You are probably more familiar with the physical aspect of yoga known as asana. This is only one aspect of yoga, but do you know that there are many types of yoga with different aims and approaches?
There are many different types of yoga, and each of them has particular characteristics and aims. Some of the most popular types of yoga are:
- Hatha yoga
- Ashtanga yoga
- Vinyasa yoga
- Jivamukti yoga
- Sinavanda yoga
- Iyengar yoga
- Kundalini yoga
- Yin yoga
Yoga has branched into many different types. Hatha yoga is one of the oldest types of yoga. From Hatha yoga, many other yoga types have derived. Yoga has an ancient tradition in the East, it’s a lifestyle. Yoga encompasses all aspects of life physical, mental, spiritual.
In the West, yoga has been adapted to our busy life. Some yoga types focus more on the physical aspect. While other yoga types try to preserve some of the Eastern traditions including chanting and meditations in their practice.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient holistic practice that includes all aspects of life. Yoga was developed in India around 5000 years ago. The first two ever written texts about Yoga are the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita. These two books explain the nature and obstacles to reach a higher state of awareness and fulfillment.
Yoga means unity or oneness, it comes from the Sanskrit word Yuj, which means to join. Yoga encompasses your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual being. Yoga means that the connection you have between your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual body is in balance.
Learning yoga in ancient India was not open to everybody, only a few chosen ones learnt it. The teachings of yoga were passed from Guru to disciple over an oral tradition.
The disciple started learning at a young age. It was only after many years of practice and experience that the disciple reached a level of consciousness and wisdom to become a master and carry on with the tradition.
Yoga is a practice that cannot be learnt through texts. Yoga needs to be experienced. Yoga can also help you to connect with your true self and to connect with others. Yoga can help you connect to the Universal Consciousness. You will learn to go beyond the boundaries of your mind and the limitations of language
Yoga as a practice is asana, pranayama, meditation, chanting, and diet. You can practice yoga to include all of its aspects or you can choose to do only one or more.
At a physical level yoga can help you to accept yourself the way you are. Yoga can bring awareness to your body, so that you give yourself what you need, for example, to recognise when you need rest, food, or sleep.
What type of yoga is best for you?
To know which type of yoga is best for you, you need to keep in mind the reasons you have to do yoga. Ask yourself, do you want to lose weight? Maybe you want to get fitter? Or you want to get rid of the stress, anxiety, and worries of your everyday life.
Whatever it is that you want to overcome or achieve in your life, yoga can help you to support your physical, emotional, and spiritual body. First, decide what it is that you aim for.
What is your intention for doing yoga? Once you know what it is that you want, it will be easier for you to choose a type of yoga depending on your intention.
There is no right or wrong type of yoga for you. Each yoga type will help you at a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. But different yoga types will focus more on one aspect than others. Some yoga types will be more physically demanding. Others will have more meditation or chanting.
The best way to decide which yoga type is for you is to attend a class or to watch a couple of videos. This can give you an idea about what type of yoga you feel more inclined to try.
Which type of yoga is best for beginners?
The best types for beginners are the ones that explain the poses to you and help you get into a pose without injury. As a beginner, your flexibility and strength may not be so good. You will develop them with continuous practice little by little. It’s important to have a practice that will help you get there.
The best two types of yoga for beginners are Hatha yoga and Iyengar yoga.
Hatha yoga is like the mother of all yogas. Many other types of yoga derived from Hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is probably the most common type of yoga. Hatha yoga is the easier yoga to start with.
You will get familiar with the postures and build strength and flexibility. You will learn to be aware of your body while integrating the cycle of breathing patterns.
The yoga I consider to be outstandingly good is Iyengar yoga. Iyengar yoga can help you get into the poses with the help of props. Yoga props are blocks, belts, chairs, or any other tool that can facilitate you into a pose.
So, you reach the pose with ease without injury. You work at your own pace to the point where you no longer need props to help you get into the pose.
How many types of yoga are there?
