It’s nearing the end of summer, which is a perfect time to check in with your body to see how you feel. Maybe you feel a little squishy from all the summer ice cream calories and you want to finally try yoga! Horray! But where do you start?
The best place to start is Google! Or any search engine of your choice really. But seriously, Google will help you. Because seeing all those yoga signs everywhere can be intimidating if you have never done yoga. And getting bored in your practice because you do the same sequence day after day can be limiting. Google will tell you where to go. When I google the phrase “different types of yoga”, 21 million results pop up. If you are able to get through 1 or 2 of those you may learn a few things. But I’ll make it shorter, clearer, and more to the point for you.
The Ultimate Different Forms of Yoga List in No Particular Order:
1. Vinyasa – This phrase is everywhere. Vinyasa means “to place in certain way”, roughly. But American Yoga has really taken this to mean Flow Yoga. Breath to movement. Most vinyasa classes incorporate moving 1 breath to 1 movement with some longer holding postures. The goal is to sweat, but learn some postures, and get a workout in an hour. Lots of these classes are heated, so make sure you check the description of each class if that does not suit you. It is a great place to start if you are new to yoga and like aerobic like exercise, ie. you like kick-boxing classes, spin classes or boot camp.
2. Iyengar – Iyengar was a person who developed this style of yoga. BKS Iyengar developed this style to make yoga accessible to both young and old practitioners, and those who are injured. Lots of props – belts, ropes, blankets, blocks, and bolsters- are used to facilitate proper alignment in each posture. Postures are held for much longer, and each week a different set of types of postures are performed. Week 1 – standing postures; week 2 – forward bending; week 3 – back bends; and week 4 – restorative. Anyone with an injury should start here and everyone should practice Iyengar to better their postural alignment and physical practices elsewhere in life.
3. Hatha – Hatha really is any type of yoga, however lots of American classes offer it as a style itself. Usually this is slow-paced, some standing postures, and more seating and supine postures. Less strenuous and demanding than some other types and good place to start if you are new to yoga, really tired, or really tight!
4. Ashtanga – Developed by the late Sri Pattabhi Jois and carried on by his grandson Sharath in Mysore, India. This style of yoga is a set sequence of postures performed 6 days a week, in the morning. Yogi’ advance over their lifespan through up to 6 different series. There is lots of attention to the bandhas in the body which can be so difficult to control. There are many studios that offer intro classes and improv classes that allow you to explore Ashtanga without doing the entire full Primary series or Second series. This type of practice is really for those who want to gain the experience of deep athletic yoga. It’s a difficult practice, and takes up to 3 hours to complete. Many practitioners practice infrequently or practice this style and a different style to make the series more accessible, as it is really demanding on the body. Not great for injuries, although (as an injured individual) it is attainable to practice, but it takes time, and you must be the patient with your body. There is definitely a spiritual element to this practice that comes with time and patience as well.
5. Bikram – Is a misogynist (from what my fellow yoga friends who have practiced from him directly have said) and developed this short style of yoga (26 postures) to be done in an incredible amount of heat. Not recommended for people sensitive to heat but can be a good place to start a yoga practice if you like to really “sweat it out.” I will note that lots of yogi’s start here and as they develop a taste for more postures move to a heated vinyasa class. I do not typically recommend this style because I find it incredibly contradictory. In yoga, you are supposed to generate your own body heat by moving and breathing. While heated vinyasa classes can be quite delightful for tight bodies in cold weather, Bikram is just too damn hot!
6. Yin Yoga – If Hatha and Iyengar had a baby it would be yin yoga. Yin yoga typically involves the most restorative postures with prop aid performed on your back. Good for individuals who are new to yoga, and limited in mobility, or if you just need a lighter practice day.
7. Sivananda – Developed by the late Vishnudevananda Sarawati, this type of yoga involves a warm-up of sun salutes followed by rest. Then you rise and perform a single posture, and then rest again! Repeat for 12 postures and you have Sivananda. It’s a great practice if you really like a good warm up and rest. I recommend checking it out and getting a taste for a different style, because not many people practice it, but it can be pretty invigorating and spiritual.
