In the modern world that we live in today, there are many different types of yoga catering to all ages. In many studios, the practice has strayed far off the path of meditation and breath-work, and has instead solely become a form of exercise. This is very different from the ancient practice that began in India.
Yoga has been around for more than 5,000 years, and was only brought to the West less than 100 years ago. Paramahansa Yogananda first introduced Kriya yoga in a conference in Boston in 1920. He is now widely recognized as the Father of Yoga in the West.
Yoga was not widely practiced in the West until about 30 years later after the initial introduction, when Indra Devi, a student under Krishnamacharya, brought the practice to Hollywood in 1947.
She was the first Westerner to study with Sri Krishnamacharya, and the first to bring his lineage to the West. He went on to become the grandfather of American yoga; his students included B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, and T.K.V. Desikachar.
These 3 yogis brought the foundation of yoga to the West, each founding a different style of yoga – Iyengar, Ashtanga, and Hatha. Today, aside from having a yoga studio around every corner, we have many different styles of yoga. Even though they’re all based on the same poses, each style has a particular focus and differ greatly from one another.
With all of these differing types of yoga, it may be difficult for you to figure out which style benefits your mind and body the most. It’s important for you to find out which type of yoga meets your needs, so here’s a quick explanation of 6 of the most common yoga styles practiced all over the world.
6 Most Popular Types of Yoga
Hatha – Hatha yoga is a generic term that refers to any type of yoga that teaches physical postures. Nearly every type of yoga class taught in the West is Hatha yoga.
When a class is marketed as Hatha, it generally means that you will get a gentle introduction to the most basic yoga postures. You probably won’t work up a sweat in a hatha yoga class, but you should end up leaving class feeling longer, looser, and more relaxed.
Hatha yoga is beginner friendly and gives a great introduction into yoga.
Vinyasa – Vinyasa yoga classes are known for their fluid, movement-intensive practices. Vinyasa teachers sequence their classes to smoothly transition from pose to pose, with the intention of linking breath to movement.
The intensity of the practice is similar to Ashtanga, but unlike Ashtanga, no two vinyasa classes are the same. If you hate routine and love to test your physical limits, vinyasa may be the best fit for you. There are usually different levels of Vinyasa classes – as a beginner you can start with a level 1 class.
Ashtanga – Ashtanga is based on ancient yoga teachings, but it was popularized and brought to the West by Pattabhi Jois in the 1970s. It’s a rigorous style of yoga that follows a specific sequence of postures and is similar to vinyasa yoga, as each style links every movement to a breath.
The difference is that Ashtanga always performs the exact same poses in the exact same order. This is a sweaty, physically demanding practice that will be sure to make you sweat. Not recommended for beginners.
Iyengar – Iyengar yoga was developed and popularized by B.K.S. Iyengar. It is a very meticulous style of yoga, focusing on finding the proper alignment in a pose. In order to help each student find the proper alignment, an Iyengar studio will stock a wide array of yoga props — blocks, blankets, straps, chairs and bolsters are all common.
There isn’t a lot of jumping around in Iyengar classes, so you won’t get your heart rate up, but you’ll be amazed to discover how physically and mentally challenging it is to stay balanced and focused. Not recommended for beginners.
Bikram – In a Bikram class, you will sweat like never before as you work your way through a series of 26 poses. Like Ashtanga, a Bikram class always follows the same sequence, although a Bikram sequence is very different from an ashtanga sequence.
It seems to be wildly popular, making it one of the easiest classes to find. Due to the heated conditions of the studio, don’t forget to bring a water bottle and a towel!
Restorative – Restorative yoga is a wonderful way to relax and soothe your nerves. Restorative classes use bolsters, blankets, and blocks to prop students into passive poses so the body can experience the benefits of a pose without having to exert any effort.
A good restorative class is more rejuvenating than a nap. Studios and gyms often offer them on Friday nights, when just about everyone could use some time to unwind in a relaxing environment and rest. This is definitely beginner friendly!
There are many more types of yoga than the ones that I listed above, but as a beginner, I believe that it’s beneficial to start with the ones that I listed as being beginner friendly. From there, you can explore the more challenging classes once you feel more comfortable with your practice.
If you are interested in meditation techniques, basic yoga sequences for your mood, or learning about Ayurveda and yoga for your dosha, continue reading my blogs!
The Traveling Yogi