5 Different Types of Yoga – Which One Suits You the Best?

[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Chiara Fucarino who blogs at Yoga-Paws]

Ah, yoga. What’s not to like about stretching your muscles, sprawling out on a comfortable mat, and losing yourself in tranquility? Not only does practicing yoga tone your body and refresh your mind, it also improves your immune system, helps lower your stress level, and provides so many more health benefits. Yoga has been around for more than 5,000 years, and we’re still fine-tuning the practice. Today, aside from having a yoga studio around every corner, we have many different styles of yoga. Even though they’re all based on the same poses, each style has a particular focus. For example, one style has a purpose to improve flexibility, while another style primarily strengthens your core.

With many different types of yoga being practiced today, it may be difficult for you to figure out which style benefits your mind and body the most. It’s important for you to find out which type of yoga meets your needs, so here’s a quick explanation of five of the most common yoga styles practiced everywhere.

Hatha

Hatha originated in India in the 15th century. This type of yoga is slow-paced, gentle, and focused on breathing and meditation.

  • Purpose: To introduce beginners to yoga with basic poses and relaxation techniques
  • Benefits: Relieves stress, provides physical exercise, and improves breathing
  • Good for: Beginners and people wanting to learn the basics of yoga

Vinyasa

Much like Hatha, Vinyasa covers basic poses and breath-synchronized movement. This variety of Hatha yoga emphasizes on the Sun Salutation, a series of 12 poses where movement is matched to the breath.

  • Purpose: To link the breath with movement and to build lean muscle mass throughout the body
  • Benefits: Helps improve strength and flexibility, tones the abdominal muscles, and reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes
  • Good for: Beginners and advanced yogis alike seeking to strengthen their bodies

Ashtanga

Ashtanga yoga metaphorically focuses on eight limbs. Considered a form of power yoga, Ashtanga is fast-paced and intense with lunges and push-ups.

  • Purpose: To help improve one’s spiritual self
  • Benefits: Relieves stress, improves coordination, and helps with weight loss
  • Good for: Fit people looking to maintain strength and stamina, and those who want to get in touch with their spiritual side

Iyengar

Iyengar covers all eight aspects of Ashtanga yoga and focuses on bodily alignment. Different props like straps, blankets, and blocks are used to assist in strengthening the body. Standing poses are emphasized, and are often held for long periods of time.

  • Purpose: To strengthen and bring the body into alignment
  • Benefits: Helps improve balance, speeds up recovery from an injury, and builds up body strength
  • Good for: Beginners who want to learn the correct alignments in each pose and those with injuries, balance issues, and chronic medical conditions like arthritis

Bikram

Also known as hot yoga, Bikram is practiced in a 95 to 100 degree room. It’s typically a series of 26 poses that allows for a loosening of tight muscles and sweating.

  • Purpose: To flush out toxins and to deeply stretch the muscles
  • Benefits: Speeds up recovery from an injury, enhances flexibility, and cleanses the body
  • Good for: Beginners and advanced yogis alike who want to push themselves and those with physical injuries

These are only a few of many styles of yoga. Try one or all of them to figure out which one suits your needs the best.

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Comments

  1. says

    This post is terrifying. Hot yoga for people with injuries? seriously??? encouraging injured people to attend classes with no adjustments, either of alignment or of the sequence, for individual cases; in a heated space where their muscles will have artificial flexibility and be more liable to injury; in an environment that attracts competitive types prone to overdoing it; is downright irresponsible.

    Iyengar yoga is just for beginners or those with injuries and poor balance? Have you looked at Mr Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga” lately?

    And one type might focus on flexibility and another on core strength… I’m sorry, but that is literally nonsense.

    • Beth Ann says

      i’m sorry but your comment, like any blanket statement, is ludicrous. the OP didn’t specifically say which injuries are good for hot yoga so don’t jump to conclusions. hot yoga is good for people with arthritis or bad knees. it’s not like people with broken limbs should do hot yoga to recover and i trust that everyone is smart enough to know that. in fact different types of yoga have different focuses like flexibility or core strength. the post not nonsensical at all. your comment is.

      • says

        thanks for your thoughts.

        please could you point me to a study showing the benefits of hot yoga for the many injuries, including arthritis and bad knees, that people reading the article may suffer from and be led to think that hot yoga could solve rather than exacerbate?

        also, please could you tell me what genuine school of yoga’s raison d’être is a strong core or flexibility?

        • Beth Ann says

          are you aware that the founder of bikram hot yoga developed it because he suffered a knee injury from a weightlifting accident? it is said that his knee healed after 6 months. i just performed a quick google search and found many testimonials on hot yoga healing back and knee injuries. you’re acting like everyone reading this blog post is too dimwitted to understand that they need to visit a doctor before running off to a hot yoga studio to heal their injuries. its like someone saying that wearing a cast can heal injuries… you can’t say that it doesn’t because people with chronic back pain cannot benefit from wearing a cast. it’s called making a blanket statement and you’re doing it. for someone who teaches yoga you seem way too uptight. good day.

          • Beth Ann says

            one more thing… i’ve lived next to a hot yoga studio for 5 yrs now and with the permission of my doctor i succesfully recovered from back pain from herniated discs with the help of hot yoga. i don’t need to find studies to back my argument… i’m walking proof that hot yoga can help heal injuries. im offended by your comments because you’re saying that i and everyone else who has done hot yoga to heal injuries was irresponsible and that others shouldn’t do what we did because it’s “wrong”.

