Yoga | What Are The Different Types Of Yoga And Which Style Is Best For You?

Ashtanga yoga, hatha yoga, bikram yoga, iyengar yoga, jivamukti yoga, kundalini yoga... Which style of yoga is best for you?

Yoga originated in India over 3,000 years ago as an ancient practice of exercise and meditation.  Much of the posing in the original yoga was meant to ready the mind and body for meditation and to keep an empty mind with the use of the asana (poses).

Because of Yoga’s focus on a healthy mind as well as a healthy and fit body, several different types of yoga have been bought up to date for modern uses. Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga, for example, have undergone their own transition into a popular athletic regime, something that when practiced can exercise the body completely as well as completely relax the mind.

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Iyengar and Restorative yoga are slow paced and revolve around the use of props such as belts and blocks, making them excellent for those recovering from injury. The more spiritual types of yoga are the closest to the original ancient yoga, and are perhaps more of a life practice, as lots of elements their practice are outside of the studio.

There are some lighter spiritual practices of yoga, such as Kundalini yoga, that can help you find your centers of energy and restore and harness this energy, without having to chant in Sanskrit.  

Athletic Yoga 

What are the different styles of yoga? what are the benefits? How ca I get fit with yoga? – photo: iStock
Bikram Yoga 

Bikram yoga is the only yoga that specializes in a hot environment. Founded by Bikram Choudhury, it is focused on the releasing of toxins through the skin and the development of both physical and mental strength and control. The benefits of Bikram yoga focus on core strength and relaxation of mind.

Vinyasa Yoga 

Vinyasa yoga concentrates heavily on the transition between two poses and on the breathing throughout the session. The linking of pose to breath is very important in Vinyasa, as is creating a goal for yourself and moving towards it throughout the sessions. The transitions between the poses are very quick, transforming Vinyasa into an athletic practice, making it an energy boosting yoga practice.

“Ashtanga is a rigorous practice of yoga”

Power Yoga 

Power yoga is a derivative of Vinyasa yoga, but it has an increased focus on calisthenics and is more like an aerobics workout, such as running/jogging, cycling, swimming or hiking, than a yoga session. Poses are tailored to be more like push ups or handstands to target core strength and weight loss. The synchronicity of breathing and transition between poses is still central to the practice, however, making it very much part of Vinyasa yoga.

Ashtanga Yoga 

Ashtanga yoga is a rigorous practice of yoga, concentrating on the synchronicity of correct breathing with rapid yet fluid progression between poses.

Ashtanga yoga is very similar to Vinyasa yoga but Ashtanga yoga follows the same series and sequence in a precise order. The result is an intense cardiovascular workout that over time will bring a light yet strong body and a relaxed mind.

White Lotus yoga is a derivative of Ashtanga yoga which increases focuses on meditation and breathing as well as challenging yourself physically.

Healing Yoga

Do I need to be fit to practice yoga? What is Ashtanga yoga? What is the best beginners yoga? Photo: iStock

Yoga can be excellent for healing after an operation or for muscular or joint related injuries.

The styles of yoga that are best for healing normally concentrate far more on stretching into poses for extended periods of time or holding beneficial poses for anything up to twenty minutes. These can also be great styles of yoga for beginners.

Hatha Yoga 

Hatha yoga, meaning ‘effort’, ‘force’ or ‘exertion’,  is about strength and balance of mind and body. Hatha is actually an umbrella term for the physical side of yoga, meaning that Iyengar, Ashtanga and Vinyasa are all types of Hatha yoga.

Hatha has now gained its own practice however, which is slow and relaxed, concentrating on going through all the different poses in meditative detail, making it a perfect yoga for beginners.

Iyengar Yoga 

Iyengar yoga is a practice pioneered by famed yogi B.K.S Iyengar, and concentrates on increasing fitness and well being by progressing from simpler ansanas (poses) on to more complex ones.

This is popular with those who are injured or maybe just starting out, as Iyengar yoga incorporates the use of blocks, belts and blankets in order to perfect and maximise the poses is central to the practice.

Can I use yoga to help with joint pain? Will it soothe muscle pain?
Svaroopa Yoga 

Svaroopa, for example, focuses on comfortable chair poses to maximize healing and perfection of stance. Viniyoga, often used as a replacement to physiotherapy, is a slow and methodical practice which is useful for those who are recovering from surgery or injury.

Restorative Yoga 

Restorative yoga allows you to relax into the correct pose, making it perfect for easing painful joints and muscles. Restorative yoga is similar to Iyengar yoga in that the use of props is important for its correct practice.

Yin Yoga 

Yin yoga is a practice created specifically to help with joints and the areas around them, with very long poses that can last anything from five to twenty minutes.

Spiritual Yoga 

What style of yoga do I need? which yoga is more relaxing? Which yoga is more healing? Photo: iStock
Kundalini Yoga 

Kundalini yoga is a very spiritual practice that focuses on harnessing purifying energy in the base of the spine and directing it upwards, through a channel of clear chakras.

The practice concentrates on finding and clearing these chakras by engaging in chanting, breathing, meditation and Kundalini poses. It’s all about strengthening and releasing the physical, mental and nervous energies in your body. When done properly this experience can be energizing, purifying and healing.

Jivamukti Yoga 

Jivamukti yoga and Sivananda are perhaps two of the most spiritual forms of yoga, and are made up of meditation, sanskrit chanting, non-violence, vegetarianism and the role of music in yoga. These practices concentrate more on the purification of the mind and spirit and the study of scriptures.

Integral Yoga 

Integral yoga is similar but involves less life changes, as it focuses on meditation and prayer as well as poses but concentrates less on vegetarianism and scripture.  

Ananda Yoga 

Ananda yoga is almost completely focused on meditation as it is slow and methodical and leads you towards a calm and empty state of mind.

Kali Ray TriYoga

For a more modern approach there is Kali Ray TriYoga, originating in California in 1980, which concentrates on light, dance like movements, breathing and meditation, or Anusara yoga, which focuses on a playfulness of spirit and an open heart as well as strict and challenging poses.

Whichever yoga you think is right for you, all in all, yoga is for everyone, so pick a practice, grab a mat and go get spiritual.

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