Disclaimer: This is NOT a Buzzfeed quiz where you answer a bunch of questions then “BAM, here’s the perfect type of yoga for you!!”
But I know a lot of people who wish there was one (an accurate one anyway) because the question I get asked the most is – what type of yoga should I practice?
One of the obstacles to getting started in yoga is not knowing what type of yoga is right for you. There are many different styles of yoga and sometimes the best way to find out if you like something or not is to try it for yourself.
But to help you along, below are brief descriptions of the most popular yoga styles in the U.S.:
Ashtanga – In this style there are six established (and strenuous) pose sequences. Meaning there’s a series 1, series 2, etc. Yogis move rapidly from one pose to another, combined with deep, controlled breathing. Also referred to as power yoga.
Hatha – All yoga poses are considered hatha but more popularly when referring to a type of class it means it is slower-paced, gentle and focused on breathing and meditation.
Bikram – Created by Bikram Choudhury. This style is a series of 26 poses (each performed twice) in a nearly 105º room with 40% humidity.
Hot yoga – This style is similar to Bikram only in that the room is warmer than your average room but only from 85º to 95º. The lower temperature is more manageable while still benefitting from the warm room which helps with flexibility.
Iyengar – Founded by B.K.S. Iyengar. This form of yoga focuses on precise alignment and deliberate sequencing. Props are used in this class to helps students to get into the right position.
Anusara – Created by John Friend (who is awesome, by the way). This style of yoga also focuses on precise alignment like Iyengar but taps into the more spiritual (and fun) aspects of yoga. Expect a lot of “heart-opening” poses like backbends.
Jivamukti – Created by Sharon Gannon and David Life. A typical class includes a theme, some chanting and references to ancient scripture weaved into the physical practice. It is rooted heavily in yoga philosophy and traditions.
Kundalini – This practice is intended to release the kundalini (serpent) energy of the root chakra (area around your lower spine). Movements are intense and with a lot of work on core. There is also a lot of sitting. This one thoroughly kicked my butt.
Restorative – This style of yoga is heaven on earth. The poses for this class focus more towards relaxation. Props like blankets, bolsters and eye pillows help yogis to sink into their breath and let go. Stressed out? This is the yoga practice for you.
Nidra – Also known as yogi sleep, this practice encourages lucid dreaming. It can be like 60 minutes of savasana. (How amazing is that?) It’s been said that one hour of Yoga Nidra is equivalent to eight hours of sleep. Who doesn’t need that kind of rest?
Vinyasa – My favorite style of yoga. Also commonly known as flow, like ashtanga, yogis rapidly flow from one pose to the next with attention to the breath. Most vinyasa classes are taught with music. (And I love that!)
Yin – This practice involve more passive stretches held for longer periods of time (read: not a cake walk). For those people (like me) who have a more fiery practice, this style of yoga is the perfect balance to cool down with.
Acro-yoga – This type of yoga combines yoga, acrobatics, performance and healing arts. It is not for the faint-hearted. It also looks incredibly cool.
Aero-yoga or anti-gravity yoga – Not to be confused with the type of yoga above, this yoga class involves pieces of fabric suspended from the ceiling supporting you in various yoga poses. Like a yoga hammock but instead you will be going upside down with confidence.
Sometimes you will see a class labeled Yoga I/II or something generic like that. If the studio isn’t clearly affiliated with a school of yoga, it means that they let the teacher decide what style of yoga she wants to teach and the teacher might blend several teaching styles in her class. If you have never tried yoga, it’s best to start at Yoga I or a beginner’s class. As you improve, then you can move up to Yoga II then Yoga III. Some studios even offer a Yoga Basics class for folks who are just getting started.
These are by no means ALL the yoga that can be had out there. If you are curious about a class, jump in! If you don’t like it, no one will make you go back. I hope this helps get you on your yoga journey. If you have any questions, please let me know!
P.S. If you are hesitant about jumping into a class full of strangers, a one-on-one session is a great place to start. In a private class with a teacher, you can get comfortable with yoga, ask any questions that you have and address any concerns you might have before joining everyone else. Details for private yoga sessions with me can be found here.