The practice of yoga has been developed for thousands of years and is more attainable than ever before. Yoga studios are in every town, and Youtube channels like Yoga with Adriene ensure than there’s a practice for everyone out there. Yoga is about challenging yourself to become better and it’s an exciting journey. Here are seven common types of yoga with the benefits and differences to help you get started.
Iyengar Yoga is a branch of yoga that focuses heavily on proper alignment and relaxation. This style of practice is heavily modified with props such as straps, blocks and chairs. This method is perfect for those with aching bodies or handicaps and beginners. The tempo in this practice is slow and gentle, allowing you to reach full relaxation, with proper alignment in a number of poses. Iyengar increases stamina, flexibility and strength while promoting inward reflection and developing focus. By focusing on alignment, this practice will bring new strength to less used areas of the body.
This is a more traditional practice of yogic poses and breath work meant to cultivate the body, mind and spirit. Any yoga practice that leads one through poses is considered Hatha and has been used to describe many Western practices of yoga. A typical Hatha practice will guide you through an asana, yoga postures and sequences, and pranayama, breathing techniques. A class described as Hatha won’t leave you feeling sore, but more flexible and calm.
Bikram yoga is a practice containing 26 postures that are performed in a studio that is heated to temperatures over 90°F. This yoga practice has become the basis for hot yoga classes, which differ through postures taught during practices. These special poses are shown to work every part of the body and give attention to the internal organs, muscles and ligaments. These positions are meant to work together with the heat to release every benefit possible from the practice.
Yin Yoga’s purpose is to release tension in the body to allow energy to flow more freely. Poses are held for 45 seconds to 3 minutes typically, soothing joints and allowing moments of deep focus and meditation. This branch of yoga is slow paced, and deeply relaxing. Beginners, those with limited mobility and highly stressed persons will appreciate this class that promotes patience and is a great way to get started on a yoga journey.
Kundalini is a practice for those who are looking for a deeper, more spiritual connection through yoga. Besides yoga poses and flows, Kundalini incorporates chanting and meditation throughout the routine. This style’s purpose is to awaken the energy at the base of the spine to flow into all seven chakras. The yogic devotion allows the mind to become clear and feel more in tune with oneself. Some yogis describe having a sort of awakening through this style of practice that allows them to see their potential and purpose in life.
This is one of the more common types of practice, especially in the West. Vinyasa flows yoga postures together, by moving with the breath. The practices are usually never the same and move through asanas at a faster pace than Yin yoga. Breath is the driving force of this practice and leads you to your intentions and movements. While moving through a flow, you might find yourself beginning on your hands and knees and then transitioning into down dog. Ujjayi breath is encouraged during this practice, a rhythmic breath through the nose, which increases relaxation.
Sivananda is another style for those looking to grow a deeper connection through yoga. This practice follows five principles, designed to improve mind, body and spirit. Sivananda uses exercise, breath work, relaxation, a vegetarian diet and meditation as a way to live a more full, healthy life. Beginning in this practice is fairly easy, as it begins with 12 basic poses to master before moving on. This is slow, mindful work that will promote a balanced way of living.
Yoga is meant to create discipline and higher relaxation in life and has numerous benefits for mental and physical health. Connecting to the breath is an important step, and accepting your body where it’s at that day is vital. Some days might be more difficult than others, or some styles of yoga might not be for you, but don’t give up on the process.
LynAnne Vucovich is a journalist who studied at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. She has a passion for culture, community and cats.