Top Yoga Styles Explained: Discover Your Perfect Yoga Style

Top Yoga Styles Explained: Discover Your Perfect Yoga Style

One of the many beautiful things about yoga is that there are a lot of different styles to choose from to suit your needs. Whether you feel energised or super mellow, you can choose a style that will compliment your mood. If you’re trying to gain fitness or recovering from an injury, there is a yoga style can help you achieve that. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, yoga can provide stress relief. It can also help you connect and engage with your spiritual side.

If you are relatively new to yoga and looking at a list of classes, it can be hard to know which class you will enjoy based only on the names. That’s why I’ve put together this list of the top yoga styles explained. You can use this as a reference to decide which yoga class will suit your mood, fitness level, and what you are trying to achieve by attending the class.

So grab your favourite yoga leggings and let’s get into the different yoga styles!

Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga is great for absolute beginners

Hatha yoga classes are typically geared to new yoga practitioners in western yoga studios. Hatha is a Sanskrit word that means effort or exertion. Yoga is a very spiritual and cerebral practice, but Hatha refers specifically to the physical aspects. In other words, the yoga postures that you perform. Hatha yoga classes are physical but gentle enough for beginners and the transitions between postures are usually slower. It’s perfect if you are in the mood for something gentle and you don’t want to be rushed. If you are totally new to yoga, start with some Hatha yoga classes to get a feel for what yoga is all about.

Iyengar yoga

Iyengar yoga is a more technical and precise practice

Iyengar yoga is all about precision and technique. Poses are held for a long time so that tweaks and adjustments can be made in the pursuit of perfection. Yoga props such as blocks and straps are often used to ease into postures correctly so that you are not dropping into postures before your body is ready. Perfectionists and detailed oriented people would get a real kick out of this style of yoga. It’s also a great compliment to other styles of yoga because it allows you to develop muscle memory for the correct alignment and technique that you can bring over into other styles that you like to practice.

Kundalini yoga

Kundalini is a more spiritual form of yoga that incorporates meditation, chanting and breathing techniques

Kundalini yoga puts a lot more emphasis on the spiritual side of yoga than other styles. Meditation, chanting and breathing techniques feature heavily. It’s also faster-paced than Hatha and Iyengar. Kundalini might not suit those who are not interested in a spiritual experience or those who are brand new to yoga. It would be a very intense introduction, and it’s better enjoyed when you have some experience and a yoga foundation to work with. Give Kundalini a try if you are looking for some spiritual grounding and a more invigorating class. 

Ashtanga yoga

Ashtanga is a more challenging self-lead form of yoga

Ashtanga yoga is a very popular style of yoga that follows the same sequence of postures every time. Practitioners are expected to learn the sequence, memorise them and be able to practice them without the step-by-step guidance from the instructor. Students will gather to practice ashtanga together, but everyone will move at their own pace, perfecting the poses and movements as they go. The instructor is there to provide help and adjustments, but not to demonstrate the poses, dictate the sequence, or set the pace. 

You have to be somewhat self-sufficient for this style of yoga and enjoy working independently to develop your practice. Someone who enjoys thinking, problem-solving, and working independently would find ashtanga very relaxing. Also, people who enjoy perfecting the art of something through repetition and seeing their progression over time will love Ashtanga. It is not an entry-level style of yoga, so it may not suit absolute beginners, although teachers who lead the class will teach you what you need to know and guide you through the early stages of the practice at a beginner level. Ashtanga is probably not a great choice if you enjoy being lead through every step of a class and don’t want to think too much about the postures.

Vinyasa yoga

Vinyasa yoga is a more physical form of yoga and great if you are looking for a workout

Choose Vinyasa yoga if you are looking for a workout. There are many substyles of yoga within vinyasa, but they all have a couple of things in common. Vinyasa is famous for being a flowing style of yoga where you continuously move through postures. It also links your breath to your movements through the postures, really enhancing the feeling that everything is flowing together. Yoga teachers will put their own spin on Vinyasa classes and come up with new flows for each class. It can be fun to try different teachers’ versions of vinyasa flows and find one that you love. This style of yoga is great if you want to move a lot and feel like you are getting a workout. It’s also great if you love variety and want to experience something new each time rather than practising the same sequence over and over again, like Ashtanga.

Hot Yoga

Hot yoga is a Vinyasa style of yoga that is performed in hot and humid studios to progress flexibility and postures more quickly

Hot yoga is a style of yoga performed in a hot and humid room set to varying temperatures depending on the studio and instructor. Prepare to sweat. A lot. I’m talking bring a towel to put on top of your yoga mat because you will be dripping the whole time. Some hot yoga classes follow a set sequence of postures performed twice. Some classes will take a Vinyasa style approach and the instructor will come up with a new flow for each class. Other styles of yoga, like Yin, are also performed in hot yoga studios because of the benefits you get from the heat. The idea is that the heat allows your muscles and joints to warm up faster so you can move more deeply into postures than you would in a regular studio. Sweating can also be very good for you, but I don’t really buy into the notion that you are sweating out toxins. Hot yoga is amazing if you aren’t phased by heat and you want to get deeper into postures and improve flexibility. It’s a great way to amp up your Vinyasa practice if you enjoy that style of yoga. 

You do have to be careful with hydration in hot yoga classes. Did I mention that you sweat a lot? You need to drink a lot of water to make up for that. Dehydration can be a real problem with these classes.

Hot yoga is also not great if you suffer from skin issues like rosacea, dermatitis, eczema or sensitive skin. Be aware that any skin issues you have could be aggravated by the extended periods of heat and sweat.

Yin yoga

Yin yoga is a slow and restful style of yoga where you hold poses for a long time to increase flexibility

Yin yoga is one of my absolute favourite styles of yoga. It is very focused on flexibility and opening the body. I see it as the antithesis of Vinyasa and a great counterbalance if you mainly do flowing athletic styles of yoga. Yin is very still. You get into postures and hold them for a long time, typically one to three minutes. The idea is to relax as much as possible and keep reminding yourself to let go as you hold the postures. You will see a very noticeable difference in your flexibility if you add Yin into your yoga practice.

This style of yoga is deeply relaxing, and amazing if you need to release tension and stress. It’s also perfect for beginners. The pace is extremely slow and you hold the postures for a long time, so it’s easy to adjust and get them right. It’s fantastic for athletes and outdoorsy chicks who need to release tight muscles that often get ignored. The only person it might not suit is the active relaxer that finds being still agitating. Honestly, though, I think a good Yin yoga class would benefit anyone. It’s that good. Give it a try!

Restorative yoga

Restorative yoga is great for releasing stress and tension

Restorative yoga is a wonderful and healthy way to end a stressful day or long work week. Similar to Yin, Restorative yoga is slow, mindful and focused on release. Props are used to make getting into the correct posture as easy and relaxing as possible. The entire goal is to melt your stress away, so it’s a much healthier alternative to a glass of wine to cope with the stresses of life. This style of class is also great for beginners.

So treat yourself to a new pair of yoga leggings, head to your nearest yoga studio, and try one of these styles of yoga.

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