It’s difficult to put a number on how many types of yoga exist nowadays. This is because new yoga types keep appearing. We can consider traditional types of yoga, which have an origin in the Eastern tradition, and new types of yoga that appear in the West.
All the different types of yoga have been developed from various yoga lineages or gurus teachings.
The yoga types from the Eastern tradition have been named after the guru that developed the asanas or the sequence of asanas.
There are also Western modern yoga types that have been created by people who have studied a particular type of yoga and modified it. These variations are given a new name, and some consider them as a new type of yoga, others consider they are not.
We will explore 8 of the most popular yoga types: Hatha yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Vinyasa yoga, Iyengar yoga, Kundalini yoga, Yin yoga, Jivamukti yoga, and Sinavanda yoga.
Hatha yoga traditionally encompasses the physical part of postures known as asanas. Hatha yoga focuses on the postures, their alignment, and the stretch and strengthening of muscles.
Hatha in Sanskrit means ‘forceful’ Hatha yoga is created through postures/asanas. Ha represents the Sun, and Tha, which represents the moon. Hatha yoga aims to join, yoke, or balance the energies of the Sun and the moon.
Hatha yoga is the foundation of all existing types of yoga. Practicing Hatha yoga can help you to purify and control your physical body and as a result to gain control over your mind.
Hatha yoga includes a series of breathing exercises known as pranayama. Mantra chanting and the use of hand gestures or Mudras.
What can you expect of a Hatha yoga class?
A Hatha yoga class tends to be slow. You will start with a warm-up followed by holding poses for a long time. During the class, you will be shown the correct alignment of the poses.
Hatha yoga includes poses like sun salutations, strength-building exercises, inversions, and arm balances to increase stamina. To end the class you will have some time for meditation or relaxation.
Hatha yoga will build strength and flexibility. Hatha yoga will give you a good stretch, unwind, release tension, however it is not necessarily easy to perform.
Benefits of Hatha yoga
Hatha yoga will help you rebalance your Autonomous Nervous System (ANS). Hatha yoga postures accelerate your ANS and then calm it down again.
Your spine will keep young through forward and backbends, twists, stretches that massages the spine. Hatha yoga will increase your stamina, strength, flexibility, and coordination.
Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic flow created by Pattabhi Jois in the 1970s. Pattabhi Jois learned this type of yoga from Tirumalai Krishnamacharya in India.
Ashtanga yoga consists of linking individual poses or asanas to create a flow and synchronising it with the breath. Ashtanga yoga consists of 6 series of asanas, which are repeated in each class.
The word Ashtanga in Sanskrit means the ‘eight limbs’ of yoga. Ashtanga focuses on the physical part, one of the limbs of yoga, from which a person can attain
What can you expect in an Ashtanga yoga class?
An Ashtanga yoga class will usually start with a chant, followed by a warm-up before starting the series of asana repetitions. In most classes series 1 and 2 are practiced. The other 4 series require you to have an advanced level. Every movement is linked to the breath cycle of inhalation and exhalation.
The Ashtanga asanas are linked in a sequence to allow a flow during the practice. The series sequence never changes, it’s taught the same anywhere in the world. A class takes about an hour and a half to two hours to complete. You start with sun salutations, move to stand poses, seated poses, inversions, and backbends before you end with relaxation.
Asthanga yoga can give you a vigorous workout. It is a fast pace practice so you won’t be having too many demonstrations. Ashtanga yoga is hands-on, you will get some adjustments during the class and vocal instructions.
Ashtanga yoga is ok for beginners if you want a fast pace, invigorating practice. It can provide a good base for a home practice once you learn the sequences.
The benefits of Ashtanga yoga
Ashtanga yoga is a vigorous exercise. Ashtanga yoga can help you to lose weight and give you physical strength and a calm mind. It’s not recommended for people with joint problems. It can be invigorating and give you lots of stamina, but it will also require a lot of your energy to keep the pace during a class.
Ashtanga yoga will challenge you physically and mentally. Ashtanga yoga will make you sweat a lot physically but will help you develop inner and outer strength.
