“What yoga styles should I practice?”
If you’re a beginner yogi like I have been, you’ll probably wonder: “how many yoga styles are there? And which one should I choose??”
But most importantly: “Do I have to learn chanting in Sanskrit to do any of them??”
Well, wonder no more. I’ve compiled here a list of the 7 most popular yoga styles you’ll likely come across, whether you decide to join a studio or sign up for a yoga retreat. Continue reading below to discover what style might be best for you.
7 popular yoga styles
1. Hatha Yoga
“Hatha” is the “practice of oppositions”, and therefore the creation of balance. Many use this term to define a very common yoga style, but don’t we all need to be balanced in any yoga class, as well as in life? Do you think you could walk if you were not well “balanced” on your feet…?? 🙂
Contrary to what most people think, Hatha Yoga is not a yoga style, it’s THE yoga, from which all other disciplines and variations were born.
Your studio’s schedule will often read “Hatha Vinyasa”, “Hatha Flow”, or “Power Hatha”. Well, guess what, they all refer to the same thing really. A physical but not too vigorous yoga practice focusing on a series of physical exercises to balance the body, while moving from an Asana (posture) to another, by using the help of the breath.
Curious tip: officially, Hatha Yoga used to only include 12 asanas.
2. Vinyasa Yoga
This is by all means the most popular style of yoga. “Vinyasa flow” focuses on a more or less (depending on the teacher or studio style) fast paced series of movements, arranged in sequences, repeated a few times. What matters here is the flowing from an asana to the next.
Every sequence will be different, including very many or very few poses. A good teacher will either propose a new sequence at every class or maybe work on the same one for the whole month. This way students can really learn the movements and progress to a more advanced level (for that particular sequence).
Vinyasa is also a very popular yoga style for beginner yogis. Its dynamic nature will allow you to quickly move to the next pose, in case you don’t have yet enough strength to hold an asana for several breaths. I personally teach this yoga style and I often have both beginners as well as more advanced yogis in my classes.
Curious tip: Vinyasa also means literally “to place in a special way”, that is to place the body in a particular asana, then another, then another, etc.
3. Ashtanga Yoga
Ashtanga is one of the most traditional yoga styles. It consists of a very strict repetition of poses, where the emphasis is on the correct alignment and maximum flexibility of the body. Every class will be exactly the same, with a little mantra chanting at the beginning and end of the practice, plus the repetition of primary or secondary series.
Chanting Sanskrit might not be at the top of your wish list, and it might be intimidating if you have no idea of what the words mean (at least that’s how I used to feel). But don’t worry, most teachers won’t expect you to know the words, and students often tends to just listen in.
This style is physically demanding due to its deep stretches, balances and twists, and it’s probably best for those looking to sweat, or who already have some yoga experience.
Curious tip: it was originally created to prep boys’ bodies to be strong for war. How interesting is it that nowadays yoga is mainly practiced by women??
4. Iyengar Yoga
Iyengar yoga was founded by B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-2014). As a yoga purist, his focus was on the correct alignment and precision of movements. Each class would typically involve only few postures, held longer than usual, supported by props like blocks, straps, and blankets, in order to achieve the “perfect position”.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this yoga style is only for advanced practitioners: right because props are there to help you, any level is welcome!
With a background in ballet, I personally love this style as it really allows you to study each pose and understand “what it should look like” when performed correctly.
Curious tip: the founder of this yoga style was the brother-in-law of Sri Krishnamacharya, the Father of modern yoga and the one who officially imported yoga to the West.
5. Yin Yoga
Yin yoga focuses on lengthening the tissues by holding very passive poses for several minutes each time. It’s super relaxing and the perfect style to practice before going to bed.
I’d also strongly recommend this yoga style to beginners, as it does not require huge strength and allows the body to stretch a lot.
Curious tip: this style is also referred to as taoist yoga.
6. Kundalini Yoga
“Yoga of awareness”, Kundalini Yoga blends spiritual and physical practices, chanting of mantras and dynamic breathing techniques.
Kundalinis always wear white clothes, because apparently colors influence consciousness. Since white is the perfect balance of all colours, it positively impacts our conscious and subconscious mind.
Curious tip: A study showed that kundalini methods specifically targeted to obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms were also helpful in lessening depression, mental fatigue and lack of energy in cancer patients.
7. Bikram Yoga
Founded by Bikram Choudry, this is a fixed series of 26 yoga postures (with no flowing between them), each performed twice, in a room heated to 40° C (104° F), for a total of 90 minutes.
I’ll tell you, this is no easy task, and not recommended for those with low blood pressure or a medical condition. It requires a great deal of concentration, strength and will power, but it’s super beneficial to expel toxins from the body.
Curious tip: Bikram recently tried to claim copyright on this sequence but did not succeed.
You should now have a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into when you sign up for your next yoga class. No matter what style you decide to go for, remember that breathing should always be your #1 priority!
If you’re ready to start your yoga practice, then you might want to read my 10 simple tips to start practicing yoga.
And in case you wonder, my favorite yoga style and the one I teach is Vinyasa: I love moving, and it almost feels like a dance! Plus, witnessing (and even more so, leading) a whole group of people all flowing at the same time is something super emotional, which makes me so proud of my students every day.
If you’re interesting in attending one of my classes in Dubai, you can contact me here.
And you? What’s your favorite yoga style? Leave a comment below!