The long-standing popularity of yoga has given rise to a variety of different styles.
But if you're a yoga novice thinking about taking more classes or joining a studio, you may be wondering how each class differs from the next.
From A to Zen, here is a quick overview of the most frequently offered classes.
Most of the other yoga styles are derived from Hatha. The oldest known physical practice of yoga, Hatha focuses on learning and mastering the many postures (or asanas), controlling breathing (called pranayama) and relaxation or meditation. It does not always follow the same sequence of poses, so your experience in class will vary. Generally a more moderately-paced class; it will help a beginner develop an excellent foundation for their yoga practice or allow seasoned yogis to strengthen their technique.
Similar to Hatha yoga, Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga can be a bit more intense and physically demanding. It focuses on mastering standard sequences of poses while simultaneously controlling the breath using a method called ujaaii (oo-jeye-ah) breathing. The sequences, called “vinyasas,” are performed in a fast-paced flow, and repeated until they are mastered. This rigorous fitness-oriented yoga is one of the most popular at gyms and yoga studios and can also be found under labels such as Power or Flow.
By far the sweatiest style, Bikram is practiced in room that is kept at a sweltering 105 degrees. The sequence of 26 poses is performed in the same order every time and is practiced for 90 minutes, every time. It is believed that the heated room aids in the flexibility and detoxification of the body. Anyone practicing this style should stay very well-hydrated and be careful not to work to the point of overexertion. If you see a class labeled "hot yoga," it may be similar but not officially recognized by this trademarked brand of yoga.
Perfect for the perfectionist, this style emphasizes the precision of body alignment in the performance of each pose. Students progress through the postures gradually in a pre-determined sequence unique to this style and use props such as blocks, belts, blankets and chairs to help master the practitioner’s physical technique. Everything is done at a slow and careful pace to ensure accuracy. A great choice for beginners and those who need to strengthen their flexibility.
True to its name, this practice focuses on the use of passive and restful postures to promote total relaxation. Best performed first thing in the morning or right before bed, this style also employs the use of props such as blocks, belts, bolsters, and blankets to allow the practitioner to be fully supported in each pose and to allow the muscles of the body to loosen. Poses are held for longer periods of time and will mostly be performed while seated or lying down. This style is great on its own or as a complement to more vigorous workouts.
Although this list does not fully cover every type of yoga practice that exists, these are the ones you are most likely to encounter at your local studio. Explore and experiment with the various styles until you find the one that is right for you!