow’ together. To create energy in the body, whilst releasing stress in the mind. Ideal for those who want to improve flexibility, joint strength, muscle tone & want to calm the mind.

Power Yoga – This is not a traditional style as such, but draws its roots from Vinyasa Flow and other dynamic movement based exercise classes. Expect an energetic class, combining breath with strong dynamic movements. Aimed at improving strength and flexibility, you will leave this class feeling worked out and calm. You may even break a sweat! Ideal for those who want more of a workout, who want to improve flexibility, core strength and muscle tone, whilst calming the mind.

Hatha Yoga – In its traditional sense translates as: Forceful or physical Yoga. In the modern world, Hatha Yoga is commonly seen as a style that is somewhere in the middle ground between Restorative and Vinyasa Flow Yoga. Expect a slower paced class of traditional postures with a focus on breathing technique. Often the postures do not flow together. Good for beginners and ideal for those who want more of a chilled class, whilst wanting to improve flexibility. Also good for calming the mind.

Ashtanga Yoga – Popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois, this style of yoga is dynamic and on the faster paced end of the spectrum. Classes are based on a standardized sequence or series, in which students “level up” in order to take their practice further. For those who like familiarity and set structure to their class, and those who like something to work towards. Great for improving muscle tone, joint strength, flexibility, core strength and to calm the mind.

Iyengar Yoga – Named after and created by B.K.S Iyengar, this style of yoga focuses on  alignment of the postures. Props such as blocks and straps are often used to achieve the desired alignment and for support. The postures are practiced at a slower pace and do not flow together. Ideal for those who want to improve their alignment, or for those who require extra physical support in their practice.

Restorative Yoga – Expect a slower paced, gentle class, linking movement with breath. This style explores traditional poses, held for slightly longer than in a Vinyasa Flow or Ashtanga Class. Often taught with props, such as bolsters, blocks and straps. Ideal for those who have injuries and want something to manage them in a safe and controlled environment. Also good for those who want to improve deep tissue flexibility, want a chilled class and want wind down slowly.

Yin Yoga – A Yoga which has its roots in China and focuses on Yin energy. Expect a slow paced, very chilled class, with poses held for typically 4 minutes or more. Similar benefits to Restorative yoga. Good for those who want to improve deep tissue flexibility, want a chilled class and want to wind down slowly.

Bikram & Hot Yoga – Some say hot yoga is like yoga in a sauna! Expect a slower paced class with less postures than a Vinyasa Flow class. Expect to sweat it all out! Bikram is specific type of Hot Yoga created by Bikram Choudhury, that contains a set series of postures. This type of yoga is great for removing toxins. Will also help to improve flexibility and calm the mind.

For me, and my students, I’ve found the best way to understand the varying types of pace, dynamics and how chilled the class is are in visual form, so take a peek at the rough diagram below.CaptureAs you can see at one end of the spectrum (the left hand side) you have less dynamic, slower paced and lower energy classes, these are typically where Yin & Restorative yoga classes fall. As the energy, dynamics and pace increases you then have your Hatha, Iyengar and Hot Yoga classes. Then at the other end of the spectrum (the right hand side), with energy, dynamics and pace increasing further, this is where the Ashtanga Yoga,  Vinyasa Flow and Power Yoga classes lie.

There are of course lots of different class names out there, created by yoga teachers and studios, these tend to be tweaked versions of the above styles to fit a particular purpose. For example I teach a hybrid called ‘Yoga for Cyclists‘, which isn’t a recognized style per say, rather a creation based on what I have learned and experienced as an avid cyclist and yoga teacher. There are also other styles out there too, but I do not know them well enough to write about them at any length. So in order to keep true and real to you, my reader, I have not written about them.

So there you have it, there are styles for everybody! Some chilled and slower paced, and some more intense and faster with more postures. Some will make you sweat, some are like Sleeping Lions for adults! I urge you to try out as many different styles as possible, until you find the one that’s right for you.

Thank you for reading!


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