Vinyasa yoga originated with teacher Sri Krishnamacharaya teacher of K. Pattabhi Jois. Vinyasa yoga uses the Ashtanga primary series and makes one pose to flow into the next one with fluid transitions. As with Ashtanga yoga, Vinyasa yoga also synchronises one posture with the breath.
The word Vinyasa in Sanskrit means connection. Vinyasa yoga has many umbrella yogas, which follow the principle of transiting from the poses with ease in a flowing movement. You may have heard of some of them such as Jivamukti yoga, and Power yoga.
What can you expect of a Vinyasa yoga class?
A Vinyasa yoga class includes poses from the series 1 and 2 of Ashtanga yoga. The class can be slow or fast-paced. This depends on the teacher and the sequence you are working on.
Vinyasa is a more varied style than Ashtanga yoga. It allows more freedom to choose the poses and the order you want to do them. This is one of the main beauties of Vinyasa yoga, it’s varied versatility of poses and order of poses.
Vinyasa yoga classes varied depending on the teacher as each teacher chooses the way they want to teach, so you must relate to the teacher and enjoy their way of teaching to get the most of your Vinyasa yoga class.
Benefits of Vinyasa yoga
Vinyasa yoga acts by activating the Sympathetic Nervous System. It increases the heart rate through the poses and breathing. It boosts the metabolism for which it is good to lose weight. It improves your stamina and strength.
Is Power yoga the same as Vinyasa yoga?
Power yoga and Vinyasa yoga are very similar. Power yoga is a newer type of Vinyasa yoga. Power yoga is the most vigorous approach to the Vinyasa style.
Power yoga is commonly found in gyms. Only the physical aspect of yoga is approached in Power yoga. Power yoga is not for you if you don’t have at least a moderate level of fitness.
Jivamukti yoga is a Hatha yoga variant. Jivamukti yoga was created in 1980 in New York by Sharon Canon and David Life. Jivamukti yoga is a very spiritual yoga, focused on devotion as well as being physically vigorous.
Jivamukti yoga focuses on teaching devotion, non-violence, chanting, music, and meditation as well as the physical aspect of the postures. The aim of Jivamukti yoga is to improve our relationship with all other beings. By realising our connection between every one of us and with the Cosmos.
What to expect from a Jivamukti yoga class?
Jivamukti classes are quite vigorous. Each Jivamukti class tends to have a theme, so all the asanas, philosophy, music, pranayama, chanting, and relaxation are focused on that theme.
Each Jivamukti class makes emphasis on the principles of yoga but brings them down to Earth to more relatable examples of our modern life.
Jivamukti class is one of the most complete yoga classes you can find in the West if you want to learn more about the principles and philosophy of yoga and not only interested in the physical work out.
Even not compulsory for you to be vegan or vegetarian, the principle of non-violence encourages people to change the way they live, including their diet choices.
Benefits of Jivamukti yoga
Jivamukti yoga will give you an invigorating work out that can help you to:
- Loose weight
- Be toned
- Gain strength and flexibility.
- Detoxify your body
- Improve circulation
- Decrease stress
- Improve your mood
Sinavanda yoga is a variant style from Hatha Yoga. Sinavanda yoga is based on the teachings of Swami Sinavanda, a spiritual Hindu teacher. The main principle of Sinavanda yoga is the selfless service or Karma yoga, and being a vegetarian.
Practicing Sinavanda yoga will encourage life energy or prana circulate in your body. Sinavanda yoga aims to teach an authentic Vedic system based on 5 principles:
- Proper asanas
- Proper breathing
- Proper relaxation
- Proper diet
- Positive thinking and meditation with Vedanta and Dhayana.
In a Sinavanda yoga class, you can expect to do 12 key postures that will repeat. These 12 key postures are well integrated with the breathing. You will have to master these 12 poses to be able to move into some variations of the poses. A Sinavanda yoga class is vigorous but slow, each pose is done with control.