8. Kundalini – Involves trying to awaken the the body through breath and circular movements (which is what kundalini translates to). Lots of meditation, breath work, mantra’s, and chakras are involved with the postures. It can be very spiritually awakening and invigorating, but don’t expect a lot of sweat. Still you will be rather warm after a session. Definitely for individuals who want to awaken a deeper meaning with yoga and gain insight into the higher self.
9. Aerial Yoga – Take a silk dancer’s silk and make a hammock out of it and you have what you need for aerial yoga. Feels amazing, can be challenging, after all you are hanging in a silk hammock. Great for injuries or people wanting to explore flying without really flying! You can really deepen certain poses using these awesome silks!
10. Acro Yoga – Fly with partners instead of silks with acro yoga! This type of yoga involves partners, but you typically do not need to bring a partner in order to practice. Expect a warm up of a few sun salutations followed by practice time. Typically there are spotters so the base and flyer are safe to play. There are lots of meetups so check out your city’s local acro yoga facebook page for free play times! You need a lot of strength and a good foundation of postures to be ready for Acro.
11. Prenatal – Yoga for expecting moms … but if you accidentally walk into a class, feel free to take it! I’ve had a student walk in to a prenatal class I taught and she enjoyed it still because it is very restorative. Lots of long holds in supportive postures for mom and baby and expect some talk about the baby, after all it is a prenatal class.
12. Restorative – Lots of postures utilizing props to allow part of the body to relax while the rest of the body gets a stretch. Similar to yin, apart of Iyengar in the final week. Expect long holds and emphasis on breathing and stillness. Because you are still for a long time.
13. Viniyoga – Developed by Gary Kraftsow, this form of yoga is individualized to the practitioner with an emphasis on function over the form of the posture, proper breathing, repetition, and adaptation. Great for injured individuals and great for injury prevention. Also just great for learning how to adapt postures for your own body!
14. Anusara – John Friend developed this style with an Iyengar influence and Hindu teachings. The school’s ideology is “grounded in a Tantric philosophy of intrinsic goodness.”. The practice is broadly broken up into the 3 A’s – Attitude, Alignment, and Action. There is a lot of spirituality emphasis and expect to learn about the body’s energy loops. There are no set routines, practice is designed to progressively sequence poses which encourages students of all levels to advance in their practice.. The founder did leave his foundation after a scandal in 2012 made accusations of Friend being involved in a Wiccan coven and sexual relations with his students.
15. Kripalu – A three-part practice of knowing, accepting, and learning from your body. Expect a deeply spiritual practice with breath work, some postures, and lots of meditation. Good for those who want more spirituality from their practice.
16. Jivamukti – Developed by Sharron Gannon and David Life. There are not many places you can get this practice, founded in NYC. I recommend flying to New York and spending some time there and get the feel for this one! Lots of celebs like to practice at the Jivamukti studio so expect to see a few (I saw both Anne Hathaway and Heather Graham). Classes offer meditation, chanting, and postures. Each class is usually a different theme, and expect some scripture reading. Good for those who want to delve into a deeper, spiritual practice while getting a good yoga workout.
17. Svaroopa – This style of yoga is a healing style of yoga that uses a variety of unique poses to create a deep release of tension throughout the body. Excellent for injuries or tightness and release from stress. Don’t expect strength from this practice, it is entirely meant to make you more flexible. Lots of props are used, and expect to get each posture easily.
18. Tripsichore – Developed by Edward Clark, this method began as a dance narrative and evolved to incorporate yoga. You can google some amazing narratives of Edward doing some crazy partner like yoga (think acro) with a hint of modern dance thrown in. Expect challenging sequences that get progressively more difficult. Great for dancers and acro yogis.
19. Yogance – Cuchira developed this form of yoga as a fusion of dance with yoga. Expect challenging sequences moving the body in all sorts of ways. Great for dancers, not so good for injuries. But look at how fancy she gets!
So now that you know all the styles (and I am sure there are more being created right now) get out there and try some yoga! I practice more than 1 type of yoga, so there is no “correct” type. You can take multiple forms of yoga and learn new ways to deepen your practice.