Types of Yoga

What Are the Types of Yoga?

There are several types of yoga that can help you improve your strength and balance, relieve tension in your body, quiet your mind, and help you relax.

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 boost your strength, get more flexible, and improve your balance. And all yoga styles release tension in your body, quiet your mind, and help you relax.

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 F.

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

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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 yoga styles are combined to create a simple class that's good for beginners learning to do basic poses.

Anusara Yoga

What it’s like: Gentle

Anusara yoga is a modern system of Hatha yoga. Classes start with a chant and end with quiet meditation. They include more than 250 poses from Hatha yoga, but teachers can practice their own style, too.

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.

Restorative Yoga

What it’s like: Gentle

This type of yoga uses poses that you’ll do mostly on the floor with the support of bolsters, blankets, blocks, and chairs. The class is designed to care for your body, mind, and spirit.

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.

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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 or Vinyasa Flow 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 and helps make you more flexible and balanced. You flow from one pose to another.

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.

Jivamukti Yoga

What it’s like: Challenging

Jivamukti yoga combines the physical parts of Vinyasa yoga with the ethical and spiritual parts of ancient yogic texts such as nonviolence, veganism, and chanting.

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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 being flexible, recovering from injury, body awareness, and relaxation.

Couples Yoga

What it’s like: Gentle to Challenging

This type of yoga is for two or more people and helps build trust and connection. You can practice it with your child, a partner, or someone you meet in class. Sometimes, you’ll create one pose with your partner. You could also mirror them, or they’ll help you with balance or a deep stretch.

Prenatal Yoga

What it’s like: Gentle

Prenatal yoga focuses on gentle stretching, poses, and breathing. It’s a way for pregnant women to relax, stay fit, improve strength, get more flexible, and lower stress, anxiety, and the side effects of pregnancy like nausea, lower back pain, and shortness of breath.

How to Choose a Type of Yoga

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

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

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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Are the meditative and spiritual parts of yoga your primary goal? Then try one of the yoga styles that include plenty of meditation, chanting, and the philosophic parts 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 August 27, 2020

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. 

Primary Care: "Prescribing yoga."

National Association of Complementary and Alternative Medicines: “Jivamukti Yoga,” “Anusara Yoga.”

Stanford Health Care: “Restorative Yoga.”

Mayo Clinic: “Prenatal yoga: What you need to know.”

Omega: “Omega’s Guide to Yoga Styles.”

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