Sinavanda yoga is a systematic yoga. You will have to practice the poses in order. A class usually lasts between 90-120 minutes.
Sinavanda class starts with Om chant then you resting on your back on your mat. Followed by practicing some breathing exercises. You will do between 6 – 8 rounds of Surya Namaskar known as Sun salutations to finally move to the practice of the 12 Sinavanda asanas: headstand, shoulder stand, plow, fish, seated forward bend, cobra, locust, bow, seated spinal twist, crow or peacock, standing forward bend, and triangle.
Practicing Sinavanda yoga will improve your mental and physical health. You will gain control over your movements and your body. Sinavanda yoga will help you to:
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Improve circulation
- Keep the spine flexible
- Aid with digestion
- Increase your memory
- Improve concentration
- Cure insomnia and depression
Iyengar yoga was created by B. K. S Iyengar in the 1970s, and named after him. The Iyengar type of yoga is based on performing each asana precisely. The main focus of Iyengar yoga is getting the correct alignment in each posture.
Practicing Iyengar yoga will help you achieve the correct position for each asana without forcing your body into the position. This is achieved by using props, (props are tools to help you get into the right posture such as belts, blocks, chairs, wheels).
The aim of Iyengar yoga is to understand each posture, to feel it, and hold it. It’s like meditating in the posture.
What can you expect of an Iyengar yoga class?
Iyengar classes are extremely detailed. The teacher will demonstrate the pose, then explain to you each pose while guiding you from one pose to another.
The flow is generally slow to be able to get the right position. Iyengar yoga can be ideal for you if you like a methodical approach.
Classes can follow a theme to work on for the day or for a week. So that the postures learned at that time will be only the ones for example to build strength or to achieve inversions.
An Iyengar class will have a lot of anatomical knowledge involved. The teacher will come around to check on your postures and put you in the right alignment with the help of props.
Iyengar yoga is amazing for beginners and in general for all levels of practice. As a beginner, Iyengar will give you a solid understanding of the poses. Iyengar yoga will prevent you from injuries by not forcing your body into poses you are not ready for.
Benefits of Iyengar yoga:
- Knowledge of the poses
- Correct posture and alignment
- Safe practice
Kundalini yoga is a blend of physical and spiritual practices. Traditionally Kundalini yoga has an influence from Shaktism and Tantra. The aim of Kundalini yoga is to awaken the kundalini energy that lies dormant at the base of the spine.
The awakening of the kundalini energy can be achieved through the regular practice of mantra, pranayama, meditation, and kriya.
Kundalini yoga is an amalgamation of other yogas known as Bhakti yoga (yoga of devotion), Raja yoga (yoga of meditation), and Shakti yoga (yoga of energy).
Plus a combination of Hatha yoga techniques such as asanas, pranayamas, and bandha. Kriya yoga, tantric visualisation, and meditation techniques aimed to awaken the kundalini energy.
The practice of modern Kundalini yoga was lied by Swami Nigamananda in the 1930s. Later in 1968 Yogi Bhajan introduced his own version of Kundalini yoga to the West. It is believed that the teachings of Yogi Bhajan were based on the teachings of Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari and Maharaj Virsa Singh.
The teachings of Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari were to cleanse the energy channels of the body known as Nadis through the practice of yoga. The aim of Kundalini yoga as taught by yogi Bhajan is to develop awareness, consciousness, and spiritual strength through the practice of asana-kriyas, pranayama, and meditation.
A Kundalini yoga class is open to anyone regardless of age, sex, or health condition. The yoga class is theme-based, so the asana-kriya, pranayama, meditation will depend on the theme chosen.
What can I expect in a Kundalini yoga class?
In the West, the Kundalini yoga that you are likely to come across is Kundalini yoga as taught by yogi Bhajan. A class lasts between 90 minutes to 2 hours.
A yoga class as taught by Yogi Bhajan starts with the chanting mantra Ong Namo to honour the gurus that have practiced before and to ask for their protection during the practice.
