Yoga has so many benefits that you could write a book about them — and many folks have. You can use a yoga practice for anything from stress reduction to treating chronic pain. But there are so many yoga styles. How can a person choose? What are the major yoga styles you should consider trying?
Here are 9 major yoga styles. Try each one, so you can find which grooves uniquely with your body.
1. Hatha Yoga
The aims of Hatha yoga in various Indian traditions have included physical siddhis — special powers, bodily benefits such as slowing age effects, magical powers — and spiritual liberation. In the 20th century, a variety of Hatha Yoga that focused particularly on poses, or asanas, became popular throughout the world as a form of physical exercise. Hatha Yoga is what many people think of when they hear the word “yoga”.
No matter where you are, you can probably find Hatha Yoga classes, either online or in person. Each instructor has their own unique style, but Hatha Yoga is commonly understood to be gentler, slower yoga, with a lean toward a meditative state, which makes Hatha Yoga a great way to start a practice as an absolute beginner.
2. Yin Yoga
If you have chronic pain from arthritis or fibromyalgia, you may consider Yin Yoga. This yoga style focuses on making your body more pliable and flexible by holding static, floor-based stretches for three to five minutes. There are no balancing postures to master, so Yin is also good for beginners.
When combined with traditional therapies, Yin Yoga makes a fabulous holistic treatment. If you use medications to treat your disorders, you may need to adjust your prescriptions once you begin seeing and feeling the benefits of this yoga style.
3. Vinyasa Yoga
“Vinyasa” 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 a lot 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, nearly every instructor still includes savasana, or corpse pose, at the end for a relaxing cooldown.
5. Bikram Yoga
Bikram yoga consists of a set of 26 poses and 2 breathing sequences. It was devised by Bikram Choudhury and based on the teachings of B. C. Ghosh, and became popular in the early 1970s.
Bikram is a variety of hot yoga because it is practiced in a room where the temperature is 104 °F (40 °C ). It’s an offshoot of the more traditional Hatha style of yoga and is great for stretching out parts of your body that may be neglected otherwise.
6. Iyengar Yoga
This yoga style was named after and developed by B. K. S. Iyengar as described in his 1966 book Light On Yoga. Iyengar focuses on the structural alignment of the physical body through the practice of poses. It differs from other styles of yoga in three ways: precision, sequence, and use of props.
Unlike other approaches where students are encouraged to find their way to the poses by imitating the teacher and adjusting the pose to their own body, an Iyengar yoga class is precise, with misalignments and errors actively explained and corrected. Also, the sequences in which the poses are practiced are considered important to reaching the desired result. To assist practitioners in finding precise alignments, Iyengar pioneered the use of props such as cushions, benches, blocks, and straps.
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
At the Sewall House Yoga Retreat in Island Falls, Maine, we practice the Kundalini yoga of Yogi Bhajan. It is essentially a combination of tantric yogic mechanics and mantras and chants — such as Ik Ongkaar, Sat Naam, Sri Waheguru, along with meditation.
Kundalini is a spiritual energy or life force located at the base of the spine and is often pictured as a coiled-up serpent, which is a literal meaning of the Sanskrit word. Many associate Kundalini with the power of the divine feminine, Shakti.
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
During Yoga Nidra, or “yogic sleep”, the practitioner’s body becomes completely relaxed, and the practitioner is increasingly aware of their inner world through guided meditation.
There is only one pose — Shavasana, or Corpse Pose — in Yoga Nidra, and you can do it comfortably in a chair. The primary goal of Yoga Nidra is relaxation.
Try some or all
Yoga has stood the test of time for thousands of years because it works. You may try one or several of these 9 yoga styles. Many yoga practitioners use a combination of them. Find the right mix to help you treat pain, build a healthier you, and boost your confidence!
Author Bio: 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.
Book your stay at Sewall House Yoga Retreat for an introduction to several of the major yoga styles in a nurturing, structured environment.