  2. says

    I am a Bikram practitioner and from my experience, have learned that hot yoga can be rehabilitating to those with injuries. I just interviewed a runner, who got injured from this sport, and found relief through Bikram Yoga. I have posted about this on bikramyogamusings.com and you may take a read and understand that person’s POV. That said, even though there are no standard adjustments in say – Bikram, the dialogue is safe and must be listened to correctly; practitioner’s are encouraged to only stretch to their limits and find peace in their practice. Unfortunately, I have become injured in classes that are non-Bikram and think that this has to do with poor dialogue and the teacher doing the poses alongside us – as opposed to checking the class to ensure they are following the words. To me, it is a strong statement to say that this post is terrifying and irresponsible as you must take into consideration others’ experiences.

    • says

      hi marina,

      I appreciate that people have different tastes and talents. However, I do not think that anecdotal evidence is enough to make a convincing argument.

      Neurologically speaking, people learn in different ways, but most people learn best by imitation, although words and touch are also important, so as teachers we need to cover all of these bases. It has been shown that the best approach is a demonstration first, while the class observe, before trying the pose themselves, according to precise spoken instructions. The teacher is free to observe, offer corrections and make adjustments as they do so.

      Unfortunately, in my experience of teaching, you can say whatever you like about working within your limitations, but that does not mean people will do so. What works better, I’ve found, is to emphasise correct alignment as the goal.

      I would normally keep these kinds of thoughts to myself as I don’t really like putting negativity out there, or starting arguments, but on this occasion, I just winced to think of all the people with back pain and so on considering taking up yoga for relief, reading this post and going blithely off to hot yoga. I feel strongly that the post offers inappropriate advice.

      sorry about the long essay.
      sarah

  3. says

    I think it is great to have this discussion as this will also give beginner’s pause to understand what they may need to look out for, and make their decision based on safety first. The more we share, the better!

    I am doing a series on Runners and Yoga on my blog as there are two sides to the argument always! First I’m getting the anecdotal evidence out there, and also consulting with professionals to give (hot) yoga deserves. One thing that may work for this person, may not work for another. But you don’t know unless you try. There should be a disclaimer to a) discuss with your healthcare professional b) tell the teacher of your injuries before class (which Bikram teachers I have been led by, do). It’s hard for some to get the courage to do these two things which is why the dialogue and teacher are so important to have ‘present’ in the class.

    In terms of correct alignment, I can say that I have had much better experience refining my postures through learning via a beginner’s series; this is why dialogue and working with a set series that I can improve upon works for me. Having a teacher walk by to correct my alignment, grip etc in Bikram is more than I have ever had in any vinyasa, ashtanga, or power class. Going into a Birkam studio, I know without asking that the teacher is certified in that yoga.

    I had some lower back pain – Bikram helped me alot wit it, and today I wake up feeling great. It took a while – a consistent practice- but knowing by engaging my core actually, I was really helped by that. I think this is a muti sided conversation as I noticed that you asked the other commentator re: “what genuine school of yoga’s raison d’être is a strong core or flexibility?” As yoga is alot more Westernised in its gain in popularity, many do seek it for its physical and mental benefits (as i did), and I know from first-hand experience that initially, if a consistent yoga practice teaches anything, it is body and mind awareness. That is so important.

    PS Don’t worry about your long essay – look at mine! Sarah, do you teach yoga?

  4. says

    Hi Marina,

    Yes, I am a yoga teacher. Let me just say that I am really glad you have found relief for your pain, and I would never knock your personal experience, I think it’s great that you proactively went out and found an answer.

    In truth, my most honest opinion is that the basic teaching qualification (generally a 200 hour training) is skimpy and does not prepare teachers for the real world, which is full of people with injuries; people who do not confess their injuries; medical conditions that a 200 hour training cannot even begin to equip you to deal with; people who have no body awareness whatever; and classes that are too large to monitor technique effectively in. I am sure I have just let myself in for a barrage of criticism from people with vested interests in that system, i.e. 200 hour teacher trainers and teachers who are content with their 200 hour qualification. But that is the situation I found myself in at first and it was really bewildering.

    By the same token, a good teacher, while hard to find, can in theory pop up in any style of yoga and really help people.

    But personally, if people are looking for a generic recommendation, I suggest Iyengar yoga, because as a rule, I think they are the most rigorously trained, and the most likely to know good alignment and appropriate sequences. I am not Iyengar certified, that is just my observation.

    ok, I think I have stuck my head over the parapet enough for one day! don’t think I’ll do that again in a hurry!

    Sarah

  5. says

    I am actually reading “Light on Yoga” – what a fascinating read! Sarah, I think opinions and statements are a contribution to the ongoing conversation which is healthy. I know I learn so much from this yoga community :)

  6. says

    ohmigosh! so much discussion over the benefits of Yoga :) I absolutely love it. whether we can agree on the 5 Yoga types or not, I’m just so happy this post is up… for newbies who feel even slightly intrigued it’s a great tool to figure out which kind you want to further research (ahem, ahem, eventually practice). Thanks for posting!

  7. says

    Hi!
    Great to know the different kinds of Yoga that can be practiced by an individual’s capabilities.. because not everybody can practice with ease – depending on the age, health conditions and the like.. I also recommend this site http://lindayoga.com/ it also features different yoga practices and more useful and expose tips for everyone regardless of people’s differences.

    Namaste :-)

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