Then you will do a pranayama exercise to centred you. Followed by warm-up exercises for the spine. You will perform a specific kriya for the theme you are working on.
Then you will chant the mantra for that theme and do a meditation. Before ending the class there is a relaxation time lying down on the mat. To end the class you chant the Longtime Sun song followed by three Sat Nam.
Benefits of Kundalini yoga:
- Brings your endocrine system into balance
- Calms your nervous system
- Eliminates depression and anxiety
- Bring balance to the chakras
- Helps to awaken the kundalini energy
- Achieve a higher state of consciousness
- Increases your vitality
- Brings awareness
- Improves your overall health.
Yin yoga was founded in the 1980s by Pauline Zink. Yin yoga is based on the Chinese philosophy that everything in the universe contains a complementary opposite. Yin yoga focuses on the Yin aspect of Taoism.
Yin yoga is a slow, passive, and a deep type of yoga. It works with the connective tissue and fascia of the body. Yin yoga helps you to release physical and emotional tension. You will work deep into the pelvis, hip, and lower body areas.
What can you expect of a yin yoga class?
In a Yin yoga class, you will hold postures for extended periods between 3 to 5 minutes. A Yin yoga class is very meditative. You will be guided by your teacher through the poses in a calm and almost meditative way. It’s like an active guided meditation that puts you into certain poses.
The focus during a Yin yoga class is on your breath as you change from pose to pose. During the class, you will make use of bolsters, blocks, and blankets. Yin yoga is perfect to release stress and help you sleep. The postures will help you to free your mind and body of pain.
Benefits of Yin yoga
- Releases fascia tension
- Relaxes muscles
- Reduces chronic injuries and improves joint mobility
- Activates the body system to repair and heal
- Lower heart rate
- Calms the mind
- Reduces stress
- Improves mood helping deal with depression and anxiety
There are different types of yoga, some of them are more traditional and focus in all aspects of your well-being. These types of yoga are closer to their Indian origin aim of bringing connection and union between body, mind, and soul.
Here we explored some of the most popular types. If you want to have a vigorous exercise with little focus on spirituality or chanting Ashtanga yoga, Vinyasa yoga and Power yoga are a good option. If you prefer a yoga that will bring you calmness and give you time to connect with yourself Yin yoga and Kundalini yoga could be a good option
If you want to have some vigorous asana and at the same time connect to the spiritual side of yoga and learn its philosophy Jivamukti yoga and Sinavanda yoga are for you. As a beginner Hatha yoga and Iyengar yoga are the best yogas to learn the asanas properly.
The all-round classic yoga is Hatha yoga, the best way to know if it’s for you is to try a class in person or online.
There are lots of online yoga platforms that offer free trials for 2 weeks or a month. I suggest this is the best idea to see and experience what each of these yogas is about. I recommend if you are a beginner to try a physical class for a few weeks. This will give you a better idea if you like that type of yoga that you experience in a class or not.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which type of yoga is best for weight loss?
For weight loss, you need a yoga type that is physically vigorous and makes you sweat. Ashtanga yoga, Vinyasa yoga, Power yoga, and Jivamukti yoga can help you with weight loss. Learn more
Which type of yoga is best for stress relief?
First, you need to know how you relax better, if you relax better with vigorous exercise Ashtanga yoga, Vinyasa yoga or Jivamukti yoga are a great option. But if you relax better with meditation and slow flow, Yin yoga and Kundalini yoga will definitely relieve your stress. Learn more
Which type of yoga is best for beginners?
As a beginner is best to learn the poses properly to avoid injuries, so a type of yoga that explains postures and the teacher demonstrate each pose at a time is best. Iyengar yoga will definitely help you learn the right way. Hatha yoga is also a good option. Learn more
Which type of yoga is best for flexibility?
You will develop flexibility with all types of yoga. Flexibility depends on your body and how much you practice. Daily practice will help you develop flexibility. Learn more
What type of yoga use props?
Iyengar is the type of yoga that uses most props, but you will also find props in Hatha yoga and Ashtanga yoga. Learn more