If you’ve tried yoga and thought it wasn’t for you, it may be time to give it another try. There are literally hundreds of styles of yoga, but finding the right yoga class to fit your personality can be a challenge. In this quick guide, I’ve outlined some of the most popular forms of yoga to help you determine which style is right for you.
Focusing on straightforward postures and moving at a relaxed pace with plenty of time for individual instruction, Hatha yoga is great for beginners. Poses can be easily modified to meet the needs of just about everyone, including the disabled. If you’re looking for a gentle introduction to yoga, Hatha is a great choice.
Hatha is a poor choice for those that are competitive, goal oriented, easily bored or those who feel the need to break a sweat at every single workout.
If you’re detail oriented, Iyengar yoga might be for you. Focusing on precise alignment, Iyengar yoga takes a deep dive into the anatomical details of each posture, and incorporates the use of various props to bring each student into precise alignment before moving onto the next posture. Poses are often held for extended periods, with a focus on quality rather than quantity in an individual session. Iyengar is a type of Hatha yoga, and it’s ideal for perfectionists.
If you found Hatha yoga to be a poor fit, Iyengar is also likely not for you. If you’d rather concentrate on the bigger picture than the details, or you’re at all impatient, try a different style.
Constantly in motion, vinyasa yoga classes seamlessly move from one position to another in time with the breath, and practitioners often break a sweat as they work to keep pace. The more popular “vigorous vinyasa” is an excellent strength training workout that can be scaled up to challenge even world class athletes, though there are always modifications to keep classes accessible to beginners. A great choice for the competitive, easily bored and sweat loving athlete, vinyasa keeps you on your toes, and is the opposite of both Hatha and Iyengar in that it leaves little time for quiet contemplation.
If you’re easily confused or need detailed instruction to follow along, vinyasa will likely leave you behind in the dust.
Just the opposite of Vinyasa, Yin yoga is about cultivating depth in just a few positions in a session, each of which is held for 5 to 20 minutes as the instructor slowly guides you deeper into the pose. The goal is to allow ample time to slowly stretch muscles and connective tissue for increased flexibility. The slow nature of the practice gives it a meditative quality, as each practitioner waits in quiet contemplation for their tissues to release. A great practice for both the goal oriented and those specifically looking for the mental anxiety/stress reduction aspects of yoga.
If you’re convinced that all exercise is about movement, or you’re at all impatient, yin yoga may leave you unsatisfied.
Broken up into the primary, intermediate and advanced series, students move at their own pace through a preset series of poses. Unlike most group yoga classes, Ashtanga is often taught “Mysore” style, where each student is independently working on their own while the instructor walks around providing guidance and helping where necessary. Ashtanga is a great choice for the individualist and the self-motivated, as well as the goal oriented, because in strict Ashtanga classes, a student cannot move onto the next pose until they have mastered the one before it, and many of the positions are quite challenging.
If you prefer to follow the flow of the class rather than going it alone, avoid Ashtanga.
Usually incorporating aspects of Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga, power yoga is about cultivating strength. Focusing on the physical rather than the spiritual, this type of yoga often omits the spiritual portion of yoga all together. The practice is meant to generate heat, by moving quickly from one challenging pose to another, and can burn as many calories as an intense aerobic workout. Looking to perfect your handstand, improve your cross-fit game or seriously impress your friends? Power yoga is a great choice.
If you’re looking for a slow paced active recovery, or you’re not in particularly good shape to start with, power yoga is not for you.
Preformed in pairs or groups, Acro Yoga is great for social athletes. Rather than turning inward to focus on your own practice, this form of yoga has you work together to balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes referred to “circus yoga,’ the most common form acro has a “base” that supports a “flyer” while they move though poses in the air. This is the perfect form of yoga for those that love interacting with others, and enjoy the “performance” aspect of group exercise.
If you’d rather go it solo, dislike performing in front of others, or would just rather stay firmly rooted to the ground, stick to more traditional yoga styles.