Different Types of Yoga
Here’s how to choose the best yoga practice for you.
The health benefits of a regular yoga practice are widely known. Yoga can improve strength and flexibility, benefit heart health, give you more energy and even help you sleep better. But if you want to get started doing yoga, it can be difficult to know which form is right for you. One look at a gym’s schedule or a studio search in your neighborhood can yield dozens of results. Do you want power yoga or something more restorative? And what’s the difference between Ashtanga and Iyengar? Read our yoga styles guide below to learn more and start flowing.
The best way to find the type of yoga you love is to try several of them. Bethany Lyons, Owner of New York City’s Lyons Den Power Yoga, suggests getting recommendations from people you trust. “Word of mouth is a powerful and useful tool,” she says. “Try out different studios and teachers within those studios to see what and who resonates best with you. Always be sure to let the teacher know you are brand new—and be proud of this! It takes a lot of courage to try on something new as an adult.”
If you’re not comfortable going to a studio, check out online streaming classes, tutorials and breakdowns of poses to start creating an at-home practice. One silver lining of the pandemic is the boom of online yoga and fitness class offerings.
Vinyasa is a fast-paced yoga style generally considered to be the most athletic style of yoga. “Vinyasa is a physical practice that features posture sequences that link breath with movement,” says Virna Sanabria, yoga teacher at New York Yoga. “Vinyasa resonates with people mostly because it is strongly associated with body movement versus other types that are associated with just breath or mental disciplines. It can be seen as an ‘athletic’ practice.”
That being said, you don’t need to sweat in order to get a good “workout.” What you get out of your yoga practice is what you put into it, and one key component is a student’s intention going into the class. “By definition, yoga is a union that asks for awareness of breath and body coupled with mental focus. When one is engaging in these activities fully, one is doing yoga...Yoga is not a workout, but can offer the benefits of one.”
“The real heat comes from the kind you generate within yourself through the actions and focus you maintain during practice,” says Lyons. “Get connected to the present moment, bring awareness to your body and breath and you will most definitely be doing good by your body.”
Ashtanga & Iyengar
“Ashtanga is a physical practice that features six sequences,” says Sanabria. “A student gets the opportunity to master a primary series before moving on towards more advanced levels.” Ashtanga can be physically demanding, so this type of yoga isn’t recommended for beginners.
Iyengar, on the other hand, is a great starting point for those new to yoga because the poses are held for long periods of time. The style is popular with those recovering from injuries who need to work more slowly. “Iyengar is a very detail-oriented practice that emphasizes alignment,” says Sanabria. “This practice uses a plethora of props so that a student finds their perfect alignment.”
Baptiste is the style of yoga Lyons practices at Lyons Den Power Yoga. Similar to the athleticism of Vinyasa, Baptiste is “a vigorous physical practice that incorporates three different practices and techniques: meditation, asana and inquiry,” Lyons says. “It is typically done in a heated room and utilizes very functional movements for strength, possibility and empowerment in mind, body and spirit.”
Heated or hot yoga is another category you may find in your yoga research. Though there are many styles of hot yoga classes, Bikram is the original hot yoga and among the best known. Some people like heated yoga because they feel it improves flexibility and circulation. If you decide to try heated or hot yoga, it’s wise to consult your doctor first. Make sure to drink water before, during and after class to prevent dehydration.
Yin is a yoga style that offers stationary postures to allow for a deep muscular stretch. “A slower flow Yin practice is a great way to end the day,” says Sanabria. “A slow-paced Nadi Shodhana breath practice—also known as Alternate Nostril breathing—is also an excellent way to bring balance to the mind and body right before bedtime.”
“I believe any type of yoga practice can support recovery and help to reduce anxiety,” says Sanabria. “A student can identify different practices that support their given needs and make up a yoga cocktail of well-being.”
Whichever type of yoga practice you decide to start with, make sure you’re wearing proper clothing and have the right gear that suits your needs. If you’re looking for a few new pieces to get started, check out our latest drops.