10 Types of Yoga & Their Key Benefits
10 Types of Yoga & Their Key Benefits
There are so many different types of yoga: that’s the beauty of this ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice.
But we know that alongside all this choice, there can come confusion.
Which style is the right one for me?
Should I commit to only one form?
What is the difference between them all?
There is so much choice, which if you are starting out on a yoga path, it can leave you feeling confused.
That’s why we’ve rounded up the 10 main types of yoga to give you a clearer idea of their subtle differences and deep benefits. Why not give a few styles a try and see which one truly speaks to your soul?
‘Hatha’ is a Sanskrit term that brings together all the physical postures in yoga. It is arguably the best entry point into the world of yoga, as it is an overarching style rooted in a physical practice.
Hatha tends to be slower in its pace, with a classic approach. The practice is designed to align and relax your mind, body and spirit, perfectly preparing you for a soft but transformative meditation.
Iyengar is a very precise, controlled approach to yoga. It is meticulous, placing emphasis on the strong details of your alignment, your breath control (pranayama) and your posture (asana).
During an Iyengar class, you will need to give every ounce of your attention to the minute details of every pose; this proves hugely beneficial for easing any stress and anxiety you may be holding.
These classes tend to move as a slower pace, but that’s not to say you won’t be working hard! The meticulous focus required is certainly a mental as well as a physical workout. You’ll also find that it’s exceptional for improving strength and flexibility.
Ashtanga is one of the more physically demanding forms of yoga: for that reason, it isn’t really one for beginners.
It features a set series of standing and floor postures, kicked off with five sun salutation A’s and five sun salutation B’s.
Due to its more dynamic nature, Ashtanga is great for boosting physical health; it’s a brilliant cardio workout and can aid weight loss. However, the set nature of the postures also promotes focus and clarity and works as a strong mental stimulant.
Due to the need for strength in practising Ashtanga, it is a great one for men.
Vinyasa is an adaption of Ashtanga, brought about in the 1980s. It is seen as the most athletic yoga style, with a flowing purpose drawing the lines between breath and movement.
Poses are strung seamlessly together, guided by your breath, in a more flexible form than Ashtanga.
The term ‘Vinyasa’ also means ‘to place in a special way’ and relates to the specific sequence of poses (for example, Chaturanga to Upward-Facing Dog to Downward-Facing Dog) that will often be found within the class.
As with Ashtanga, Vinyasa flows are a powerful physical workout while providing mental focus and relaxation.
If you’re looking for a practice with a more spiritual approach, Kundalini may be the style for you.
It is designed to release the kundalini energy (a form of divine energy in Hinduism) which is believed to rest coiled in the base of the spine; almost like a serpent.
These classes are fast-moving: they involve intense, invigorating postures and dynamic breath exercises. You’ll also take part in chanting, mantra and meditation.
When you leave a Kundalini class, you leave feeling totally awakened.
Jivamukti is a newer form of yoga, founded in the mid-1980s. It emphasises our connection to the Earth as a living being, and is infused with Hindu spiritual teachings.
It is seen as a physical, ethical and spiritual practice, and involves a vigorous Vinyasa-based flow, and adheres to the 5 central principles of Jivamukti: shastra, bhakti, ahimsā, nāda, and dhyana.
Classes open with chanting, personal stories and universal teachings. This will be followed by music and hands-on adjustments (including massage!) to drive forward your practice.
If you’re looking to really sweat, then look no further. Bikram yoga is taught in a studio set up to 105 degrees with 40% humidity.
It’s a form of hot yoga developed from traditional Hatha techniques. Classes are always set, with 90 minutes covering a series of 26 basic postures (performed twice) and two breathing exercises.
One of the biggest benefits of Bikram is the impact of practising in a heated room; this aids blood circulation throughout the body. It is also thought to aid the body into leaner, longer-toned form.
Slow things right down with Yin yoga. This deeply meditative practice takes seated postures and holds them for longer periods of time; between 45 seconds and 2 minutes, normally (although more advanced yogis may hold poses up to 5 minutes).
It’s a passive practice, designed to reawaken dormant energy and stretch the connective tissue around the joints.
Often in Yin, you will also use props to help support the body further, allowing gravity to really do its job.
Total body relaxation is at the heart of Restorative yoga. Similarly to Yin, you will spend more time in fewer poses throughout the class, allowing you to sink deeply into the relaxation.
During Restorative yoga, you are likely to use props such as blankets, bolsters and eye pillows, allowing you to unwind and sink into the pose further.
Although it has many of the same traits as Yin, the main difference is the yogi needs to be 100% comfortable in Restorative; in Yin, a little discomfort is welcome.
Prenatal yoga is a carefully adapted form of yoga built for expectant mums at all stages of their pregnancy.
It is seen as one of the best forms of exercise for “mums to be” thanks to the pelvic floor work, as well as the breathing and relaxation technique preparing you for labour.
It can also decrease lower back pain, soothe headaches and ease stress.
Discover our Directory of Holistic Exercise teachers here in Hampshire & Dorset, and try one of these yoga styles out for yourself!
If you are a yoga teacher and would like to add your class or studio to the list, please get in touch.
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