Which Style of Yoga Is Best for You?

If you're new to yoga, you have a lot of options. There are many types of yoga to choose from.

With any style of yoga, you can improve your strength, flexibility, and balance. And all yoga styles release tension in your body, quiet your mind, and help you relax.

To get the most benefit, you should choose a yoga style that matches your current fitness level, as well as your personality and goals for practicing yoga

Try different classes and teachers, and see what works for you.

 

Ashtanga Yoga

What it's like: Challenging

You do a nonstop series of yoga poses. Ashtanga yoga also uses a special breathing technique that's said to help focus the mind and control the flow of breath through the body.

Bikram Yoga

What it's like: Challenging

You do a sequence of 26 yoga poses in a very hot room, above 100 degrees.

Check with your doctor if you have any medical condition, including hypertension or diabetes, before starting this "hot" style of yoga.

Hatha Yoga

What it's like: Gentle

"Hatha yoga" originally meant the physical practice of yoga; the poses rather than the breathing exercises. The term now is often used when a few different yoga styles are combined to create a simple class that's good for beginners learning to do basic poses.

Iyengar Yoga

What it's like: Gentle

Detail-oriented and slow-paced, Iyengar yoga is good for beginners.

You may use props -- belts, blocks, and pillow-like bolsters -- to get into poses with correct alignment. Similar styles include Anusara yoga and viniyoga.

Kripalu Yoga

What it's like: Gentle

Kripalu yoga begins with slow movements that barely cause a sweat, and progresses through three levels of deeper mind-body awareness.

Kundalini Yoga

What it's like: Kundalini yoga is more spiritual and philosophical in approach than other styles of yoga. Kundalini yoga classes include meditation, breathing techniques, and chanting as well as yoga postures.

Power Yoga

What it's like: Challenging

Power yoga is one of the most athletic forms of yoga.

Based on the sequence of poses in Ashtanga yoga, power yoga builds upper-body strength as well as flexibility and balance. You flow from one pose to another.

Continued

If you're new to yoga, it's a good idea to take a few classes in a slower style of yoga first to get the feel for the poses. That's because there's less individual attention and more focus on moving through the power yoga class. Some studios call power yoga by different names: flow yoga, flow-style yoga, or vinyasa flow.

Sivananda Yoga

What it's like: Gentle

You do 13 poses and lie down in between the poses. Sivananda yoga is easily adaptable to people of different physical abilities.

Viniyoga

What it's like: Gentle

You focus on how your breath moves through your body and affects each pose. It's not so much about doing every pose precisely. The long, deep stretches of this style of yoga are ideal for beginners and people who want to focus on flexibility, recovery from injury, body awareness, and relaxation.

3 Questions to Consider

To decide on the yoga style that's right for you, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Are you doing yoga for fitness and to get in shape as well as to explore the mind-body connection? Then choose a more vigorous yoga style like power yoga, ashtanga yoga, or Bikram yoga. All three styles combine an athletic series of poses into a vigorous, total-body workout. You may need a few beginner classes so that you can easily move through the poses.
  2. Do you have an injury, a medical condition, or other limitations? Then start with a slower class that focuses on alignment, such as Iyengar yoga, Kripalu yoga, or viniyoga.
  3. Are the meditative and spiritual aspects of yoga your primary goal? Then try one of the yoga styles that include plenty of meditation, chanting, and the philosophic aspects of yoga. For example, you might try kundalini yoga.

Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise or fitness program, especially if you have any medical problems or are an older adult.

 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 27, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

Sarley, D. Essentials of Yoga, Dell, 1999.

YogaJournal.com: "New to Yoga."

BKSIyengar.com: "Iyengar Yoga."

Yogaworkshop.com: "The Ashtanga Vinyasa Lineage."

Rakel, D. Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed., Saunders, 2012. 

Hayes, M. Primary Care, March 2010.

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