Yoga has so many benefits that you could write a book about them — and many folks have. You can use the practice for anything from stress reduction to treating chronic pain.
If you are new to the world of yoga, you have tons of instructors and class formats to explore. What are the major styles of yoga you should consider trying? Give each of the nine below a go until you find your unique body groove.
1. Hatha Yoga
“Hatha” is a catchall phrase. The word has different meanings in Sanskrit. Many practitioners break it down into “ha,” meaning “sun,” and “tha,” meaning “moon.” However, the term also translates to “will or force.”
You can find millions of hatha yoga classes, both online and in-person. Each instructor uses a unique style, but they typically focus on holding various stretches, or asanas, for several breaths. Some combine more vigorous movements with static stretches, but most classes advertised as “hatha” focus more on holding each pose than on transitioning between them.
2. Yin or Restorative Yoga
If you have chronic pain from arthritis or fibromyalgia, make yin yoga your best friend — you won’t regret it. This yoga style focuses on getting your connective tissues pliable by holding static, floor-based stretches for three to five minutes. You will feel gloriously sore in a positive way.
Talk to your doctor. When combined with traditional therapies, this practice makes a fabulous holistic treatment. If you formerly used medications to treat your disorders, you may need to adjust your prescriptions once you begin reaping the benefits of this yoga style. The best part? If you are new to the practice, you won’t have to master anything crazy nor maintain your balance.
3. Vinyasa Yoga
You’ll hear the term “vinyasa” used as a verb in yoga classes that don’t bill themselves as such. That’s because the word in Sanskrit refers to placing things in a particular order, like the poses in a yoga flow. You might hear guides use the term to describe flowing through chaturanga and upward-facing dog to transition between poses.
Classes in this style tend to follow a set sequence with continual movement in between. From an outsider’s perspective, it looks as if you are completing an intricate dance. The reality isn’t too different, although you still feel relaxed after a class.
4. Power Yoga
Power yoga combines the asanas, or poses, of other styles with pushups, planks and tons of core work. If you like to combine strength and flexibility work, this form is for you.
Power yoga classes can get intense — you might do 30 or more pushups throughout a session. However, you do build up muscular endurance. Plus, the cooldown remains. Nearly every instructor still includes savasana, or corpse pose, at the end.
5. Bikram Yoga
Bikram yoga follows a set sequence of 26 poses. It takes approximately 90 minutes to explore all of them, although many guides keep their classes to less than an hour to suit modern time demands.
The thing that sets this form apart is that it turns up the heat. Guides crank up the classroom to 105 degrees with 40% humidity — it’s like living through an Arizona monsoon season. Practitioners believe you expel toxins along with sweat.
6. Iyengar Yoga
Iyengar yoga relies heavily on blocks and other aids to get you into perfect alignment. If you love to spend money on accessories, this form is for you.
Given today’s COVID-19 reality, it pays to invest in straps and balls — even chairs can help in your practice. That way, you don’t have to share. If you don’t have a bankroll, you can improvise by using towels in place of bands or books instead of blocks.
7. Ashtanga Yoga
If you are an athlete, Ashtanga yoga might be your ideal remedy for slower-style classes that leave you feeling bored. This energetic form keeps you moving for up to two hours as you work through various poses. You’ll do a series of vinyasas, or breath-body movements, to transition between each one, occasionally throwing in a handstand or flip.
Because of the unique challenges of this class, you should find a qualified instructor. They can guide you through getting into complicated poses such as dwi pada sirsasana — both legs behind the head — without hurting your neck. Also, make sure you mention any limitations you have. You might want to skip the headstand section, for example, if you have had a traumatic brain injury.
8. Kundalini Yoga
If you are a more spiritual sort or enjoy exploring the magic of sound healing, give kundalini yoga a try. The term translates loosely into “coiled energy,” referring to the latent potential concentrated at the base of your spine.
With different kriyas that use various breath patterns, you’ll explore panting like a dog. You’ll also perfect numerous chants that you’ll use as mantras throughout your practice.
Each class ends with a relaxation followed by a meditation. If you have anxiety or depression, this form of yoga might work as an outstanding complementary therapy. It helps put you in touch with your spiritual side and realize your power to influence life events.
9. Yoga Nidra
Also called the yoga of sleep, this form requires you to master only one pose — savasana. That quality makes it ideal for everyone — even if you can’t get on the floor, you can do it from a chair.
Yoga Nidra helps you to get inside yourself by taking you through a series of guided meditations to give you a feeling of wholeness. You can’t practice it incorrectly — to an outsider, you look like you’re meditating or sleeping. You may well doze off, too, but that’s okay. The vital part remains listening to the five layers of self to attain spiritual awareness.
Try These 9 Major Styles of Yoga to Find Your Pretzel Groove
Yoga has stood the test of time for thousands of years because it works. Try one of these nine major styles of the ancient practice today to treat pain, build a healthier you and boost your confidence!
Mia Barnes is a wellness writer with a passion for healthy living, meditation, and yoga. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Body + Mind.